Weight loss is hard, right? Well, that depends. The good news is that you don’t need to battle it out on pure willpower alone – which, let’s face it, is often a sure way to have your weight loss efforts backfire.
Studies show that our willpower is not an infinite resource, by around mid-afternoon it starts to lag and is one of the biggest reasons why we often make healthy food choices in the morning and less healthy ones in the
evening, according to Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What
You Can Do to Get More of It.
With the right tools and strategies however you don’t need to rely on just willpower alone.
Six weight loss strategies proven to make a real difference
1. Write it down.
The biggest finding to come out of one of the longest and largest weight loss maintenance studies in the United States, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is that writing down what you eat every day can double your weight loss.
The study was coordinated by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research along with several leading universities across the country and examined over 1 700 participants who were all following the same heart healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. The researchers found that the subjects who lost the most weight were the ones who kept a food diary.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit says that the act of writing down what we consume helps us to see the patterns in our behaviours when it comes to food. Which helps us to spot our habits so that we can change them if we need to. We might find that at 5 p.m. we get hungry but only eat at 6 p.m. when we get home and this leads us to raid the fridge before dinner. By recognising this habit we can then carry a healthy snack to tie us over.
2. Plan ahead.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that weight loss results are far greater when pre-made meals are used instead of conventional dieting alone.
Easy tips are to make a few dinners at once and to freeze the others. You can also prepare your lunches and snacks the night before or for a few days at a time so that you always have a ready made meal at hand when hunger strikes. Also keep the fridge and pantry stocked with easy to grab snacks like carrot sticks, hummus, fruit, nuts, and yoghurt.
3. Make friends with protein.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that that eating more high-quality protein can help you to maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat during weight loss. It also makes you feel fuller for longer. Maintaining muscle mass is important because it helps the body burn more calories – it’s one of the reasons men often lose weight quicker than women because they naturally have a higher muscle mass so their bodies burn calories faster.
However, too much protein can be bad for you, putting strain on your kidneys. The American National Academy of Sciences recommends a diet of high quality protein that is around 15-35% of your total dietary intake, this is based on recommendations from Good protein sources include nuts, beans, low fat dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat.
4. Boost your willpower.
While willpower has been shown to run out, it is possible to renew it, according to McGonigal. If you’re starting to feel your resistance crumbling, why not give it a boost by going for a nap (if you can) as sleep has been shown to renew willpower. That’s why our willpower is strongest in the morning after a good night’s rest.
You can also try consuming media where the protagonist is actively going after their own goals (good options are fitness vlogs, blogs, Instagram feeds), it also works the other way where if you see them giving in to temptation you can get influenced the same way so be selective in what you red or watch. Cookery shows may not be the best idea for instance. You can also try having a single espresso, says McGonigal. A small dose of caffeine balances the autonomic nervous system, which makes you both more alert, yet calm at the same time. This allows you to resist temptations more easily.
5. Make sleep a priority.
According to WebMd, sleep has a powerful effect on your metabolism. Not only does sleep help regulate your hunger hormones, but lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to behaviour that can lead to weight gain. Lack of sleep helps our brain make bad decisions, dulling the impulse control section of your brain, so you can end up looking for a temporary fatigue fix from a high sugar drink, or a pick me up from a sugar and calorie laden treat. Lack of sleep also increases cravings.
6. Say hello to dairy.
The University of Tennessee found that participants who consume around three servings of dairy foods that are high in calcium can help speed weight loss by as much as 70%. The study found that those who ate a low calorie diet that was high in dairy lost more weight than people who had the same diet minus the dairy but took calcium supplements.
According to WebMD, the reason it works is that calcium provides small increases in thermogenesis, the body's core temperature which may boost metabolism, prompting our bodies to burn fat. However, you still need to follow a lower calorie diet for it to work – eating the same and adding more dairy won’t make the difference, they note. They study authors suggest three servings of low fat yoghurt and cheese.
Weight loss doesn’t need to be all hard work, try these six proven strategies for effective and hassle-free weight loss.