WebMD shows you the science behind weight loss.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
If you want to lose weight once and for all, the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic can show you how. Try our top 10 scientifically proven tips and see if they will work for you.
Writing down your daily food intake is a way to acknowledge the importance of your weight loss mission and help you to take it seriously. Tracking your food, your emotional triggers, and daily physical activity helps you identify patterns and habits that lead to overeating and inactivity. Just the act can keep you on task: When you know you have to write it down, sometimes that doughnut becomes less appealing! The National Weight Control Registry says that journaling is one of the most powerful tools used by all successful dieters.
2. Daily exercise
Get moving! Exercise burns calories and suppresses the appetite. The National Academy of Sciences recently set new recommendations of 60 minutes of exercise per day, up from 30. But don't panic! Only 30 minutes per day needs to be vigorous activity; use other activities of daily living to add up to the remaining 30 minutes. Here's even more help: a study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition showed that you can get the same benefits from 10-minute increments as with 30 minutes of continuous exercise.
3. Kick up the calcium
Recent research by Zemel and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee has shown that consuming three servings a day of calcium-rich dairy foods can speed up weight loss by 50%-70% while strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis. It's a no-brainer -- how can you argue with eating yogurt, cheese, and milk - all really healthy foods if you choose low-fat versions - while enhancing weight loss?
4. Protein at every meal
Research from the University of Illinois reported in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that eating more high-quality protein can help a person maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat during weight loss. That's because of leucine, an amino acid, which spares muscle proteins during weight loss, so you only lose the fat and not the muscle. Maintaining muscle during weight loss is essential because it helps the body burn more calories.
However, too much protein can strain your kidneys, leach calcium from your bones, and prevent you from eating all the other nutritious foods in your diet. So be sure that the protein you eat is just one part of a well-balanced diet.Clinic Tip: The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic recommends a high quality protein diet of 15%-35%. This level of protein is within the guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences' recommendations. We encourage users to choose lean protein from a wide variety of sources including eggs, fish, poultry, meat, low-fat dairy, beans, and nuts.
5. Believe in breakfast
You can actually lose weight by eating breakfast! The National Weight Control Registry cites breakfast as one of the key factors to long-term weight control. In fact, studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier that those who eat a nourishing meal. How can that be? A healthy breakfast keeps blood sugar and hormone levels stable while your metabolism hums along at a higher level, burning more calories.
6. Never go more than 4-5 hours without food
Skipping meals encourages bingeing and crushes your willpower. By making sure that you eat three meals per day you can control your hunger and manage your appetite.
7. Do it slowly
The average adult gains 1-3 pounds per year, according to the surgeon general. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So what makes you think you can take it all off -- and keep it off -- in just a few short months? The best and most successful approach is slow and steady, at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week. Weight lost at this rate is primarily fat and has a much better chance of remaining lost forever.
8. Buddy up
Getting support from others is a great way to help you maintain your new eating and physical activity habits. Successful losers have great support systems, according to research from Brown University published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Find someone with the same goals as you, then help one another discover those habits that led to overeating and inactivity. Then brainstorm ways to change them into new healthy behaviors.
9. Eat a rainbow of colors and plenty of whole grains
Colorful produce and whole grains contain complex carbohydrates, a wealth of disease-fighting phytonutrients, very few calories, and virtually no fat. Fruits and vegetables are chock full of fiber, vitamins C, A, and K, folate, and potassium. The deeper the color, the richer the nutrients and the potential for greater health benefits. Whole grains not only provide an excellent source of carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but researchers have found more phytonutrients that help fight cancer, heart disease, and prevent diabetes. Whole grains are digested more slowly and therefore are more satisfying for a longer period of time. Read the label and choose foods made of 100% whole grains. We recommend you choose a wide variety of healthy carbohydrates to get all the vitamins and minerals you need each day.
10. Reward yourself
Have a list of incentives to choose from when you hit small goals such as 5 or 10 pounds of weight loss or getting regular exercise. That will boost your self-esteem, and studies say self-esteem can keep you from succumbing to emotional eating. The only warning, don't use food as a reward. Try a spa service, detailed car wash, go to the movies in the afternoon, call or write an old friend, or my favorite, go shopping.
The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic is based on science and is dedicated to help you successfully lose weight and keep it off . We will be there for you every step of the way, helping you make small changes in your lifestyle and eating habits that will reward you with life-long results.
Originally published April 22, 2003
Medically updated Feb. 11, 2005.