What you’ll learn here
- #1: Stay well-hydrated (especially before meals)
- #2: Base your diet around minimally processed foods
- #3: Include more protein sources in your meals
- #4: Chew more slowly
- #5: Eat mindfully
- #6: Strength training to build muscle
- #7: Eat more vegetables and fruits
- #8: Increase your daily step count
- #9: Clock enough zzz’s every night
- #10: Try out intermittent fasting
- #11: Give the keto diet a go
- #12: Keep the snacks out of sight, out of mind
- #13: Cut down on the alcohol
- #14: Make dietary and exercise changes simultaneously
- #15: Use smaller plates
- #16: Beware of health halos
- #17: Eat most of your calories early on in the day
- #18: Get a workout buddy
- #19: Limit the variety of snacks you have
- #20: Take the time to meal-prep healthier meals
- #21: Take a chill pill
- #22: Plan for ‘refeed’ days
- #23: Lose weight slowly
- #24: Don’t deprive yourself
- #25: Consistency is the king of weight loss hacks that actually work
There are plenty of weight loss hacks around, but do they actually work? Are they effective – or even safe?
Well, hopefully, you know by now that there is absolutely no magic pill for weight loss. No, none at all. There’s no shortcut to weight loss.
No matter how much those pesky pop-ups wriggle on your screen, screaming …
‘WANT TO LOSE 20 KG IN 3 MONTHS? CHECK ME OUT!’
Truth is, the key to weight loss lies in a calorie deficit. Eat fewer calories than your body needs, and you’ll drop the weight. But of course, staying in a calorie deficit is easier said than done. And that’s despite us knowing of its importance. It’s not something we can simply turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ like a switch.
Fortunately, as it turns out, there are a few sneaky hacks for weight loss (that actually work!) we can make use of to stick to a calorie deficit.
Want to know what’s better? There’s none of that ‘drink green tea first thing in the morning’ BS. Yep. All the hacks for weight loss covered here are going to be evidence-based. Excited yet? I know I am.
Let’s get right into it.
#1: Stay well-hydrated (especially before meals)
When it comes to hacks for weight loss, ‘drink more water’ isn’t exactly earth-shattering.
But even though most of us have probably heard the advice about a million times, none of us has actually followed through on it. I mean – given how crazy simple this tip is, how effective can it be?
As it turns out, the answer is very!
According to a 2010 study that compared two groups of participants who (1):
- Drank 500 ml of water about half an hour before meals AND
- Those that didn’t
Guess what they found? Those that stayed well-hydrated before their meals ate fewer calories during the meal, and lost 44% more weight compared to those that didn’t! 44%!
As is pretty obvious by now, the researchers chalked up the participants’ weight loss to the fact that water made them feel full, which made them eat less (aka cut down on the number of calories they ate).
So, if you’re looking for an easy, painless way to cut your portions without feeling restricted? Loading up on water before your meals places amongst the top weight loss hacks that actually work.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should be well-hydrated throughout the day – not just before meals. Especially so when you’re working out, as dehydration can affect your performance and even worse, your health.
Just be sure to have a bathroom nearby. You’re going to be peeing more than usual if you’ve not been hydrating well. The tiny hassle is definitely worth it though.
Loading up on water before your meals can make you feel fuller during your meals. Thus, cutting down on the calories you consume and widening the calorie deficit.
#2: Base your diet around minimally processed foods
The term ‘processed food’ gets thrown about a lot in the health and fitness industry.
And in general, many self-made health gurus would tell you to stay away from processed foods because they’re thought to be inferior to ‘unprocessed,’ ‘whole,’ or ‘real’ foods. But here’s the kicker.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), processed food is one that has undergone any change to its natural state. That means if a food has been subjected to:
And any other procedures that alter the food from its natural state, it’s processed. Yep – that means that even an apple you pick up from the grocery store is ‘processed.’
Does this then mean that you can eat whatever you want because it’s all processed anyway? No. The point I’m driving at is that it’s helpful to differentiate between various degrees of food processing.
And then try to base the majority of your diet on minimally processed foods. I’ll get into the ‘why’ in just a bit.
Types of food processing
First up, though, let’s reference the NOVA classification, a system that classifies processed foods. It lists four categories to which a food is processed:
- Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
- Unprocessed foods: Include the natural edible food parts of plants and animals (e.g. freshly-harvested orange or apple)
- Minimally processed foods: Slightly altered for the main purpose of preservation but does not substantially change the nutritional content of the food (e.g. fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and milk you buy from the supermarket)
- Processed culinary ingredients: Food ingredients derived from a minimally processed food by pressing, refining, grinding, or milling (e.g. oils from plants, seeds, nuts, or flour and pasta formed from whole grains)
- Processed foods: Foods from either of the two previous groups that have added sugar, salt, or fats (e.g. canned fruits, vegetables, and fish)
- Ultra-processed foods: Foods from the prior group (processed foods) that go beyond the incorporation of sweeteners, salt, or fat. Instead, they also include artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives that promote shelf stability, preserve texture and increase palatability (e.g. sugary drinks, cookies, chips, luncheon meats).
As you can see, it’s pretty useless to just think of foods in a black-and-white manner, where they’re either ‘processed’ or ‘unprocessed.’ Truth is, everything is processed.
The only thing that truly matters is the extent to which it’s processed.
Why stick to minimally processed foods?
As a general rule, emphasizing minimally processed foods in the daily diet is optimal. Why? Well, because the more processed a food is, the more calorie-dense it’s going to be. And that’s going to affect your chances of sticking to a calorie deficit.
Besides, did you know that your body burns more calories when digesting minimally processed foods?
In a 2010 study, researchers compared between two groups of participants who ate (2):
- Group 1: Whole grain bread and minimally processed cheddar cheese
- Group 2: White bread and processed cheese
Despite both meals consisting of roughly the same amount of total calories, individuals from
Group 2 were found to have burned 50% fewer calories through the digestion of their food than those in Group 1!
Hopefully, you now see that swapping out some items in your diet for minimally-processed variants is one of the easiest weight loss hacks (that actually, truly work) you can make use of to boost your fat loss efforts.
Base most of your diet around minimally processed foods. Not only are they less calorie-dense, but your body also burns more calories digesting them. Not to mention, they’re often high in healthful nutrients.
#3: Include more protein sources in your meals
Here’s the truth: you don’t need to eat chilies every meal to boost your metabolism! It’s painful and unnecessary, especially if you don’t like spicy foods.
You know what you should eat more of though?
Protein. Yep – one of the most scientifically-backed weight loss tips is to simply increase protein consumption. Why? Well, because it’s highly-satiating. In other words, it doesn’t take much protein to make you feel full and satisfied after you’ve had it.
That means you’ll feel less inclined to reach out for those snacks in the middle of the day! Thus, significantly cutting down on the total number of calories you eat a day.
Just so you know, a study showed that just eating 25% of your total calories as protein reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60% while also cutting desire for late-night snacking in half (3).
That’s pretty impressive.
The benefits of upping your daily protein intake extend beyond cutting down on obsessive thoughts about food and food cravings too. See, what makes ‘eat more protein’ such an amazing weight loss tip is that it also boosts your metabolism (4, 5, 6).
Your body burns more calories digesting protein
Remember how we said that your body has to burn calories to digest food?
As it turns out, when compared to the other two macronutrients (fats and carbs), protein requires the most energy to burn! Here are the specific percentages that your body requires to digest the various macronutrients:
- Protein: 25% (i.e. for every 400 calories of protein you eat, your body requires 100 calories just to digest it – net calorie intake of 300 calories)
- Carbohydrates: 8% (i.e. for every 400 calories of carbohydrates you eat, your body requires 32 calories to digest it – net calorie intake of 368 calories)
- Fats: 2% (i.e. for every 400 calories of carbohydrates you eat, your body requires 8 calories to digest it – net calorie intake of 392 calories)
So – not only does protein make you eat fewer calories throughout the day, but it also reduces the number of calories your body ultimately absorbs from it. Um, one of the easiest weight loss tip ever?
How much protein should you eat a day?
Sold? Here’s a helpful article on how much protein you need to eat a day based on your fitness goals – weight loss in this case.
Regardless, here are the general guidelines if you’re short on time:
- If you’re active: 2 grams per kilogram body weight
- If you’re sedentary: 1.6 grams per kilogram body weight
Of course, you should still check out the article if you want to learn more. It covers everything you want to know about protein intake.
One of the easiest weight loss hacks to make use of is to increase your protein intake. That’s because protein is highly satiating, and requires the most energy to burn out of the three primary macronutrients.
#4: Chew more slowly
Used to scarfing down your meals? Constantly bolting lunch at your work desk? Do you skip sit-down dinners to eat over the sink?
Well, you should probably slow it down.
Slowing down your food consumption (aka chewing slowly) can lead to weight loss without you changing the actual foods you’re eating (7, 8, 9). That’s because the slower you chew on your food, the more time your stomach has to notify your brain that you’re full (10).
Did someone just say “But slowing down is hard!” I agree.
Here are some weight loss tips to slow you down.
How to chew more slowly during meals
You think you can do it, but then you look at the remains of your dinner and realize that only 5 minutes have passed since you had your first mouthful. I’ve been there. That’s why I have some suggestions that are a little more tangible than just ‘chew more slowly.’
- Change your eating environment: Instead of always shoving food down your throat at the maximum speed over the sink or at your work-desk, try sitting down at a proper table. This way, you can really focus on the eating experience. And slow it down without getting caught in the hustle and bustle of life.
- Count your chews: 32. According to experts, that’s the average number of chews needed to break down food before swallowing (11). Chances are, you aren’t hitting that number. To ensure that you’re eating slowly enough, count your chews! This tip might not be enjoyable for everyone, but give it a go and see if it works for you.
- Put down your utensils between bites: The tip I’ve seen the most success with is just to put my utensils down between bites. And if the meal didn’t require utensils (e.g. a sandwich), I’d just put my food down on the plate. And I wouldn’t pick them up till I was done chewing. That’s it – it’s ridiculously easy.
No matter how I think about it, chewing slowly is one of the easiest hacks to lose weight ever. You don’t even have to change your diet. Score.
Chewing slowly gives your body enough time to signal to your brain that you’re actually full. This cuts down on the number of calories you eat, thus widening your calorie deficit.
#5: Eat mindfully
A growing body of research suggests that a more mindful way of eating could help with weight loss (12). But while you might have heard of ‘mindfulness’ in general, how does the concept apply to eating in particular?
Well, it involves the noticing of colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food. Which, as you know, is almost impossible to do when you’re engrossed in yet another Netflix show.
And if you’re someone who binges through episodes upon episodes during your meal-times, only to realize …
“Wait, what did I even eat for dinner?”
You’re not alone. Research has consistently shown that eating when you’re distracted can lead you to power through your meals, feel less satisfied, and mindlessly eat more (13, 14, 15, 16). And worse still, it seems that the longer you’re distracted for, the more you’ll eat (17).
Bye-bye, calorie deficit.
So, in light of this information, what you should really do from now on is spend uninterrupted time with your food. When you eat, put away your phone, iPad, laptop, TV, book, etc.
Treat it as you would a first date. Doing so not only enables you to better enjoy the food you’re eating but also helps you feel more satisfied. And that might just cut down on your calorie intake.
If you’re keen on learning more, here is an article on what self-awareness is and how to cultivate it. Self-awareness and mindfulness are closely related concepts that can help you on your fitness journey.
Eating mindfully not only allows you to better enjoy the food you’re eating but can also help you feel more satisfied. Whenever possible, concentrate on your food during meal-times. Put that phone, iPad, or TV away.
#6: Strength training to build muscle
Here’s the truth. When you lose weight, even though most of it is primarily body fat, some of it is inevitably muscle tissue. And because of your lower body weight and muscle mass, you’ll have a slower metabolism (i.e. you’ll burn fewer calories than you did before) (18, 19).
Thus – explaining why it’s so important for you to minimize muscle loss when dieting. You don’t want your metabolism to go into free-fall.
And one of the best (and most well-known) hacks for weight loss is to start strength training.
Now, you may be asking, “Why should I train with weights instead of doing cardio?” The answer is simply that strength training is more effective at preserving and building lean muscle mass, which basically serves as a calorie-burning powerhouse in the body (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).
Curious about how they stack up? Here’s an article on strength training vs. cardio for weight loss that you definitely want to check out.
That said, it’s really not an ‘either-or’ choice. For the best weight loss and health results, you should still incorporate some form of cardiovascular training in your workout sessions.
Strength training helps you build and preserve your lean muscle mass, which is basically a calorie-burning powerhouse in the body.
#7: Eat more vegetables and fruits
This definitely doesn’t rank high on the list of most exciting hacks for weight loss ever, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it works.
- Low in calories
- High in satiety (they’re extremely high in water- and fiber content)
Need more proof that you should get your broccoli and apples in? Well, studies show that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to weigh less (25).
Besides, ensuring that you get your veggies and fruits in is more than just about weight management. These foods are also high in micronutrients (i.e. they’re nutritious), so eating them is crucial for optimal health.
One of the weight loss hacks that actually work is to eat more fruits and vegetables. Despite being high in satiety, they’re extremely low in calories. What’s more, they’re also full of important nutrients.
#8: Increase your daily step count
For the longest time, I’ve dismissed ‘walk more’ as a viable tip to lose weight. I mean – it’s just walking. How can it even compare to lifting in the gym, or an intense session of HIIT workout, right?
I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.
Why is walking one of the greatest weight loss hacks ever?
The truth is that increasing your daily steps (aka walking more) is one of the most effective yet underrated weight loss hacks you can use. And in addition to burning calories, there are three more reasons why you should love it:
- Almost no recovery time to speak of: You’ve probably experienced the debilitating fatigue and muscle soreness after an intense workout. Chances are, you’ve had to skip a workout or two because of that. Guess what? There’s very little chance of you needing recovery after walking a ton. That means you can always stay on track of your workouts!
- Doesn’t build up much of an appetite: Ever felt like you could eat a cow after a workout session? While you probably wouldn’t have eaten a cow, you might have increased your food intake unconsciously after exercising (especially if you don’t track your calories or meal-prep). Walking prevents you from ‘accidentally’ getting out of a calorie-deficit as it doesn’t work up as much of an appetite.
- Can be done anywhere: Truth is, getting in more steps can be done right from the comforts of your home. Walking to the bathroom is counted. Circling the living room is counted. Heading to the kitchen is counted – see my point?
How many steps should I take a day?
OK, I know. You want exact numbers. Like, how many steps should you get in a day? And how many calories is it going to help you burn? I’ve got you covered.
Without going too in-depth and making this article seem like a math thesis paper, a typical 63 kg woman of average height will burn about 38 calories per 1,000 steps when walking at a moderate pace.
Now, note that 0.45 kg of fat contains 3,500 calories.
So, if you were to increase your daily steps by 5,000, you’d be able to burn an additional 190 calories in a day. And that theoretically means you can lose 0.45 kg of fat in roughly 18 days – by just walking!
Sounds too good to be true? Research is actually in line with this. In a 2017 paper that compared subjects randomly assigned to two groups (26):
- Group 1: Just a low-calorie diet
- Group 2: Same low-calorie diet AND 25 minutes of walking (~2,000 to 3,000 added steps) a day
After 12 weeks, Group 2 (the walking group) lost around 1.36 kg more fat than Group 1 (the non-walking group)! That’s impressive, considering that it’s just walking.
How to walk more to lose weight
How can you best make use of this tip to lose weight then? Here are a few tried-and-tested suggestions:
- Go for a short 10-minute walk after your meals every day
- Get up more frequently to walk around the house
- Dedicate a space of your house where you have to do a physical activity (e.g. jumping squats) whenever you pass through it
Remember, every step counts!
Increasing the number of steps you take a day can help you burn more calories, thus widening the calorie deficit – helping you lose weight at a faster rate. In addition to almost requiring no recovery time to speak of, it can also be done anywhere. Super convenient.
#9: Clock enough zzz’s every night
Sleep more = weigh less.
I’m serious. Being short on sleep can really sabotage your weight loss efforts – big-time. All those hours you spent staying up and not sleeping? Your body was using that time to cook up the perfect recipe for weight gain.
When you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lose your workout motivation and end up skipping that scheduled training session.
Plus, skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make terrible decisions. It inhibits activity in your brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making, and impulse control. You can think of it as getting tipsy after a few drinks. You wouldn’t be able to make good decisions.
To make matters worse, it seems that when you’re too tired, your brain tends to look for something that feels good (e.g. ultra-processed foods that are so rich in added sugar, fat, and salt).
While you might be able to say no to the second slice of cake when you’re well-rested, you’ll find yourself unable to squash comfort food cravings when you’re low on sleep.
Add it all together, and it seems that your sleepy brain tends to crave calorie-dense foods, while also lacking the ability to say no. And that’s obviously bad news for your calorie deficit.
If you’ve read thus far, you must have seen what’s coming from a mile away.
Yes – please, please get enough sleep every night! Sleep is like nutrition for your brain. Most people require between 7 to 9 hours each night. Get less than that, and your body will react in ways that lead even the most determined dieter straight to Krispy Kreme’s.
For more insights on sleep, here’s a guide on how to sleep better and why sleep is so important.
Besides, isn’t lying in bed for a few more hours just one of the most enjoyable hacks for weight loss ever? Don’t argue. It is.
A lack of sleep causes your brain to crave for calorie-dense foods, while also impairing the ability to say no. So, one of the most obvious weight loss hacks that actually work is for you to get sufficient sleep nightly.
#10: Try out intermittent fasting
Before reading the following section, I find a disclaimer necessary: no matter what diet you’re on, a calorie deficit is always key.
To date, there have been no special kinds of diets that have produced superior weight loss effects compared to the traditional calorie-reduction diet (i.e. eat fewer calories than you burn).
That said, though, there are certain diets (or approaches to dieting) with certain characteristics that may make it easier for you to stick to a calorie deficit.
And one of the useful approaches to dieting would, obviously, be intermittent fasting.
For those unaware, intermittent fasting is not a ‘diet’ in the strictest sense. Instead, it is more accurately described as an ‘eating pattern.’ That is, it tells you when you should or should not eat (27, 28, 29).
While there are different types of intermittent fasting, the most popular variant is ‘Time-restricted eating (TRE).’
And the most well-received version of TRE is that of 16 hours of fasting paired with 8 hours of ‘eating period’ in a day. Simply put, you are only going to eat within an 8-hour window daily.
Studies consistently show that individuals who follow intermittent fasting successfully drop body weight (30, 31, 32, 33, 34). Why? Well, because given the limited amount of time you have to eat, you’d undoubtedly eat fewer calories over the day.
Thus, increasing the likelihood that you’re sticking to a calorie deficit.
So, if you’re unwilling to count calories, or are finding it difficult to portion control over the day, intermittent fasting may very well be a feasible weight loss tip that’ll work for you.
If you’re interested, learn more about the benefits of intermittent fasting before diving into it.
Just know that it isn’t magic; it still works on the account of you (unknowingly) eating fewer calories than your body burns.
Because of the limited hours you have to eat during intermittent fasting, you’re going to (unconsciously) end up eating fewer calories than your body burns. Thus making it one of the greatest weight loss hacks ever for individuals who don’t wish to track their calories.
#11: Give the keto diet a go
If you’re someone who isn’t a huge carbs lover, or you don’t need it for performance-specific requirements, then the ketogenic (keto) diet could be one of the best weight loss hacks ever.
Of course, as per usual, I need to say that the ketogenic diet isn’t a magic pill.
It doesn’t work just because ‘carbs are evil.’ But before that, though, it’s probably best if I explain what the ketogenic diet is.
The ketogenic diet’s goal is to get the body to start relying primarily on fat for energy (aka the ‘ketosis’ state) (35, 36, 37). And this is typically accomplished through depriving the body of carbohydrates. In general, less than 50 g of carbs a day (a bagel has about 55 g of carbs) (38).
Does the ketogenic diet work?
Now, this is probably something you want to hear: those who switch to the keto diet do indeed drop weight incredibly quickly.
Research suggests that you could drop up to 3 kg in just your first week on keto (39).
But the truth is that most of that loss is water weight, not body fat (40, 41, 42). Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that the ketogenic diet is useless for weight loss.
Because the ketogenic diet is so high in fat and protein, it essentially blunts your appetite (43, 44, 45). That means the keto diet helps you eat less every meal because you already feel so satisfied. So, essentially, the ketogenic diet works in roughly the same way as intermittent fasting.
It makes you eat less, thus cutting down on your calorie intake, and voila – a calorie deficit.
As you can see, the ketogenic diet is indeed a viable weight loss tip if and only if you can stick to such a restrictive way of eating in the long-term.
And if you can, congrats! It’s probably one of the few hacks for weight loss that actually work without you needing to do much work.
Of course, be sure to learn more about the keto diet before trying it out.
Because the ketogenic diet is typically higher in protein and fat, it’s highly satiating. That means you’re likely to eat fewer calories than you would have during a normal meal. For those who’re able to stick to the ketogenic diet for the long-term, it is one of the few weight loss hacks that actually work.
#12: Keep the snacks out of sight, out of mind
Are you someone who snacks uncontrollably? Do you have jars of cookies, sweets, or nuts on-hand? Well, those extra calories you rack up throughout the day are obviously not doing your calorie balance any favors.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t refuel in the middle of the day, though.
It’s just that mindless snacking, as with mindless eating, can cause you to eat more than you intended to. So, if you have a snack you can’t keep your hands off, here’s a weight loss tip to manage your snacking urges: make it more challenging for you to get to it.
Put it in an out-of-the-way place.
It can be in the top shelf of your kitchen cupboard – a place you cannot see, a place you’d need to spend a few additional minutes to reach, compared to right by your side.
This weight loss tip sounds simple. Like, so simple that it couldn’t possibly work, right? Wrong. And illustrating its effectiveness is a 2006 study, which compared two groups of participants (46):
- Group 1: Given Hershey’s Kisses in a clear bowl (i.e. visible)
- Group 2: Given Hershey’s Kisses in a solid bowl (i.e. not visible)
On average, those given clear bowls reached out for candy 71% more often, and consumed an extra 77 calories per day!
So – all you have to do is find a different place to stash away your favorite snacks. One of the easiest hacks to lose weight ever.
And if snacking is a major issue for you, check out this article for even more tips to stop unhealthy snacking.
Keeping your snacks in an out-of-place way can reduce the frequency at which you reach out for them. And this, undoubtedly, cuts down on the number of calories you eat in a day.
#13: Cut down on the alcohol
I’m sure you agree: adulting can be pretty hard.
And one of the things that makes everything seem better? Alcohol. Definitely alcohol. But unfortunately, if you’re looking for a quick way to drop the weight, you might want to consider cutting down on your alcohol consumption.
There are two main reasons why:
- Alcohol is calorie-dense: The idea that alcohol is actually the 4th macronutrient is starting to take hold in the health and fitness industry, and it contains about 7 calories per gram. That’s almost as much as the most calorie-dense macronutrient of all: fat, which has 9 calories per gram. A drink or two is fine, but three or four is definitely going to up your calorie intake significantly.
- Alcohol affects judgment calls (especially with food): The more you drink, the more you eat. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and can decrease our defenses when it comes to portion control and making healthy eating choices. With a drink in hand, you’re likely to grab a handful of chips, nuts, etc., without a second thought.
After reading all that, you must be horrified at the thought of having to forsake alcohol completely.
Good news? You don’t have to. All you need to do is to cut down on your intake. Be more mindful of the number of drinks you down the next time you’re out with friends. Try not to munch on anything (e.g. Doritos, fries, chicken wings) when you’re unwinding with a glass of red wine.
This can significantly decrease the number of calories you consume – putting you one step closer to a calorie deficit and, thus, weight loss.
Of the primary macronutrients, alcohol is the second-highest-ranking when it comes to calorie-density. That’s why cutting down (not cutting it out completely!) on your alcohol intake can help you better stick to your calorie deficit, leading to better weight loss results.
#14: Make dietary and exercise changes simultaneously
Many of us know that if we want to lose weight, we do not only have to exercise, but we also need to eat right, too.
But the truth is, the initial drive and motivation to strive toward a healthier lifestyle fades pretty quickly. Especially when we don’t see results quickly enough. The result? A quick descent back to our not-so-healthy habits, where we aren’t exercising or even eating right.
So, what can you do about this?
One weight loss tip I’ve found effective is to focus on changing exercise and diet at the same time. Research shows that doing so gives a bigger boost to adherence than tackling either of them one after another (47).
Remember that the next time you hop onto a new fitness or nutrition plan. Make sure to work on your diet and exercise together for the best results!
Make changes to both your exercise and eating patterns at the same time. Research shows that doing so leads to better adherence than tackling either of them one after another.
#15: Use smaller plates
If I had to pick my favorite, out of all the tips to lose weight fast, I’d pick ‘use smaller plates.’ Simply because it’s so easy to incorporate, yet incredibly effective.
This weight loss tip is really all about visual perception.
If you fill a big bowl full of popcorn, you’ll probably need to eat all of it to feel satisfied. But fill up a smaller bowl instead, and you’d still feel satisfied even though you’re getting in a smaller serving size – simply because the bowl is full.
Don’t quite believe me? Well, here’s what research has to say.
Studies show that we tend to eat 92% of the food we serve ourselves (48). As you can imagine, if you choose a smaller plate, you’ll end up eating less. Because, math.
And here are more convincing numbers. Using 24 cm plates instead of 32 cm plates can help you eat up to 27% less food! Let’s say your lunch was initially supposed to contain 600 calories. Just the act of opting for a smaller plate shaves 162 calories off your meal!
Don’t forget about the calories you drink, too!
Drink out of tall, thin glasses instead of wide, short ones. This action can reduce the amount of calorie-loaded beverages (including alcohol) you pour and drink by up to 57% (49).
Using smaller plates and glasses can trick your body into feeling satisfied with a smaller serving portion of food. And this can greatly reduce the number of calories you end up consuming.
#16: Beware of health halos
Do me a quick favor: what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when I say ‘unhealthy food?’
Chances are, you’re now thinking about fast food, chips, and donuts.
And not about granola, trail mix, and dried foods. Hold up – did I just insinuate that these foods are unhealthy? Yes, I did. Truth is, they are unhealthy.
See, thanks to clever marketing (and millions of dollars on advertisement spending), many of us think that these food options are ‘better’ for us despite the fact that they’re essentially junk food.
As surprising as this might be to hear, many ‘healthful’ foods are loaded with sugar, saturated fats, and other additives that diminish their nutritional value.
Some energy bars can contain as much (if not more) sugar than a Snickers bar!
Also, ‘healthy’ snacks can cause you to eat more calories than you would have. And that’s because of an effect called the ‘health halo,’ where we unconsciously overeat foods that are considered healthier or reward ourselves by having something less healthy (50, 51).
Think about it: have you ever eaten more than one protein bar because, well, it’s healthier?
Or ‘treated’ yourself to an additional slice of pizza during dinner because you only had a salad for lunch?
That’s the health halo in effect. So, to prevent yourself from (ironically) eating more calories because of ‘healthy’ snacks, make sure you study these snacks’ actual nutritional content. And then, be more mindful of the foods you eat after.
Do not fall victim to the ‘health halo’ effect, where you eat more because a certain food is supposedly ‘healthy’ for you. Really study a food’s nutritional profile before you purchase it so you know what you’re putting in your body.
#17: Eat most of your calories early on in the day
I must sound like a broken record by now, but this needs to be said: your daily calorie balance is what matters most for weight loss.
But one of the least known (and underrated) weight loss hacks that actually work is to use a front-heavy approach when it comes to distributing the calories you have. But what exactly is a ‘front-heavy’ approach?
It simply refers to one in which you allocate most of your daily calories to your earlier meals (i.e. breakfast and lunch, instead of dinner and supper).
Research shows that compared to those who used a ‘back-heavy’ approach, individuals who eat most of their calories earlier on in the day experienced significantly (52, 53):
- Less hunger
- Fewer cravings for sweets throughout the day
- Greater overall energy levels
Thus – enabling them to stick to their diets. And because of their increased energy levels, they were able to burn more calories during the day from fidgeting, moving, and just being physically active in general.
In fact, it’s also been shown that individuals following the ‘front-heavy’ approach tend to lose more weight than those who use a ‘back-heavy’ approach (54).
How do these findings apply to you?
Well, if you wish to lose weight without tweaking the number of calories you eat, eating heavier meals earlier in the day might just be one of the best hacks for weight loss you can employ.
Just make sure that you make good use of the increased energy you experience.
Up the intensity of your workouts. Do more reps. Go for more walks – get those steps in. And there you have it: the perfect recipe that’ll increase the number of calories you burn, without even decreasing the number of calories you eat throughout the day.
Eating most of your calories earlier on in the day can help reduce hunger levels and increase your energy levels. That means you’d be better able to stick to your diet. It also means that you can be more physically active throughout the day, thus burning more calories.
#18: Get a workout buddy
Always find it challenging to stick to your workout routines?
To help burn off those calories (and widen that calorie deficit), you might want to get yourself a workout buddy.
When you have a friend waiting for you to work out together, no matter whether it be in-person or over FaceTime, you’re much less likely to skip out on a session just because you ‘don’t feel like it.’
Imagine telling that to your friend!
Other than the increased level of accountability, there’s also the fact that exercising is just way more fun in the company of a friend (55). I think we can all agree that 3 sets of push-ups aren’t exactly the most exciting thing to face alone.
And it can be pretty demoralizing when you struggle with training for your first pull-up, too.
With your friend around though, he or she can provide you with just the right amount of encouragement for you to keep on going. It can also be pretty fun to master a new exercise together, too!
This way, both of you are able to relate to each other’s struggles.
And if working out in gyms is not something you and your buddy enjoy, there are plenty of ways to make home workout routines effective so both of you can enjoy exercising from home.
Having a workout buddy ensures that you stick to your workout schedule, which can help you burn more calories consistently.
#19: Limit the variety of snacks you have
I don’t know about you, but I’m very prone to snacking.
And one of the most effective weight loss hacks I’ve found to control my cravings is to limit the variety of snacks I buy at any one time.
Why? Well, imagine that it’s now snack time. And you have Cheetos, granola, brownies, and chips at your disposal. Chances are, you’re going to want a little bit of everything in your bowl.
And those little bits and pieces add up. As they always do. Before you know it, you’re eating way more calories than you planned to.
Don’t believe me?
Research shows that having access to a wide variety of food can lead you to eat up to 23% more (56)!
That’s because of something called ‘sensory-specific satiety,’ where your senses tend to get numb after you get exposed to the same stimulus many times (57, 58). You can only eat so many chips before you start getting sick of it.
But add donuts, pretzels, and Cheerios to the mix, and you end up delaying this natural numbing of the senses, which means you’ll need to eat more before you feel satisfied.
So, as you can tell, limiting the variety of food you’re exposed to at any time is one of the easiest hacks for weight loss to employ. Better yet, you won’t even feel restricted.
Limiting the variety of food you have can prevent you from eating more than what your body really needs to feel satisfied.
#20: Take the time to meal-prep healthier meals
It’s a well-known fact: grabbing your meals from fast-food restaurants and full-service restaurants is worse for you than eating at home.
Both types of establishments are associated with a daily increase in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
More specifically, it’s been shown that eating at (59):
- Fast-food restaurants: Extra 190 calories a day
- Full-service restaurants: Extra 187 calories a day
So, one of the top weight loss hacks which immediately comes to mind is ‘meal-prep more often!’
This way, you can control the number of calories you’re putting into your body with every meal. Of course, you don’t have to meal-prep all your meals. You just need to do it more often.
Even replacing one takeout meal with a meal-prepped meal, once or twice a week is enough to see results. Every little bit counts.
Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to meal prep that takes you from planning your meals to digging in.
Replace take-out meals with home-made food as much as possible. This way, you not only cut down on the number of calories you consume but also ensure that you know exactly what’s going into your body.
#21: Take a chill pill
This weight loss tip might just surprise you. And it’s none other than the simple act of relaxation (aka stress management).
But first, let’s take a look at how stress affects your body weight:
- Behavioral: Be honest. What do you tend to do when you’re stressed? If you’re like most people, you’re likely to indulge in some good old comfort food to calm those nerves. And those excess calories are definitely going to affect your weight.
- Hormonal: Under periods of stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol (aka the stress hormone). And unfortunately, elevated levels of cortisol increases appetite and signals the body to shift metabolism to store fat (60, 61).
In line with that, one of the weight loss hacks you can make use of is to relax. Doing so can help reduce cortisol levels, thus helping you with weight loss.
Some evidence-based relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing: A simple technique for stress reduction that can be done anywhere. It’s been shown to reduce cortisol levels by up to 50% (62, 63).
- Massage therapy: A review of several studies have shown that this stress-reduction method can reduce cortisol levels by 30% (64).
- Listening to relaxing music: Listening to music for 30 minutes reduced cortisol levels to a greater extent when compared to the same amount of time spent either in silence or viewing a documentary (65).
Thus, if you’re looking for a life tip that’ll help you lose weight without even changing the way you exercise or eat, stress-management is the answer.
Stress-management can help lower your cortisol levels, thus helping you with weight loss.
#22: Plan for ‘refeed’ days
You might be more familiar with the term ‘cheat days,’ or ‘cheat meals,’ but I tend to stay away from such terms as they imply that you’re doing something wrong. It’s almost as if you’re doing something shameful. Something you’d be disappointed in yourself with.
And that’s really hurting your relationship with food.
So, let’s try to change the way you think about a meal that’s slightly higher in calories. Let’s call it a ‘refeed day,’ or a ‘refeed meal.’
How can ‘refeed meals’ or ‘refeed days’ help with weight loss?
OK – we’re coming to the important bit now. As it turns out, incorporating such refeed meals or refeed days can significantly boost your weight loss efforts. This is especially so if you’ve been consistently eating at a calorie deficit for quite some time (i.e. few months):
And there are two main reasons why:
Psychological: Having a refeed meal to look forward to enables you to exhibit greater long-term adherence to your diet (66). I mean – just imagine days on end of dieting. Days can feel like months, and months can feel like years. Make it easier for yourself by including a meal or a day to look forward to.
Physiological: The leaner you get, the more difficult it is to continue losing weight. And that’s because of a few metabolic adaptations your body has made in response to your lower body weight, including (67, 68):
- Decreased leptin hormone levels, causing an increase in appetite
- Decreased physical activity, leading you to burn fewer calories over the day
- Reduction in your muscle glycogen levels, which causes poorer performance in the gym (thus, burning fewer calories)
Refeed days have been shown to counteract your body’s unfavorable metabolic adaptations to weight loss. After a refeed meal or a refeed day, you’re more likely to experience better appetite suppression, higher energy expenditure, and increased performance (69, 70).
And that, obviously, helps you stick to a calorie deficit. Thus – boosting your weight loss efforts.
How to make the most of ‘refeed days’ or ‘refeed meals’
That said, though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind so you can reap the most benefits out of these refeed days or refeed meals:
- Hit your maintenance calories (or more): You should hit your maintenance calories on refeed day. Let’s say you’re eating 1,600 calories a day, which is a calorie deficit of 400 calories a day (20%), your maintenance calories would be 2,000 calories. So, be sure to add 400 calories on your refeed day to bring you back to maintenance. Of course, you can also go beyond maintenance, hitting a calorie surplus on your refeed day.
- A calorie deficit is key: Make sure that you’re still sticking to a weekly calorie deficit. In most cases, this means you have to plan for your refeed meals or days in advance. If you want to go into a calorie surplus on your refeed day (e.g. 2,300 calories) instead of eating at maintenance, you can make more room for it by eating fewer calories for some days of the week (e.g. 100 calories less per day for 3 days).
- Be careful of how quickly calories add up: As with the previous point, you really want to ensure that your refeed meals still fit into your weekly calorie allowance. That means you need to be mindful of how quickly calories can add up. Don’t let a single meal completely offset the deficit you created throughout the week!
- Make sure your refeed meals are carb-dominant (71): Compared to either fat or protein, carbs have the greatest impact on boosting your leptin levels, which can suppress your appetite and increase energy expenditure. Carbs can also refill your muscle glycogen levels – helping you push harder during training sessions. During your refeed day, prioritize hitting your protein requirements first and foremost, then allocate most of the remaining calories to carbs instead of fats.
Refeed meals can counteract some of your body’s unfavorable metabolic adaptations to weight loss. That said, you still need to ensure that you’re eating at a calorie deficit.
#23: Lose weight slowly
Here’s the truth: losing weight is only half the battle won.
And then thereafter comes the challenging part. Keeping the weight off. See, most people who follow a diet regain half the weight they’ve lost after only a year. Worse still, nearly everyone who follows a diet regains all the weight they’ve lost after 3 to 5 years (72, 73, 74).
That’s why one of the most crucial weight loss hacks – that actually work – to know is that you should always aim to lose weight at a slow but steady pace.
Research consistently shows that individuals who lose weight gradually are more likely to keep it off long-term (75, 76, 77).
But – why? Well, think about how someone typically achieves ‘fast and furious’ weight loss effects. More often than not, they start eating really little, all the while increasing their physical activity. For example, coupling a 1,200-calorie diet with daily 2-hour cardio sessions.
And this is, of course, not sustainable in the long-run.
Whenever it comes to weight loss, your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible while still remaining in a calorie deficit. And you should only start on a fitness regime you’re confident of sticking to in the long-term.
That way, you can be sure that you’ll be able to keep the weight off – sustainably. Now, how slow should you be losing weight, specifically?
According to many experts, losing 0.45 kg to 0.9 kg per week is a healthy and safe rate (78).
Losing more than that is considered too fast and could put you at risk of health problems, including lean muscle mass loss, nutritional deficiencies, and a drop in metabolism (79, 80).
Losing weight is actually only half the battle won. You still need to keep the weight off. And the best way to do so is to actually lose weight in a slow and gradual way.
#24: Don’t deprive yourself
When you decide to do a strict diet and take your favorite food – pizza, pasta, bread, chips, cookies – out of your life, that level of commitment is very hard to maintain.
If you don’t absolutely love your new ‘healthy’ lifestyle, you won’t stick to it (81, 82).
It’s as simple as that. And remember, an all-or-nothing approach usually ends up with nothing. So, instead of taking away your favorite foods completely, eat them in moderation. Incorporate them into your refeed meals or refeed days.
A calorie deficit is key. You can still eat your favorite foods and eat fewer calories than your body burns.
All it takes is some planning and portion control. You can do this!
Enjoy all foods in moderation. Only then will you know that you’re making sustainable lifestyle changes.
#25: Consistency is the king of weight loss hacks that actually work
If you’ve read this far (all 8,000+ words of this article), then you must have realized a recurring theme throughout the weight loss hacks mentioned.
And that’s consistency.
Interestingly, research shows that no matter the specific lifestyle change you make to lose weight (e.g. keto diet, intermittent fasting, or exercise regime), if you can do it consistently, you’ll see greater success with long-term weight loss (83).
Which is definitely something you want.
Consistency is key.
Ultimately, I think the last point of this article concludes for all the hacks for weight loss mentioned pretty well.
No matter which one you choose to incorporate into your lifestyle, make sure you do so consistently. Because that will give you the greatest, long-term weight loss results.