Being overweight is a rapidly increasing health issue in the United States. According to Healthline, about 36.5% of Americans are obese, and another 32.5% are classified as overweight. Because obesity is directly linked to about 60 chronic diseases, losing weight is a common priority for many Americans looking to improve their futures and avoid sickness.
If you’ve ever attempted to lose weight, you probably realize how much of a struggle it can be. Perhaps you’ve started on a diet, saw nice results in the first week or two, and then lost steam, only to gain back the pounds you lost.
Perhaps the thought of accomplishing a goal of losing a significant amount of weight feels too impossible to even attempt. Whatever is holding you back from losing weight in the past can be defeated–with some hard work, determination, and most importantly….practice!
25 Key Weight Loss Tips and Hacks
To explore some no-nonsense, practical tips for approaching weight loss, check out the 25 pointers below.
1| Find a type of exercise you genuinely enjoy.
Engaging in regular physical activity is a normal part of staying healthy and keeping your weight under control. However, if you dread going for a job or dragging yourself to the gym every morning, you’re not likely to keep up the exercise routine. Why do most people with a New Year’s resolution of going to the gym cancel their memberships after the first month or two? They are canceled because the gym members don’t enjoy going!
Finding an exercise you like is crucial. You don’t have to pump away on a treadmill or run for hours and hours if those exercises aren’t fun for you. If you find something you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it.
For example, consider something as simple as taking a walk through your neighborhood each evening, taking up swimming at your local pool, or joining a neighborhood sports league. The most important requirements for your exercise routine are that it gets you moving and it brings you enjoyment.
2| Determine how many calories you need to eat to maintain a calorie deficit.
Despite what weight loss-focused nutrition companies and diet culture representatives want you to believe, weight loss isn’t achieved through magic pills or shakes. Weight loss happens when you eat in something called a calorie deficit.
Calorie deficits are simple. To eat in a calorie deficit, you must eat less calories than you burn. When you burn excessive calories, your body borrows energy from what your body has stored as fat. When you eat too many calories and your body doesn’t need them, those calories get stored on the body as excess fat, leading to weight gain.
Everybody requires a different number of calories to support their bodies’ needs. No two people are the same, which can make determining an appropriate calorie amount per day tricky. In the United States, nutrition labels on food packaging include a note saying that calorie amounts per serving are based on a “2,000 calorie per day diet.” However, this number is an average for most adults. Often, people discover that they need to eat more or less than 2,000 calories per day to properly feed their bodies.
To determine a safe number of calories to eat to maintain a calorie deficit on your weight loss journey, consult a professional nutrition specialist or your doctor for the most accurate information.
There are some online calculators and resources you can use to determine a rough number of calories you need, but a professional will be able to give you the safest and most accurate estimation of calories your body will need to safely maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
3| Fill your plate with whole, healthy foods.
Chips, cookies, and sodas are popular snack picks because they’re easily consumable….and delicious, of course! Unfortunately, they aren’t conducive to weight loss for a number of reasons.
Unhealthy snack foods are common culprits for weight gain because they’re designed to be quickly consumed, meaning you’re likely to continue munching on them long after your body’s hunger signals have been satiated.
Similarly, unhealthy snack foods lack the substance and nutrition your body craves to function at its best. If you continue to feed your body unhealthy foods, your body is still going to be missing the nutrients it actually needs, leading to more feelings of hunger and cravings.
This unhealthy cycle is compounded when you consider the addictive qualities of sugar on the body–the more you eat these unhealthy snack foods, the more frequently your body will demand them.
To begin breaking this cycle, make a point to fill your plate with whole, healthy foods. Stick to the main food groups–whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins–to send the proper satiety signals to your brain.
These foods are more complex than junk foods, meaning it takes your body longer to process and digest them. The nutrients in these foods are what your body needs to continue along healthily.
Whole, healthy food are also less calorie dense than junk foods–this means they are more filling but contain less calories per serving. For example, four ounces of baby carrots contain about 45 calories. Four ounces of plain potato chips pack in around 600 calories….that’s a major difference!
Does this mean you should cut junk food out of your diet entirely? Absolutely not. Junk foods are enjoyable, but they should be enjoyed in moderation. The majority of the foods you eat should be whole and nutritious rather than calorie-dense.
4| Tread lightly in the world of fad dieting and diet trends.
Most folks who’ve been on a weight loss journey before have likely fallen into the trap of fads and trends in dieting. If you’ve ever bought weight loss pills or shakes, or tried an alternative diet with little success, those failures can make weight loss feel like an extreme struggle.
Any “miracle product,” such as a diet pill or shake program, are often a farce by companies to sell more weight loss products. Unfortunately, these pill and shake regimens are often not healthy or sustainable long term, meaning people often gain back any weight they lost on them when they eventually stop using the products.
Alternatively, there are popular fad diets that often boast weight loss support. In some cases, fad diets can be a great lifestyle change for people wanting to lose weight.
Here are a few examples of popular dieting and eating trends people often explore while they’re on weight loss journeys:
- Veganism (eats absolutely no animal products)
- Vegetarianism (abstains from eating meat; may still have eggs, dairy, etc.)
- Ketogenic (eats a low amount of carbohydrates during the day)
- Paleo (eats a lot of foods that were once obtained by hunting and gathering methods; think grains, meats, berries, vegetables, fruits, etc.)
Many people explore these dietary lifestyle changes successfully. The reason why they’re successful is because they approach them with weight loss in mind. For example, you can still eat unhealthily on a strict vegan diet–popular junk food brands such as Oreo and Doritos have animal product-free options!
Also, when some people limit themselves to a very specific dietary trend, they often lose the willpower to stick to it and totally fall off the wagon after a while.
Instead, if you’re interested in exploring a dietary lifestyle change, consider trying it out as a part of keeping your diet varied and exploratory. You could start by incorporating “meatless Mondays,” for example, to see how much you like veganism. You can try a few ketogenic recipes to get an idea of what the diet is like before totally committing your weight loss plan to it.
5| Pre-plan your meals and snacks each week.
People like to have emergency plans in place. When you have a plan, you know exactly how to react if you find yourself in the “danger zone.” You can approach healthy eating the same way!
If you spend time pre-planning your meals and snacks at the beginning of each week, you’re making it easier for yourself to stick to a healthy eating plan and say “no” to overeating.
For example, if you keep a stock of healthy snacks in your desk at work, you can plan to have some fruit or nuts for a snack rather than another cold doughnut someone left in the break room. Rather than settling for the cold, crummy, calorie-laden doughnut (did it even taste that great, anyway?), you can opt for your whole and healthy preplanned snack instead.
6| Learn to identify your overeating triggers.
Often, repetitive overeating habits are linked to triggers that make us feel like we need to eat, even when we aren’t hungry. Responding negatively to these triggers can make weight loss hard. For example, if you’re feeling extra stressed about something at work, you might find yourself reaching for a bag of chips or cookies. Why does this happen every time work stresses you out?
Certain feelings and events can instantly trigger an impulse to snack and overeat. If this applies to your habits, learn to identify what makes you grab for extra snacks. To do this, stop yourself next time you begin to head toward the kitchen cabinets.
Consider your emotions in the moment: What is really driving you to seek out food? Do you feel physically hungry, or are you responding to a trigger? The more you practice identifying your triggers, the easier it becomes to acknowledge them and replace the bad habit with a better alternative.
7| Identify your eating patterns and routines.
Do your daily routines contribute to your weight loss struggle? It’s possible!
Eating is a totally normal part of the day. In fact, you should be eating meals and snacking routinely throughout a typical day–your body sends signals to alert you when it needs the nourishment. However, people often develop patterns and routines centered around food that don’t respond to true hunger.
For example, consider your after-work routine. When you get home from work, you might head straight to the fridge for a snack before going out on your daily evening walk. Before you fall into your regular habit, consider if you really need the snack. Is your body sending you real hunger signals? If it is, eat the snack to tide you over until dinnertime.
If you’re not feeling any signs of real hunger, you may be reaching for that extra snack out of habit from your routine. In this case, break your habit by skipping the extra snack and eating dinner on time that evening. You’ll save yourself the extra calories.
8| Choose sustainable lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes.
Step away from the “three weeks to a beach body” programs and “miracle product” diet foods! These are known as “quick fix” options. When something is a quick fix, it means it isn’t sustainable long term. You may quickly lose weight during the duration of the program or product’s use, but once you return to typical routines, you’re likely to gain it all back.
Instead, focus on making lifestyle changes instead, This ensures that you’re cementing long term, sustainable healthy habits into your everyday life. These changes are the true key to weight loss success–not quick fixes that allow you to fall right back into old, unhealthy habits as soon as you’re done using them.
9| Find your cheerleaders and supporters.
A weight loss journey, no matter how big or small your goals are, is a major undertaking. Any time you’re planning to lose weight, you can expect to make a lot of lifestyle changes. One way to help yourself stick to your weight loss plan is to find your cheerleaders and supporters in life.
Your cheerleaders and supporters could be your family, friends, or even a support system of other individuals also on journeys to lose weight. Being able to celebrate your successes with people who support you and understand your challenges makes it easier to stick through your weight loss journey, particularly when it gets extra difficult.
10| Focus on smaller, short term goals to make reaching your ultimate goal more manageable.
If your weight loss goal involves losing a higher number of pounds, the idea of actually reaching that goal can feel impossible. If you’d like to see the scale drop 20, 30, 40, or more pounds, you might find yourself wondering how you’re even going to begin to accomplish such a big goal.
Rather than focusing on the big, end goal, break your journey into a series of smaller, obtainable mini goals. Consider reaching each of these smaller goals a stepping stone that gets you closer to your ultimate vision of losing a larger number of pounds.
For example, if your goal is to lose 100 pounds, consider breaking this big goal into mini goals of five pound loss increments. Have a mini celebration every time you shave five pounds off your bigger 100 pound loss goal.
11| If you hit a plateau, keep moving forward.
Nothing is more discouraging than hitting a plateau. Plateaus occur when you’ve been seeing great weight loss results and then suddenly see your progress flatline despite sticking to your healthy changes. Why do plateaus happen when you’re sticking to your plan?
According to the Mayo Clinic, weight loss plateaus occur when your body begins to adjust your new healthy habits. Often, in the first few weeks of a weight loss journey, you see more drastic results–your body is adapting to your changes and burning excess stored calories (AKA fat) away from your body to adjust itself. However, after a while, your metabolism begins to level out and catch up to your changes. This is when the dreaded plateau occurs.
When you hit a plateau, the most important thing to do is keep moving forward. Plateaus are a natural (yet annoying) part of a healthy weight loss journey. If you stick to your new healthy habits and routines, you will see your weight loss pick up again.
12| Tweak your everyday habits and routines to involve more movement.
If the thought of incorporating major exercise into your day sounds a little too extreme for you, consider finding some simple ways to include more movement in your already-established daily routines.
For example, choose a parking place in the back of the lot at work so you have to take extra steps to get inside. Rather than taking the elevator, take the stairs to get to the other floors. While simple, these small changes add up to a lot of extra movement and calorie burning throughout the day.
13| Learn how to order takeout and eat from restaurant menus the smarter way.
Meals found on restaurant menus can be tricky and misleading. Even items that seem healthier can hide a host of extra calories. You can still enjoy restaurant and takeout meals–you just have to learn how to navigate the menus with healthy eating in mind.
Pay attention to the language used to describe a dish. Meals that use the following words are often fried, cooked in oil, or otherwise contain a lot of extra calories:
- Southern/down home
For example, a garden salad seems like a reasonably healthy choice, but consider the options allowing you to customize it. By the time you add toppings like some crispy chicken strips and creamy salad dressing, the nutritional value is lost in the extra calories.
14| Work toward retraining your brain to build a better relationship with food.
People have highly emotional connections to food and eating. These connections build your relationship with food.
Emotional connections can be found all throughout life and in a variety of situations. Here are a few examples:
- I had a bad day at work, so I’m going to eat this ice cream to feel better.
- My grandma used to keep a box of these cookies in her house; eating them reminds me of spending time with her.
- I’m feeling stressed about something I can’t control, so I’m going to eat to distract myself.
- It’s impossible for me to lose weight because I feel like a failure who will never actually accomplish it, so I may as well skip my healthy dinner plan and get fast food instead.
- When I’m feeling sad and empty inside, eating food gives me a sense of fullness or completion.
To begin addressing unhealthy emotional connections with food, it’s important to identify the feelings that send you to the kitchen. Emotional eating often leads to a bad relationship with food, but when you’re able to identify emotions, you can begin to reconstruct habits to find a healthier way to handle tough feelings.
15| Realize and accept that there aren’t any “bad” foods.
What would it be like to skip out on a slice of your own birthday cake? Can you imagine going to Thanksgiving dinner and not eating a piece of your aunt’s famous cherry pie? If these sound like a terrible way to live, it’s because they are.
People tend to associate being overweight with morality. Truthfully, being overweight is a medical condition. There are no “bad” foods, and indulging in treats certainly doesn’t make you a “bad” person.
Rather than “bad” foods, there are foods that should be eaten in moderation. Totally denying yourself special treats every now and then is a bad way to approach weight loss. Not only is it unrealistic, but it’s also damaging to your emotional state.
Having some occasional treats is a part of living a healthy lifestyle. The lesson: Enjoy that slice of birthday cake; you will move forward with your healthy habits afterward.
16| Make a plan for moments when you feel tempted by excessive snacking opportunities.
When your office mate brings in a box of doughnuts for the break room, it’s tough to stay away from them. Do you have a plan to approach tempting moments like this one? If not, make one!
Surprise snacks and opportunities to overindulge are a part of life. Knowing how to handle them takes time and practice, but you can master the art of “steering clear.”
For example, a plan to avoid the doughnut situation above could be as simple as taking a quick walk around the building to clear your mind and get some fresh air. By redirecting yourself, you’re stepping away from the temptation and centering your thoughts back on what you need to focus on–sticking to your plan and steering clear of an unnecessary temptation when you aren’t even feeling hungry!
17| Spend less time eating in front of your technology.
Unfortunately, eating dinner in front of your favorite Netflix series probably isn’t helping your weight loss efforts.
The Cleveland Clinic conducted a study of people who ate meals in front of their TVs or smartphones and people who ate without technology present. Guess which group ate more food during the mealtime? You guessed it–the group who ate their meals while also catching screen time ate far more calories than their tech-free counterparts.
People tend to eat more when they’re distracted. Watching a TV show or scrolling along on your phone is a big distraction from the real task at hand, which is listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Learning to separate eating and technology time is a big step to help weight loss. In fact, snacking or eating meals in front of the TV might be one of your eating “patterns or routines” from tip number seven. Does it feel weird to sit down and watch TV without a big bowl of chips? This is a habit you can learn to break with practice!
18| Learn to reward yourself in ways that don’t involve treats or food.
Treating yourself to an indulgent treat is often a popular choice of reward (think of how many times your parents took you out for pizza or ice cream for good grades, for example). Over time, many people develop a connection between rewards and food.
As you meet your weight loss goals (or any other life goal), find other ways to reward yourself that don’t involve food. For example, if you meet your first mini goal during your weight loss journey, reward yourself with some new running shoes or a cool new pair of headphones instead.
19| Experiment with meditation to shift your thinking about food and eating.
Bad habits that contribute to weight loss struggles require a shift in thinking to overcome. A great way to change your mindset is to practice meditation.
Spending some time silently meditating gives you an opportunity to recenter and refocus your mind when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you feel tempted to overeat, stop yourself and take a moment or two to slow your breathing and repeat a mantra to help yourself regulate bad habits. Here are a few examples of mantras to try:
- I am only going to honor my body’s true hunger.
- Food will not make a bad situation feel better.
- I don’t really need to eat a snack right now.
20| Find some healthy swaps for foods you tend to overindulge.
An indulgent treat is great every now and then, but when you eat them too often, they can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Instead, find some healthier swaps to satisfy your regular cravings.
For example, if you enjoy ice cream, explore some other dessert options, such as fruit, yogurt, or even lower calorie versions of your favorite ice cream treats to meet your sweet tooth needs. Finding healthy swaps for your “tough to put down” foods can help you limit how often you actually indulge in the real-deal versions of those treats.
21| Make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough sleep.
Staying hydrated and well rested are key parts of any weight loss journey. Although these two factors don’t appear to have a direct relationship with weight loss the same way eating habits and exercise do, they are just as important.
A well-hydrated body is well-functioning, meaning your body is able to move and operate smoothly. When you’re drinking enough water, you’re fueling your body to carry out all necessary processes.
Similarly, your body also needs rest to perform at its best. When you skip out on sleep, your body may try holding on to extra calories (AKA storing excess fat on the body) to have an emergency energy supply. Resting also gives your body a chance to repair itself and prepare you for your next day of activity.
22| Put yourself “in the moment” when you’re enjoying a meal or snack.
How often do you eat your whole snack and then feel surprised to realize it’s already all gone? If this happens to you often, you are likely not in the moment when you eat, and this habit can easily lead to overeating.
To practice eating in the moment, put a bite of food in your mouth and chew it very thoroughly. Spend time exploring the flavors and textures from the bite. Focus on how it feels in your mouth before swallowing.
This may seem excessive, but this form of mindfulness connects you directly to the task at hand–eating and nourishing your body. Giving yourself space and time to focus on eating makes you more likely to hear and respond to your body’s signals of fullness.
23| Learn to identify and honor your body’s hunger cues.
The human body is highly intelligent. It is aware of many feelings and knows how to keep us regulated about its needs. However, poor eating habits can cloud our judgement when listening for hunger cues.
Some common hunger cues are rumbling stomach or a feeling of emptiness beginning to develop in the stomach area–these are the ways your body physically tells you its time to eat!
If you find yourself scooting to the kitchen or break room for a snack, take a few seconds to stop and “tune in” to your body’s messages. Are you actually hungry? Then yes, go eat a healthy and fulfilling snack! Are you really just bored? Skip the snack and refocus your brain to get back on track.
24| Choose a couple small changes to make and slowly grow your good habits from there.
A common reason why people fail to stick to a weight loss plan is the overwhelming amount of change they try to take on in the beginning of the process. Most people feel so discouraged near the beginning of their journey that they give up and fall back into old habits and routines fairly quickly.
Consider the lifestyle that’s led to you being overweight. It takes years for most people to see significant changes in their weight, meaning bad health habits have taken root in their normal routines over the course of a long time. These bad habits are going to take time and practice to rework and trade out for healthier ones.
Instead of making a ton of changes all at once, focus on one or two aspects of your weight loss journey to improve before moving on to another piece of the weight loss journey puzzle.
For example, perhaps your first points of focus could be one or two of the following small changes:
- Drink 8 glasses of water today
- Include a vegetable with each meal eaten today
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night this week
- Go on a walk after work at least 3 days this week
After you master one or two of these changes, you can choose another to add. As your next addition to your journey becomes more routine, add another!
25| If you feel seriously hopeless, seek help from your doctor or a trained nutrition professional.
Sometimes, a struggle with food and weight loss is deeper than just tough habits to break.
If you suspect being overweight is linked to a serious mental health issue or eating disorder, reach out to a trusted medical professional, such as your doctor or a trained nutritionist.
Overeating can be a signal for deeper issues, such as binge eating disorder or depression. Until these issues can be treated, weight loss can be extremely difficult. If you suspect your issues with weight loss are linked to other problems, discuss them with your doctor to determine the best and safest course of action.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss is dependent on a lot of small factors and changes coming together to form a healthy lifestyle.
Living a healthy lifestyle is key to making weight loss happen. All the small adjustments and changes listed above work together to build a healthy and sustainable approach to weight loss.
When you work toward making small improvements that build upon each other, you set yourself up for success in the long term with weight loss and healthy living.
Stay on track with your weight loss efforts and take care!