Fad diets come and go for a reason: they’re not sustainable. These diets often overlook long-term health, and instead aim to lose some pounds in the course of a few weeks, appealing to many people who are looking for a weight loss program to lose belly fat quickly without suffering the consequences of a lifestyle change, that is, without giving up their favorite junk foods for a long time. But weight loss is not about that, it is about being consistent and leading a healthy lifestyle.
These diets are often endorsed by celebrities or you see them advertised on social media as “the best diet out there” and “100% effective”. A good rule of thumb is: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s completely possible to reach your goals without putting yourself on a strict diet that will probably drain your energy as you try to keep it up while not only poorly feeding your body, but also stressing about eating exactly what it tells you to, no more, no less. We have a few great tips that we’ll share with you in this article to help you lose weight without compromising your physical and mental health in the process, so stick with us to find out what they are!
Why fad diets don't work
The reason why fad diets are so popular is that they get you quick results in a short amount of time, and who wouldn’t want that? But in the end, it’s just a vicious cycle known as the yo-yo effect. You go on this diet that everyone’s talking about, you lose weight and start feeling great, and then you gain it again and go back to that same diet because you’re not building a habit, you’re just following a strict short plan.
Often, they don’t even help in the first place. These diets focus on restricting certain nutrients that are necessary for your body, like carbs, to make the weight loss process a lot quicker. Cutting back on carbs causes your body to dispose of the water stored in your body and to metabolize lean muscle tissue, which results in that quick weight loss that everyone’s after. This can backfire on your body, messing up your metabolism and even cause weight gain instead of weight loss. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone, after all. So if your goal is sustainable weight loss and weight management, maybe keep off these diets and start eating healthy foods and exercising instead.
Ways to make weight loss sustainable
Leading a healthy lifestyle is key for your fitness journey, and it is a lot less complicated than you may think. Simple things like drinking more water, less alcohol, and getting enough sleep will help you, but to actually see some results you’ll need to make some changes to your everyday life, from the foods that you eat to the way that you eat them.
Here are a few sustainable weight loss methods that you can try:
When grocery shopping, always make sure to bring a grocery list with you. You don't want to start wandering around the store looking for things to put in your cart because you can get distracted or tempted, so always try to write down the foods you will need for the week before you leave home. The American Heart Association has a great list of foods that you should include and some that you’ll want to limit in your grocery list to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish (preferably oily fish with omega-3 fatty acids)
- Skinless poultry and lean animal proteins
- Plant-based proteins
- Sweetened drinks
- Sodium and salty foods
- Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol
- Fatty or processed red meats – if you choose to eat meat, select leaner cuts
- Refined carbohydrates like added sugars and processed grain foods
- Full-fat dairy products
- Tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil
After you have your grocery list ready, the next step is to pick the best products for you. You’ll want to avoid foods with high amounts of sodium, sugar, saturated or trans fat, so make sure to always check and compare the food labels on the products that you’re planning to take with you! You should also prioritize the healthier foods from your list and pick them first at the store, in order to keep off the temptations. If you see that your cart is full of fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy meats, you’ll automatically be more conscious of what else you put in your shopping cart.
And one last tip: eat something before you go to the store. Hunger and infinite food options are not a good combination!
Track your macros
Calculating your macros will help you keep track of what you eat so that you can lose weight more effectively. Instead of just focusing on only calorie intake, your focus will mainly be on tracking important macronutrients your body needs - Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. By being aware of the amount of protein, carbs, and fats that your body needs, you will be able to make the necessary adjustments to achieve your goal. Aside from eating fewer calories, to lose weight, you will want to decrease your fat intake, as well as carbs, and increase your protein intake. If you don't know your macros and don't want to calculate them manually, you can do so with our macro calculator!
If you already tracked your macros and know what to eat, then the next step is meal planning. Yes, it may sound a bit tedious at first, but when you start seeing results you’ll appreciate all the effort that you put into it. Meal planning is exactly what it sounds like: planning your meals of the week so that you’re getting the nutrients that you need, in the amounts that you need, all while saving you time, money, and worries! As a time-saving bonus, you can also cut up your fruits and veggies ahead of time and portion them out.
Meal planning will certainly lift a weight off your shoulders because you won’t need to stop and think about what to prepare for each meal every day, or what to buy at the grocery store. Think ahead to reduce the constant stress, and get the most out of it by tracking your macros to get the results you’re looking for!
Although some people prefer to eat the same meals as a way to help them stay on track, others get bored and get discouraged from their weight loss journey. There are a million ways to prepare healthy meals, you just have to be creative!
This applies whether you’re meal planning or not, but of course, planning ahead of time will make it easier to change things up a little. If you’re not ready for a meal plan just yet, or if it’s just not for you, then you can change things up as you go! If today you ate some avocado toast with scrambled egg whites, then tomorrow you can cut up some fruits and eat it with oatmeal, or make a veggie omelet to start the day.
Prioritize whole foods
If you’re going to start eating healthier in order to lose some weight, you want it to be effective and not counterproductive. Processed foods are very low on nutrients and are packed with additives and extra calories that are bad for your body, and a diet based on these foods will get you nowhere. Instead, choose whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, which are full of vitamins and minerals and are great for your overall health.
Of course, you can still enjoy your favorite snacks and foods, but in moderation. A great way to do this is by following the 80/20 rule: eat healthy and nutritious foods 80% of the time, and enjoy some less healthy food for the remaining 20%. This approach works great because it gives you the freedom to indulge yourself while still eating healthy the majority of the time!
Eat protein and fiber
Fiber and protein-rich foods are known to increase satiety. In fact, protein is the most filling macronutrient by far, so eating it will keep you full for longer after every meal, and it will also reduce your cravings. This is because protein reduces your ghrelin levels, best known as the hunger hormone, and boosts your peptide YY levels, which helps to reduce your appetite. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water when it reaches your stomach, forming a gel-like substance that takes up space and makes you feel full. The best part is, there are so many delicious options and they pair well together! Just as an example, for dinner you can have a hefty side of Brussels sprouts (high in fiber), brown rice (complex carb and high in fiber), and salmon (omega-3s and protein). That's just one example of simple nutritious meals you can make at home!
This works wonders for you because you're getting the nutrients your body needs and you will feel less hungry when the next meal comes and thus you will eat less without even realizing it! So try to include protein and fiber in every meal to have the best of results.
We have talked about this before, but snacking consciously can get you a long way in your fitness journey. Snacking is something we all do from time to time, and to snack consciously just means to watch what you eat when you’re craving something, be it sweet or savory. Instead of grabbing your usual processed sugary or salty snack, have a healthy snack that is rich in protein like plain yogurt topped with fruit and nuts or cut up veggies and a side of hummus. You will still get to tackle your cravings, just in a healthier way!
Cardio and strength training
Well, of course, we’re including some exercise in here! Physical activity plays a big role in losing weight along with healthy eating because it burns a lot of calories. Incorporating a workout at any time of the day is ideal, but research shows that working out in the morning on an empty stomach (superficially in a fasted state) can help the body burn fat more effectively. So if your main goal is to lose body fat then a low-intensity cardio session after waking up is the best way to go! 
Although cardio workouts are people's main focus when it comes to shedding fat, consider including strength training into your routine - That is if it's not already 😉 Here's why...
According to a study published by The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Metabolism, young women's basal metabolic rate spiked by 4.2% for 16 hours after strength training for 100 minutes—burning about 60 more calories post-workout. This is because with strength training you build muscle, which is metabolically active and helps you burn extra calories throughout the day.  So if you really want to maximize weight loss, try lifting weights, then finish up with a long cardio session with moderate intensity (LISS) or short intervals with high intensity (HIIT), whatever works best for you. Doing this early in the morning before having anything to eat ensures that your body will use your fat storages as fuel instead of your most recent meal. But do what works best for you, find the type of workout you enjoy, and schedule to do it at the best time that works for you. Regardless if you do it in the morning or not, you'll still be on the right track to lose weight and most importantly, improving your health and wellness.
Intermittent fasting is not another dieting plan, but a timed approached eating pattern in which you alternate between eating and fasting periods. It tells you when to eat, but not what, so you’re free to choose your meals as long as you’re eating them in the corresponding hours. Since you know exactly when you’re eating, you’ll unconsciously start making healthier food choices, in order to make the most out of your eating window.
There are many methods to approach intermittent fasting, but the 16:8 method is the most popular. That just means fasting for 16 hours, and then having an 8-hour eating window. Sounds crazy, I know, but don’t worry! The easiest way to approach this for beginners is to make your sleeping window and your fasting window coincide. Let’s put it this way: You eat your last good meal at 8 p.m. and then later you go to sleep. Your eating window starts at 12 p.m. the next day, so you can start your day by doing a good workout, and then you can have your first meal to fuel up after!
By having such a long fasting window (and not overeating or eating unhealthy foods after), you automatically reduce your calorie intake and your body goes through a few metabolic changes. Fasting increases your growth hormone as well as the amount of norepinephrine released from your body, both linked to weight loss. It also reduces your insulin levels, causing your body to start burning your stored fat. This does not mean that fasting will immediately help you burn massive amounts of fat, it all depends on what you choose to eat when you're not fasting. So if you want to give fasting a shot to reap the health benefits then be mindful about the foods you eat and do your research! To make it easier for you, check out our guide on intermittent fasting, it's filled with all the important information you need about fasting before getting started!
Not all weight loss programs are bad, some have really helped people succeed and maintain a healthy weight after the fact! Like the keto diet, some rave about the health benefits, but others hate it and went back to their old ways shortly after. Fad diets won't work for everyone because everyone's body is different. If you really want to live a healthier lifestyle, lose weight, build muscle, or just maintain a healthy weight then following these tips will help! They may seem obvious or like too much work, but implementing these changes will help you improve your health while still allowing you to eat and enjoy your life, not be miserable following some restrictive diet that might get you nowhere.