Unlike our ancestors, we have 24/7 access to food. Many of the foods available to us have been altered from their natural state to increase their shelf life and crave factor. Our bodies digest and absorb these refined foods quickly, creating a spike in the fat-storing hormone, insulin.
These processed and refined foods are also calorie-dense, which helps explain why the average person’s daily calorie consumption has increased by 24% since the 1960s (1).
In other words, we’ve gained weight because of abundance and excess. To lose weight, some restrictions must occur. What you choose to cut back on is up to you.
3 Ways to lose Weight – At-A-Glance
- Limit Calories, considering exercise, your metabolism, and food choices.
- Limit Certain Foods, specifically carbs, fats, or refined foods.
- Limit Your Eating Hours by practicing intermittent fasting
There are ONLY 3 Ways to Lose Weight: Which One Will You Do? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The three ways to lose weight.
- Why these weight loss methods work.
- My recommendation for how to utilize each of these methods healthily.
3 Ways to Lose Weight
There are three ways to approach losing weight. You can limit how much you eat (calories), limit certain foods (fats, carbs, or refined foods), or limit the number of hours that you consume food (intermittent fasting).
#1 Limiting Calories
I mentioned that the average person’s daily calorie consumption has increased by 24% since the 1960s. As our calorie intake soared, so did obesity rates. A logical solution for weight loss is to eat less.
This is the traditional low-calorie or “calories-in-calories-out” approach to weight loss that we have been trying to follow for the past 60-plus years. And it works – if you do it. But there are traps involving exercise, your metabolism, and the foods you choose to eat.
Exercise and Calories
For instance, to tip the “calories-in-calories-out” balance in your favor, you may try increasing the calories-out factor alone. In other words, keep eating what you’re eating, but increase exercise. Again, this can work. However, exercise, especially the intense exercise needed to burn a substantial amount of calories, makes you hungry. If you are not consciously limiting or monitoring your food intake, you can gain fat while exercising. I can testify to this fact.
I used to consider myself a runner, but despite running many miles each week, my weight did not drop. In 2007, I ran a marathon. I worked out intensely for five months to prepare for it and never lost a pound. In fact, I remember dieting right before the race because my knees were feeling the strain of the extra pounds. I did not lose weight because, at the time, I thought I could eat whatever I wanted because I would surely burn it off.
Metabolism and Calories
Another consideration with limiting calories is how low you can go without slowing your metabolism. When you find the motivation to lose weight, it is tempting to drastically limit your daily calorie intake. Again, this will produce weight loss; the lower and longer you go, the faster the results come. But those fast results come at a cost that could result in permanent changes to your metabolism.
The concept that eating fewer calories leads to a slower metabolism was reinforced by studying participants from The Biggest Loser reality television show, which was essentially a race to lose weight (2).
To reach their goal, the participants subjected themselves to massive amounts of exercise and limited calories. They lost weight but appear to have also permanently slowed their metabolisms to the point where they can no longer eat as many calories without regaining the weight. This was even true in participants that were studied six years after the competition.
Accurately determining your ideal calorie intake is difficult because there are many factors to consider. As a baseline, the conventional wisdom of eating at least 1,200 calories per day if you are a woman and 1,500 for men acts as a starting point that can be fine-tuned based on your metabolism and activity level.
Food Choices and Calories
One more consideration with limiting calories: If that is your only criterion, it can lead to a very unhealthy diet. When I was young, I was addicted to sugar, and I was overweight. I no longer wanted to be overweight, but I also really didn’t want to stop eating sugar. I made a deal with myself that as long as I kept my calories low, I could eat anything I wanted.
That’s what I did. I ate a controlled-calorie, high-sugar diet that I look back at as the Tootsie Pop diet because I would eat five of them every day, along with other junk foods. And it worked. I lost weight. Please do not try it. I was also miserable, always hungry, trying desperately not to bite the Tootsie Pop so it would last longer – it was crazy-making, and I remember that my fingernails were terribly flimsy and wavy, most likely because I was malnourished.
Moral of the story: if you’ve done some things to lose weight in the past that you’re not proud of, so have I. That is part of living and learning. It was part of my learning curve and made me appreciate that while calories are important, the foods you choose to eat matter.
#2 Limiting Certain Foods
This brings us to the second approach to weight loss: limiting certain foods or food groups, specifically fats, carbs, or refined foods.
Cut Refined Foods
If you do nothing else, you will get the most beneficial weight loss if you stop eating refined foods and replace them with whole foods. In plain words, swap out the cereal, fast food, and pasta. Instead, eat an omelet, a salad, and a meat or fish entree.
Processed and refined foods often contain what I refer to as the Elimination Trifecta, which are three ingredients that make us sick and fat, namely sugar, white flour, and seed oils, like soybean oil. Reducing your intake of these inflammatory foods works for weight loss, regardless of whether you follow a low-carb or low-fat lifestyle. But adopting either of those approaches will work as well.
I recommend a low carb, high-fat diet. But there are those who do well and enjoy a low-fat diet. For a disciplined person, a low-fat diet filled with high-quality protein and unprocessed carbs works.
I have tried low-fat diets in the past, and I would say most people with a history of dieting have as well since it was the prevailing strategy for decades. Personally, I found the food choices less appealing and hunger hard to control on a low-fat diet. To replace the lost flavor, foods made to be lower in fat often add sugar or a sugar alternative that can spike insulin and drive cravings. Because of those factors, I found low-fat/high-carb diets hard to stick with long-term.
When you do the opposite by cutting carbs and replacing them with fat, digestion is slower, keeping insulin levels under control and hunger away longer.
Low carb dieting has been a godsend in my life. I have been eating this way for more than six years, and it has sustained me through menopause, which is a complex time in a woman’s life. I have no intentions of doing anything else. The ironic thing is eating a low-carb/high-fat diet without sugar is so much more enjoyable and fun than my crazy-making Tootsie Pop diet in my youth.
The first thing to understand when you decide to try a low carb diet is what foods you can eat. I have a free list of 100 low-carb foods that you can download as a guide.
Those hunger-satisfying foods also make it comfortable to stretch out the time between meals, which brings us to the third approach to weight loss.
#3 Limit Your Eating Hours
The third option, fasting, has been practiced for thousands of years for religious reasons or as a way to heal the body, but its use as a weight-loss tool is fairly recent.
The time you spend fasting frees insulin of its workload, putting your body in a state that favors fat burning. Fasting also naturally reduces calories by eliminating high-caloric habits like eating refined snacks at bedtime. Fasting provides two weight-loss advantages right off the bat—lower insulin and reduced calories. Because you are restricting time rather than food, you can pair it with a healthy diet to give your body fat a one-two punch.
But here again, there are potential traps. A common one is, “if restricting my eating to eight hours a day is good, why not up the ante and go for an extended fast lasting for days?” The problem is that it is not clear at what point, in an extended fast, that muscle mass is affected.
Just keep in mind that you want to work with your body, not against it. A good first step toward a fasting lifestyle is to stop eating three hours before bed. When you feel comfortable with that, you can push dinner to earlier or breakfast to later in the morning, increasing your fasting hours.
The choice is yours. To lose weight, you can limit your calorie intake, limit certain foods, or limit the number of hours you eat. This simplifies things because there are only three options. However, as I pointed out, each category has healthy and unhealthy approaches. You’ll be happiest if you combine the best practices. Monitor your calories, cut out refined foods, eat whole foods with hunger-satisfying protein and healthy fats, and eat daily within a tighter eating window.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Gould, Skye. “6 Charts That Show How Much More Americans Eat than They Used To.” Business Insider, last modified May 10, 2017.
(2) Fothergill, Erin, et al. “Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition.” Obesity 24.8 (2016): 1612-1619.