Everyone wants to know how to lose weight fast. How quickly you’re actually able to lose weight really depends on your own personal definition of “fast.” However, you can start to shed pounds in no time not just by cutting back on processed foods and working out regularly, but also by choosing the right foods and establishing healthy habits that last a lifetime.
There are several keys to effective weight loss, and there aren’t any smoothies, soups, or magic pills involved. All you need is some protein and fiber, a whole lot less sugar, and a healthier balance between your fitness, your food, your sleep, and your stress. In this article, we’ll discuss how all of this fits together to create your fast (ish) weight loss plan that won’t leave you starving.
Pack on the protein
According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating more foods high in protein actually does make you feel fuller. Though more research is needed to better understand exactly why this is, hormones are likely a key player. When you’re full, your body produces a hormone that essentially triggers that feeling of fullness you’re so familiar with. Eating more quality sources of protein is likely an important part of this process.
The best sources of protein for weight loss
- Lean meats, such as turkey, chicken, and beef
- Eggs (both yolk and egg whites)
- Nuts and seeds
- Seafood, such as tuna or shrimp
Eat more fiber
Studies have shown diets high in fiber are generally associated with lower body weight. Fiber is a slow-digesting type of carbohydrate, which means eating foods rich in fiber will slow down your digestion and keep you fuller for longer periods of time. Vegetables, for example, tend to be high in fiber as well as other nutrients. You are much less likely to overeat at meals if you include a serving or two of grilled, baked, or steamed vegetables on your plate.
How to lose weight fast with fiber
- Whole wheat breads and pastas
- Acorn squash
- Black beans
- Chia seeds
Don’t eat refined sugars
Carbohydrates are generally either simple or complex. Complex carbohydrates include dietary fiber, which helps your food digest more slowly and keeps hunger at a distance. Simple sugars usually refer to refined or added sugars, including those found in many processed foods. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, sugars like fructose are less effective than glucose at signaling to your body that you’re full and don’t need to eat more.
The glucose found in fruit and honey is the good kind of sugar. The high fructose corn syrup found in 90 percent of your favorite junk foods should be avoided as much as possible when you’re trying to lose weight. Calories from added sugars add up quickly, especially when it comes to sugar-sweetened drinks, like sports drinks and soda.
Foods with the most refined sugar per serving
- Store bought cookies, pies, and cakes
- Candy (Skittles, M&Ms, chocolate bars, candy corn)
- Granola bars
- Fruit punch
- Sports drinks
- Store bought orange juice
Work out less, but harder
Working out for two hours straight actually isn’t all that effective, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. The other issue here is that many people don’t work out because they don’t have the time to spend two hours at the gym. You don’t have to spend hours sweating every day to see results, though. In fact, you’re much better off powering through a 15-minute high intensity workout, which requires you to keep your heart rate up and your body moving almost constantly, but for a much shorter amount of time.
Experts generally recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t typically work out this much, or at all, this is where you should start — 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, with two rest days somewhere between. The key to working out and sticking to it is starting slow and going harder the more you adjust. Combine both strength and cardio training for the best muscle-building and fat-burning results.
Don’t eat more after you exercise — eat right
The old “calories in, calories out” dieting mindset doesn’t carry much weight these days — no pun intended. Just because you burned 500 calories while jogging this morning doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to 500 extra calories of dessert after dinner tonight. Weight loss doesn’t work like that. You need to eat the right foods, in addition to engaging in moderate exercise, to see results. Working out, but eating a ton of junk food afterward, won’t do anything to help you lose weight.
While it’s true that you have to eat fewer calories to lose weight (about 500 less than your normal daily requirement, to be exact), the quality of the calories you continue to eat also matters. 200 calories of vegetables is not the same as 200 calories of french fries. Therefore, it’s important to choose low-calorie foods full of protein and fiber — especially because, at first, eating less will throw you off balance. You will be hungrier than normal. This will not last forever.
The best post-workout snacks
- Greek yogurt
- Hard boiled eggs
- Half a bagel with nut butter
- Cheese and whole grain crackers
- Cottage cheese with fruit
An important note about hunger
Many people don’t even try to change the way they eat because they associate healthy eating with hunger. Extreme hunger is not a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. Rather than depriving your body of nutrients, healthy eating is supposed to include eating more healthy food, and less junk food. There’s a balance to it that can take time to figure out. This is one reason why, for some people, weight loss can take months — even years.
Do not confuse hunger and appetite while you are trying to make positive lifestyle changes. Your appetite is your body’s way of trying to trick you into giving in to your food cravings. Hunger is your body’s distress signal that it needs nourishment — or else. If you notice you are craving a specific food, it’s probably your appetite talking. If your stomach is growling, you’re hungry — you can, and should, eat.
Never ignore the mental or physical signs of hunger, even when you are trying to lose weight. Depriving yourself of nutrition will only make you hungrier, and much more likely to binge on junk food later. When you are hungry, have a meal or a snack. If you cannot tell whether you’re hungry or craving sweets, have a healthy snack anyway — it’s not going to hurt you.
Get enough sleep
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be obese than those who slept seven or more hours nightly. There are a few reasons why lack of sleep could lead to weight gain — and why sleeping six to eight hours a night could possibly help you lose and maintain a normal weight. Sleep deprivation leaves you feeling fatigued and more susceptible to stress. Both of these things are common reasons why people overeat. Also, who wants to work out when they’d rather crawl back into bed and stay there?
You will sleep much better at night if you engage in a short “technology fast” an hour or so before you go to bed. Keep away from phones, computers — anything with a screen. Also do your best to create a sleep schedule you can and will follow consistently. For example, if you go to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., you should do this not just Monday through Friday, but on weekends, too. As long as you are getting as much rest as you need, your body will adjust without much fuss.
Manage your stress (healthfully)
Think stress has nothing to do with your diet? Think again. Mayo Clinic warns that stress can cause you to eat larger amounts of high-calorie foods than you normally would, even when you don’t want to. High levels of stress can also negatively impact your sleep, which can also interfere with the way you eat and the lifestyle choices you make.
Everyone has their own methods for keeping their stress levels under control. Find a healthy coping mechanism that is most effective for you. For some, it’s yoga or a more intense form of exercise. For others, it’s journaling, reading, meditation, or a combination of these. You might find that simple chores like washing dishes while listening to your favorite music calms you down. Whatever keeps you feeling tranquil — minus food, alcohol, or any other unhealthy amounts of any substance — should do the trick.
There’s no weight loss “fix” guaranteed to work for everyone. But the right foods, exercise routine, and attitude are much more powerful than you think. No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged. You’ll have ups and downs along the way, but in the end, results aren’t that far away. It might seem overwhelming now, but in the weeks to come, you’ll realize it’s worth the effort.