Quick Tips to Jump Start Weight Loss
When it comes to losing weight, there are many programs and special diets out there that promise to show fast results with minimal effort. It can get confusing to figure out which route to go when getting started on a healthier lifestyle. Even though the newest “it” diet might sound like just the thing to try, there are a few basic concepts that are important to understand when it comes to weight loss. These approaches are a great starting point for making healthy changes.
There Must be a Calorie Deficit
Your body needs to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, but this deficit should not be too big. Eating too little food actually makes it harder to lose weight and keep it off. In order for our bodies to lose weight, there must be fewer calories eaten than we burn each day. Eating slightly less at each meal or snacking less are quick ways to reduce calories coming in.
This could mean simple changes like swapping a soda with lunch for sparkling water or an evening bowl of ice cream with a cup of fruit. Reducing the portion size of foods is also a way to eat fewer calories without missing out on foods you enjoy. If swapping fruit for ice cream in the evening isn’t a realistic goal, try reducing the portion of ice cream by half and adding some fruit on top instead(2).
Calculating Calorie Needs
There are online calorie-calculators that can give quick estimates. You can also try tracking your food intake for a few weeks on an app such as MyFitnessPal. These will estimate your calorie needs. They can be very insightful when looking at your food intake over the course of a day or week. If you’re looking for a personalized plan that takes into account your lifestyle, daily needs and goals, consider seeing a Registered Dietitian.
Quality Does Matter
While eating fewer calories will promote weigh loss, the type of foods we eat makes a difference. For example, eating 300 calories of cookies will not satisfy hunger and provide the same nutrition benefits and feeling of fullness as 300 calories from something more nutrient-dense, like nuts, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choosing foods that contain more nutrition can help control hunger and cravings while giving your body the nutrients it needs to help keep you feeling your best. Look for foods that are good sources of healthy fats, protein, and slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Increase NEAT Activities
Moving our bodies through daily activities and exercise burns calories. Putting these two things together (eating slightly less and moving more) will help get started with a calorie deficit that should lead to gradual weight loss. Increasing movement through activities outside of planned exercise is a great way to burn more calories throughout the day. These activities are referred to as NEAT (Non-Exercise Thermogenesis)(3). They include things like:
- Walking the dog
- Cleaning around the house
- Washing the car by hand
- Playing with the kids at the playground
- Pacing while talking on the phone
- Taking the long way: taking the stairs instead of elevator, parking further away from the store
Intense exercise routines can be hard to maintain and can increase feelings of hunger. So when starting out, walking is one of the best ways to create a consistent routine of movement, burning calories, and has benefits such as lowering stress. Aim for 20-30 minutes per day, even if it’s 10 minutes at a time.
Sleep is a much overlooked factor when it comes to weight loss. Better, longer sleep can help regulate our hunger and stress hormones, gives us more energy which often decreases the need for extra caffeine during the day, and can also make it easier to exercise. Research has shown that increasing sleep causes people to consume less food the next day. A recent study showed that when participants increased their sleep by 1.2 hours per night, they consumed an average of 271 fewer calories during the day(1).
Make a Plan
Try to stay at least one step (or meal) ahead when it comes to eating. At the beginning of each day, try to plan what you will eat for meals and snacks. Do what you can to prepare for those meals. It might mean washing fruit so It’s ready to grab and eat later, chopping vegetables to toss into the pan in the evening or for a side with lunch, or filling your water bottle before leaving the house. If the day becomes busier than planned, it will be easier to stay on track because there will be little work left to do for healthy meals and snacks at those meal times.
Choose one or two of these tips to get started. Once you get those down, add another. Small changes can lead to big results with patience and consistency!
Amber Ketchum, MDS, RD
- AMA Intern Med. 2022;182(4):365-374. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098 Published online February 7, 2022. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2788694
- “Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Aug. 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/calories/art-20048065#:~:text=In%20general%2C%20if%20you%20cut,It%20sounds%20simple.
- Comana, Fabio. “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: A Neat Approach to Weight Loss.” NASM, https://blog.nasm.org/exercise-programming/neat-approach-weight-loss.