How to Lose Weight Fast: 12 Simple Steps, Based on Science
Searching for tips on how to lose weight fast and sustainably?
According to the CDC, over 70% of adults are considered overweight or obese (1).
Typically, once your BMI is over 30, your doctor will put pressure on you to lose weight.
Body Mass Index or BMI is a screening tool used to diagnose obesity by using a person’s height and weight.
Here are the basic BMI ranges and what they mean.
- normal is 18.5-24.9
- overweight is 25-29.9
- over 30 is considered obese
Whether your doctor has advised you to lose weight because of a high BMI, you have issues with hormones making weight loss difficult, or you simply want to fit into an old pair of jeans, there are proven ways to lose weight safely and keep it off.
The weight loss industry recommends doing all kinds of things from cutting out certain food groups and following a crazy strict weight loss plan to drinking a magic mixture of herbs.
You could spend your life savings on trying the newest diet trends, supplements, and still not achieve a healthy weight despite maximum efforts.
These gimmicks have little to no scientific research backing their suggestions.
Fortunately, there are strategies backed by science to achieve weight loss, manage chronic disease, and improve overall health without deprivation.
In this article, we will discuss 12 effective tips to lose weight the healthy way and are backed by science.
How to Lose Weight Fast – 12 Effective Tips
1. Eat Whole Foods
Eating high-quality food is the best thing you can do for your body.
By fueling your body with whole foods you will feel satisfied, have more energy, and improve cognitive health.
Whole foods are typically found in nature, have no additives, and are minimally processed.
They contain fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to boost our immune systems and help prevent disease.
Here are categories of whole foods and examples of each.
Protein is essential for our bodies to repair and build tissue.
It also helps us feel fuller longer.
It is important to select lean protein sources that do not have extra fat and sodium.
Plant-based protein sources generally have fewer calories while still containing similar nutrient compositions.
Some great sources of plant-based protein to add to your daily routine include legumes, quinoa, and cashew or almond milk.
When eating animal protein, you want to make sure you choose lean protein sources such as white meat poultry like skinless chicken breast or turkey breast, lean ground beef (at least 93%), and fish.
Studies have shown high protein intake is associated with decreased appetite, body weight, and overall calorie intake (2).
Fruits are great to have on hand when you have a sweet tooth.
While fruits are packed full of vitamins, they generally do contain more carbs making it important to consume certain fruits in moderation.
Limit or avoid excess consumption of dried fruit, fruit juice, and tropical fruits like mango, banana, and pineapple.
Some of the best fruits for weight loss that provide fewer calories are berries, apples, and grapefruit.
Veggies are an essential part of a diet rich in whole foods.
There are two different types of veggies categorized by
their starch content.
Non-starchy veggies contain fewer carbs and calories but are still filling without the extra calories.
Some of the best veggies to eat are broccoli, asparagus, spinach, cauliflower, and leafy greens.
You want to limit those that are high in starch such as corn, peas, and potatoes. They have a higher carb and calorie content compared to non-starchy veggies.
A balanced diet must include fat, but whole food sources of fat are going to provide additional health benefits.
Due to the caloric density, they must be consumed in moderation.
No more than 35% of daily calories should come from fat.
Some great examples of healthy fats are avocado, walnuts, almonds, and sesame seeds.
You want to avoid saturated fats such as animal fats, coconut oil, and butter.
Many diets tell us to stay away from foods with carbs, but whole grains are very healthy for us and promote earlier satiety.
It is important to replace refined grains like white bread, pasta, and white rice with whole grains to help us feel more full and provide our body with the extra nutrients it needs to function properly.
Refined grains have also been linked to insulin resistance.
Some of the healthiest whole grains include quinoa, brown rice, whole grain oats, and whole rye.
When eating meals, your plate should include foods from all food groups and half of it should be filled with fruits/ or veggies.
2. Avoid Empty Calories
All calories are not created equal. Empty calories typically have little to no nutritional value.
While they may taste good, they usually have no benefit to your body.
Excess consumption leads to weight gain, chronic diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.
Examples of foods to avoid include:
- prepackaged foods such as candy and chips
- meat fat such as chicken skin
- fruit juice and sweetened beverages
- fast food
- full-fat foods such as ice cream and cream cheese
The best way to know what products to avoid is to read food labels.
You want to limit foods with added glucose or fructose and solid fats like shortening.
For example, if you compare the food labels on an apple versus apple juice (yes, even if it says 100% juice) an apple has significantly fewer calories than a glass of apple juice which contains almost double the calories.
Research has directly associated dietary sugar intake with being overweight (3).
3. Drink Water Before You Eat
Water makes up over half of our bodies.
Sometimes when we feel hungry, we might only be thirsty.
We need at least 8-10 cups of water today and likely more if we work in a hot environment or exercise a lot.
Without proper hydration, our cognitive performance may be affected, leading to fatigue.
New research found that obese adults who consumed approximately 16 ounces of water thirty minutes before all three meals were associated with weight loss (4).
Adults who drink cold water have faster resting energy metabolism.
Studies have shown that resting energy expenditure is increased by up to 30% ten minutes after consuming water lasting at least an hour (5).
4. Limit Sugar & Refined Carbs
One good way to achieve weight loss fast is to avoid consuming sugar and refined carbs.
Refined carbohydrates have essentially all components stripped causing the food to have little to no nutritional value.
Your body breaks down refined carbohydrates quickly which can lead to increased blood sugar levels.
Refined carbohydrates are associated with increased hunger levels and decreased energy due to the body breaking them down.
This includes commonly eaten foods that we naturally crave such as:
- some breakfast cereals
- white bread
- white rice
- sweetened beverages
- most desserts
- chips and dip
Since these foods have been stripped of nutrients, they are less likely to fill us up. This leads to an overall higher calorie intake.
It is important to not restrict, but consume these items in much smaller quantities.
Intake of sugar and refined carbs can also increase hunger levels and cause blood sugar spikes by being absorbed quicker into the bloodstream.
Not only is sugar addicting, but research also has shown consuming beverages with added sugar contributes to weight gain, increased appetite, and increases the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease (6).
5. Try Intermittent Fasting
One of the newest trends in health and fitness research is intermittent fasting also known as IF.
People are incorporating IF to reduce body fat, reduce the risk of disease, and achieve long-term success.
Intermittent fasting is essentially eating freely during certain days or hours of the day and voluntarily fasting during the other hours.
There are a wide variety of styles of IF. Here are a few of the most common methods.
16/8: This method is the most popular. It involves fasting between 14-16 hours and eating approximately 8 hours during the day.
Many people start with this method since we typically already fast while sleeping and it is as simple as extending the fasting hours out a little longer.
Eat stop eat: Within this method, you fast for 24 hours and eat normally the next day.
For example, you may fast from 7 AM Sunday to 7 AM Monday and eat normally from 7 AM Monday to 7 AM Tuesday. You fast 1-2 days per week.
5:2: This method involves following your normal diet pattern 5 days a week and restricting to less than 600 calories on the other two days.
While fasting, you are allowed black coffee, unsweetened tea, and zero-calorie beverages to help ease your thirst and hunger until your eating window begins.
Recent studies have suggested that intermittent fasting results in positive outcomes for those that are overweight and have other chronic health conditions (7).
6. Use Smaller Plates
Plate sizes in America have dramatically increased over the years.
If you think about most of your plate sizes at restaurants, they are even larger than most of our plates at home and usually include enough food for at least two people if it was portioned properly.
The bigger the plate, the more likely you are to fill it up regardless of your appetite. This leads to increased calorie intake.
By using smaller plates at dinner you will reduce portion sizes which ultimately leads to weight loss.
While there are some conflicting studies, in one recent study, it was discovered that participants overestimated portion sizes on colored plates with wider rims (8).
7. Keep Healthy Snacks On Hand
When we are going through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is a good idea to keep healthy snacks on hand.
When hunger strikes, it is much easier to resist the temptation to stop at a fast-food restaurant when you already have food on hand.
Snacks should be around 100-200 calories and consumed in between meals.
Consuming healthy snacks throughout the day also helps you make better choices without feeling ravenous before lunch or dinner.
Studies have shown that snacking on high fiber, healthy foods in between meals can be beneficial and promote weight loss (9).
A few healthy snack ideas good for on the go to satisfy your cravings include 100 calorie packs of almonds, string cheese, hummus with carrots, frozen fruit, and jerky.
8. Get Active
Physical activity burns additional calories which can result in increased metabolism and weight loss.
While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, it has been proven beneficial to combine exercise with reduced caloric intake.
Physical activity has been associated with increased muscle mass which can improve insulin sensitivity.
In one study, young adults did five aerobic exercises per week for ten months.
One group burned approximately 400 calories per workout the other group burned around 600 calories per workout.
The group that burned 400 calories lost approximately 4.3% of their weight and those that burned 600 kilocalories lost approximately 5.7% of their body weight (10).
Finding fun, enjoyable exercise will help prevent the dread of classic workouts while still burning calories.
You may consider gathering with a group of friends for evening walks, jogs, or a biking trip.
9. Get Good Sleep
Getting enough rest is just as important to successfully lose weight as proper diet and exercise.
Most adults do not get enough hours of sleep at night.
One meta-analysis showed an increased risk of being overweight in both children and adults that do not get enough rest at night (11).
National Guidelines recommend an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for most adults (12).
Without enough rest, you may feel tired and groggy the next day and find it more difficult to practice self-control.
10. Reduce Stress
Stress can have a great impact on your ability to lose or maintain weight.
High-stress levels produce the hormone cortisol that has been studied to be related to weight gain.
Cortisol increases insulin levels which may cause your glucose to bottom out. This can result in cravings for processed, high-fat foods.
One study found that women with higher hormone cortisol levels consumed foods high in sugar resulting in higher calorie intake (13).
Small elevations in cortisol are normal responses to stress, but when these levels remain elevated for long periods it can lead to weight gain.
11. Avoid Alcohol
For those trying to lose extra weight, you may want to avoid or significantly reduce alcohol intake.
Alcohol is typically high in carbs and contains a lot of calories.
One glass of wine or one beer contains approximately 125-150 calories.
This quickly adds up when enjoying a night out with friends or relaxing after work.
Chances are, while you are drinking, you will likely crave foods that you might have the willpower to avoid sober.
Alcohol is also the first source of fuel that the body burns meaning that the glucose from carbohydrates you consume and the lipids from the fat end up stored in adipose tissue in our body.
Studies have shown the relationship between chronic alcohol consumption and weight gain resulting in obesity (14).
12. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Planning meals ahead of time allow you to not only save money but also lose weight.
Start by browsing your favorite healthy recipes and planning healthier meals to include throughout the week.
There are great make-ahead freezer recipes for on-the-go that can be thrown in the microwave, slow cooker, or oven for an easy satisfying meal option.
Mix and match dinner recipes to save leftovers for lunch the next day.
Without proper planning, when we get hungry we tend to grab the first thing in sight which may not necessarily be the healthiest option.
Studies show that meal planning is associated with the intake of healthier foods (15).
One effective way to begin planning is to utilize grocery pickup or ordering online after deciding which meals you want throughout the week.
Give yourself the weekend to take a break to avoid burnout.
Final Word on How to Lose Weight Fast
It is not easy losing weight and keeping it off.
The first thing you need to do is follow sound advice that is evidence-based and backed by science.
Instead of focusing on which diet to follow that claims to give rapid weight loss, try to focus on what is sustainable for you.
There are no magic supplements or quick fixes to lose weight or we would all be walking around looking like supermodels— am I right?
By making just a few of the above lifestyle changes, you will be mapping your road to long-term success.
Learn from past mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember—never give up.
- “FastStats – Overweight Prevalence.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Mar. 2021, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm.
- Leidy, Heather J et al. “The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 19,4 (2011): 818-24. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.20
- Te Morenga L, Mallard S, Mann J. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies BMJ 2013; 346 :e7492 doi:10.1136/bmj.e7492
- University of Birmingham. “Glass of water before each meal could help in weight reduction.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150826101645.htm>
- Michael Boschmann, Jochen Steiniger, Uta Hille, Jens Tank, Frauke Adams, Arya M. Sharma, Susanne Klaus, Friedrich C. Luft, Jens Jordan, Water-Induced Thermogenesis, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 88, Issue 12, 1 December 2003, Pages 6015–6019, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2003-030780
- Malik, Vasanti S et al. “Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk.” Circulation vol. 121,11 (2010): 1356-64. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.876185
- de Cabo, Rafael, and Mark P Mattson. “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 381,26 (2019): 2541-2551. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1905136
- McClain, A D et al. “Visual illusions and plate design: the effects of plate rim widths and rim coloring on perceived food portion size.” International journal of obesity (2005) vol. 38,5 (2014): 657-62. doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.169
- Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “The right snack may aid satiety, weight loss.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716115723.htm>.
- Donnelly, J.E., Honas, J.J., Smith, B.K., Mayo, M.S., Gibson, C.A., Sullivan, D.K., Lee, J., Herrmann, S.D., Lambourne, K. and Washburn, R.A. (2013), Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: Midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity, 21: E219-E228. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20145
- Cappuccio, Francesco P et al. “Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults.” Sleep vol. 31,5 (2008): 619-26. doi:10.1093/sleep/31.5.619
- Hirshkowitz, Max et al. “National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep health vol. 1,1 (2015): 40-43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010
- Epel, E et al. “Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior.” Psychoneuroendocrinology vol. 26,1 (2001): 37-49. doi:10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00035-4
- Fazzino, Tera L et al. “Heavy Drinking in Young Adulthood Increases Risk of Transitioning to Obesity.” American journal of preventive medicine vol. 53,2 (2017): 169-175. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2017.02.007
- Ducrot, Pauline et al. “Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults.” The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity vol. 14,1 12. 2 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7