Are you struggling with weight loss? Or do you want to speed up your weight loss process?
The reality is that conventional methods, like eating less and exercising more, rarely work in the long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day, and ignoring your hunger can feel like needless suffering and a waste of time and energy. These methods are only suitable for masochists.
In the end, most of us who start a weight loss journey eventually give up.
Here are six natural weight loss tips that will help you shed pounds without the suffering (or excessive exercise). Start with one change and make it a habit in your lifestyle. With just one tip, you can see a difference in your weight without changing anything else.
If you want to lose weight even faster, add more changes to your lifestyle. Consistency is the key to successful weight loss.
1. Eat a low-carb diet
This is an old idea. For over 150 years there have been a huge number of weight-loss diets based on eating fewer carbs. What’s new in these recent years is that more and more modern scientific studies have proven that, yes, on average low carb can be the most effective way to lose weight.
Obviously, it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat fewer calories than you burn, right? The problem with this simplistic advice is that it ignores the elephant in the room: hunger.
Most people don’t like to “just eat less”, as it may result in having to go hungry forever. Sooner or later, a normal person will likely give up and eat, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”.
While it should be possible to lose weight on any diet, some appear to make it easier and some to make it much harder.
The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it may cause you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories overweight people tend to eat fewer calories on low carb.
Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to a more adequate level.
If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus, calories count, but you don’t need to count them.
A 2012 study also showed that people who had lost weight experienced far less reduction in total energy expenditure (the number of calories burned within a 24-hour period) when they followed a low-carb diet compared to a low-fat diet during weight maintenance — a 300-calorie difference, in fact.
According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising.
Recently, an even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed this metabolism-sparing effect. Different groups of people had lost weight burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day on a low-carb maintenance diet compared to a high-carb or moderate-carb diet.
Takeaway: A low-carb diet can reduce your hunger, making it easier to eat less. And it might even increase your fat burning at rest. Study after study shows that low carb works for weight loss and that on average it improves important health markers.
2. Eat real food
Real food is what humans have been eating for thousands or likely (even better) millions of years, e.g. meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, butter, olive oil, nuts etc.
If you want to lose weight, avoid special “low-carb” products that are full of carbs. This should be obvious, but creative marketers are doing all they can to fool you (and get your money). They will tell you that you can eat cookies, pasta, ice cream, bread and plenty of chocolate on a low-carb diet, as long as you buy their brand. They’re often full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled.
How about low-carb bread? Be careful: if it’s baked with grains it’s certainly not low carb. But some companies still try to sell it to you as a low-carb option.
Low-carb chocolate is usually full of sugar alcohols, which the manufacturer does not count as carbs. But roughly half of these carbs may be absorbed, raising blood sugar and insulin. The remaining carbs end up in the colon, potentially causing gas and diarrhea. Furthermore, any sweeteners can maintain sugar cravings.
Two simple rules to avoid this:
- Don’t eat “low carb” versions of high carb stuff, like cookies, bars, chocolate, bread, pasta or ice cream – unless you are sure of the ingredients (ideally, by making it yourself).
- Avoid products with the words “net carbs” on them. That may be a way to deceive you.
Focus on eating good quality, minimally processed real food. Ideally the food you buy shouldn’t even have a list of ingredients (or it should be very short).
Less moderation, more quality
Finally – you may want to forget about the old “everything in moderation” diet motto. It isn’t necessarily helpful advice for people who struggle with weight – in fact, it may be exactly the opposite.
Don’t eat everything in moderation. Eat as much healthy food as you can, whenever you are hungry. Eat as little unhealthy food as you can – if possible, none at all.
Takeaway: Eat real food when you’re hungry. Stop eating when you’re not hungry.
3. Avoid eating fruit
This piece of advice is controversial as fruit has an almost magical health aura today. People may believe that fruit is nutritious but unfortunately fruit contains a lot of sugar – around 10% by weight (the rest is mostly water). Just taste an orange or a grape. Sweet, right?
Five servings of fruit per day are equivalent to the amount of sugar in 16 ounces of soda (500 ml). Contrary to what many people believe, the natural sugar in fruit is more or less identical to the sugar in soda and other sweet beverages (about 50% glucose, 50% fructose).
Sugar from fruit can shut down fat burning. Eating a lot of fruit can increase your hunger and slow your weight loss.
For best results, you may want to avoid fruit – or enjoy it occasionally as a treat.
Takeway: Fruit is candy from nature.
4. Stay away from beer
Beer contains rapidly digested carbs that shut down fat burning. That may be why beer is sometimes referred to as “liquid bread”. There’s a good reason for the term “beer belly”.
Here are smarter (lower-carb) alcoholic options for losing weight:
- Wine (red or dry white)
- Dry champagne
- Hard liquor like whisky, cognac, vodka (avoid sweetened cocktails – try vodka, soda water, lime instead)
These drinks hardly contain any sugar/carbohydrates so they’re better than beer. However, large amounts of alcohol might slow weight loss somewhat, so moderation is still a good idea.
5. Avoid artificial sweeteners
Many people replace sugar with artificial sweeteners in the belief that this will reduce their calorie intake and cause weight loss. It sounds plausible. Several studies, however, have failed to show obvious positive effect on weight loss by consuming artificial sweeteners instead of plain sugar.
According to scientific studies, artificial sweeteners may increase appetite and maintain cravings for sweet food.
And one recent independent study showed that switching drinks with artificial sweeteners to water helped women lose weight.
Additionaly, artificial sweeteners can maintain an addiction to sweets and lead to snack cravings. And the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners are unknown.
Studies claiming to show neutral or positive effects of sweeteners are often funded by the beverage industry.
Stevia is no different
By the way, Stevia is marketed as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. That’s marketing talk. It’s not obvious what is natural about a processed super-sweet white powder like Stevia.
If you’re having trouble losing weight, I suggest that you avoid sweeteners. As a bonus you’ll likely find it easier to enjoy the natural sweetness of real food, once you’re no longer adapted to the overpowering artificial sweetness of processed low-carb food products and “diet” sodas.
6. Stress less, sleep more
Have you ever wished for more hours of sleep, and a less stressful life in general?
Most people have – stress and lack of sleep can be bad news for their weight.
Chronic stress and inadequate sleep may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body.
This can cause increased hunger and may result in weight gain.
If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, it may immediately affect your stress hormone levels, and perhaps your weight.
You should also make an effort to get enough good sleep, preferably every night. Strive to wake up refreshed of your own accord, independently of the alarm clock. If you’re the kind of person who always gets brutally woken up by the alarm ringing, you might never be giving your body completely adequate rest.
One way to combat this is to go to bed early enough for your body to wake up autonomously before the alarm clock goes off. Letting yourself get a good night’s sleep is another way of reducing stress hormone levels.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with sugar cravings. It also has an adverse effect on self-discipline and makes it painfully easy to give in to temptation (it’s no coincidence that induced sleep deprivation is a common interrogation technique). Similarly, sleep deprivation weakens your resolve to work out.
Do you have trouble sleeping even if there’s ample time for it? Here are five tips from an expert:
- Stick to the same bedtime every evening. In the long run, this will help your body prepare for sleep at that time.
- No coffee after 2 pm. Just don’t – and remember that it takes time for caffeine to leave your body.
- Limit your alcohol intake to three hours before bedtime. While booze might make you woozy, it worsens quality of sleep.
- Limit exercise in the four hours before bedtime. Physical activity can make you wound up and make it difficult to go to sleep for several hours afterwards.
- Get 15 minutes of sunlight every day. This is good for your circadian rhythm (your “body clock”).
- Make sure that your bedroom is dark enough, and stays at a pleasant temperature.
Difficult, but worthwhile
Many may find the above guidelines difficult to follow, perhaps because of a lack of time (or the equivalent – small children!).
But stressing less and sleeping more doesn’t just feel good. It can also play a part in helping you get leaner.