There are endless diets, supplements, and meal replacement plans claiming to ensure rapid weight loss, most lack any scientific evidence. There are, however, some strategies backed by science that do have an impact on weight management. These strategies include exercising, keeping track of calorie intake, intermittent fasting, and reducing the number of carbohydrates in the diet.
Methods of weight loss that scientific research supports include the following:
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that involves regular short-term fasts and consuming meals within a shorter period during the day. Several studies have indicated that short-term intermittent fasting, which is up to 24 weeks in duration, leads to weight loss in overweight individuals.
The most common intermittent fasting methods include the following:
It is best to adopt a healthy eating pattern on non-fasting days and to avoid over-eating.
If someone wants to lose weight, they should be aware of everything that they eat and drink each day. The most effective way to do this is to log every item that they consume, in either a journal or an online food tracker.
Researchers estimated in 2017 that there would be 3.7 billion health app downloads by the end of the year. Of these, apps for diet, physical activity, and weight loss were among the most popular. This is not without reason, as tracking physical activity and weight loss progress on-the-go can be an effective way of managing weight.
One study found that consistent tracking of physical activity helped with weight loss. Meanwhile, a review study found a positive correlation between weight loss and the frequency of monitoring food intake and exercise. Even a device as simple as a pedometer can be a useful weight-loss tool.
Mindful eating is a practice where people pay attention to how and where they eat food. This practice can enable people to enjoy the food they eat and maintain a healthy weight.
As most people lead busy lives, they often tend to eat quickly on the run, in the car, working at their desks, and watching TV. As a result, many people are barely aware of the food they are eating.
Techniques for mindful eating include:
Protein can regulate appetite hormones to help people feel full. This is mostly due to a decrease in the hunger hormone ghrelin and a rise in the satiety hormones peptide YY, GLP-1, and cholecystokinin.
Research on young adults has also demonstrated that the hormonal effects of eating a high-protein breakfast can last for several hours.
Good choices for a high-protein breakfast include eggs, oats, nut and seed butter, quinoa porridge, sardines, and chia seed pudding.
The Western diet is increasingly high in added sugars, and this has definite links to obesity, even when the sugar occurs in beverages rather than food.
Refined carbohydrates are heavily processed foods that no longer contain fibre and other nutrients. These include white rice, bread, and pasta. These foods are quick to digest, and they convert to glucose rapidly. Excess glucose enters the blood and provokes the hormone insulin, which promotes fat storage in the adipose tissue. This contributes to weight gain.
Where possible, people should swap processed and sugary foods for more healthful options. Good food swaps include:
One emerging area of research is focusing on the role of bacteria in the gut on weight management. The human gut hosts a vast number and variety of microorganisms, including around 37 trillion bacteria. Every individual has different varieties and amounts of bacteria in their gut. Some types can increase the amount of energy that the person harvests from food, leading to fat deposition and weight gain.
Some foods can increase the number of good bacteria in the gut, including:
Numerous studies have shown that getting less than 5–6 hours of sleep per night is associated with an increased incidence of obesity. There are several reasons behind this. Research suggests that insufficient or poor-quality sleep slows down the process in which the body converts calories to energy, called metabolism. When metabolism is less effective, the body may store unused energy as fat. Also, poor sleep can increase the production of insulin and cortisol, which also prompt fat storage. How long someone sleeps also affects the regulation of the appetite-controlling hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin sends signals of fullness to the brain.
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It is important to remember that there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss. The best way to reach and maintain a healthy weight is to eat a nutritious, balanced diet. This should include 10 portions of fruit and vegetables, good-quality protein, and whole-grains. It is also beneficial to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.