There’s a fairly recent article from 2016 showing that after 2 years, a good majority of people who’ve lost weight cycle back and forth between weight loss and weight regain. Some of them straight up just gained their weight without losing it again.
Honestly, you don’t even need statistics to realize this. Look around you, and you’ll see a bunch of your peers who’ve supposedly had success losing weight now back to where they started, if not worse.
Maybe you’re even one of these people. Maybe that’s why you’re here. And, you know what? I was in those same shoes, too.
Having said that, there’s no gold standard when it comes to how to lose weight gradually and permanently.
However, the good news is that there are still a few things you can do that might help you stick to both your exercises and your nutrition. I’ve experienced them all so I can vouch for their effectiveness but, perhaps more importantly, they’re also scientifically backed.
Take a look.
Incorporate more HIIT into your cardio days
HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training (also called sprint training), is basically a training method where you alternate bouts of intense exercises followed by low intensity exercises to sort of serve as your rest period.
Compared to steady state cardio, like jogging for example, which takes about an hour of your time, HIIT burns the same amount of calories, if not more in a significantly shorter time frame.
Not only is HIIT more time efficient, a study says that it leaves higher levels of blood sugar (glucose) and lower amounts of ghrelin after a workout.
Those findings are important for long-term sustainability since ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, triggers hunger (duh). So, in essence, HIIT won’t make you as hungry as other forms of continuous cardio, making it better for keeping the weight off.
This brings us to the next tip…
Eat before you work out (pre-workout meals or snacks can do wonders!)
It’s no secret that your muscles need fuel to work and unless you’re on the ketogenic diet, your body relies on glucose (stored as glycogen) for energy.
Therefore, your blood glucose levels inevitably fall after each exercise, particularly if your sessions last longer than approximately 30 minutes (per The Portland Clinic).
So, what happens when your glucose levels dip? Your insulin levels also drop, signaling the release of ghrelin – and that’s when you get hungry.
Pre-workout snacks or meals fill your body with sugar and helps keep your glucose levels high enough that it doesn’t cascade into hunger – or worse, hypoglycemia – even after intense workouts.
On that note, I highly recommend eating relatively carb-heavy pre-workout foods with both simple and complex carbohydrates, as well as a bit of protein and fat. Just to keep it balanced, you know?
Post-workout meals can be just as important
As crucial as it is to provide your muscles the fuel it needs even before exercising, feeding it the right nutrients to recover is just as vital for long-term success.
That being said, protein – or amino acids, to be more specific – are an important part of post-workout nutrition because exercise increases muscle protein synthesis and it therefore needs those amino acids to grow.
Furthermore, when you build more muscle mass, your metabolism goes up with it, helping you burn more calories over the long-haul.
More than just protein though, you also need carbs. First, it’s to help replenish your glycogen stores and help get you ready for the next day’s workout session. Second, it’s because of protein sparing.
Protein sparing is basically when your body uses other macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates and fats) instead of protein for fuel. This is crucial because your muscles need the protein and amino acids to grow and, per research, carbs are “unquestionably” better protein sparers than fat.
Make full use of natural appetite suppressants
The thing is, a lot of people think that eating more food (calories) equates to feeling fuller. That’s only partly true.
I mean, eating 3 whole boxes of family-sized pizza will get you full for sure, but that’s not very healthy and weight loss-friendly at all, is it?
With that said, the trick is to incorporate appetite suppressing foods into your meals. They’re foods with nutrients, compounds, and antioxidants that make you feel full for a longer period of time but don’t pack a lot of calories.
We’ve got an entire article dedicated to natural appetite suppressant foods for weight loss that I highly recommend you read but just to give you an idea, these include everyday food items like oatmeal, eggs, almonds, apples, salmon, leafy vegetables, and several others more.
Adding these foods to your everyday meals will help make sure that you eat less calories without going hungry.
Drink plenty of water (it’s a powerful weight loss trick!)
Water is an essential part of human life, but it’s also one that a lot of us neglect. Some of us even replace water with some other liquid like frappuccinos, Gatorade, and even juice. If you’re guilty, this might be why you’re having trouble keeping the weight off permanently (we’ll get to this later).
Drinking enough water alone has a multitude of health benefits but specifically for weight loss, it almost instantaneously boosts your metabolism and helps cleanse your system of toxins that may lead to obesity.
There’s even a study showing how drinking water before your meals helps you eat less calories.
Stay away from liquid calories
Along with drinking more water, try to stay away from liquid calories. While they may be tastier, they’re likely loaded with sugar.
In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) says that drinks are the top source of added sugars. A can of soft drinks, in particular, already has 9 teaspoons – and that’s just way too much for 1 drink.
These added sugars are essentially useless calories that will more than likely be stored as fat. Plus, regular consumption of these sugar drinks will only make you more at risk for insulin resistance, addiction (yes, sugar can be addictive), or worse, diabetes. Either of those will make it harder for you to keep the weight off.
I’m not telling you to completely stop taking these drinks though. Every once in a while is fine but do make it a point to drink more water instead. Also, detoxing your body from sugar helps with long-term weight loss, so try and do that, too.
Incorporate more water-rich foods into your diet
While we’re on the topic of how important water is to sustainable weight loss, you can also eat your water.
I know how ridiculous that sounds to some of you but there are plenty of foods with water making up more than half their weight.
This means they’re naturally satiating without carrying too many calories. A lot of them even have compounds and fiber and it’s actually what makes them so good for your long-term figure.
– Apples: 85.7% water
– Grapefruit: 88% water
– Orange: 86% water
– Tofu: 80% water
– Sweet potatoes: 77% water
– Cucumber: 95% water
– Tomatoes: 95% water
And several other fruits and vegetables. You can either have these foods as a snack or have them as part of your meals. Either way, they help you feel full faster and for longer periods of time.
Plan your cheat meals ahead
The fact of the matter is that cheat meals work.
According to studies, people who had cheat meals lost more weight than others who didn’t because these meals refresh your metabolism, resulting in more efficient weight loss.
However, I also think you should be tip toeing your way around these meals. If you’re not careful, a cheat meal could quickly morph into cheat days, and those cheat days could turn into a cheat week. Before you know it, you’ve gained all your weight back.
To me, the key is planning ahead. I generally have my cheat meals weekly and I always look forward to it every Sunday. If I’m craving burgers today, I make sure to only buy that and stock my pantry with other satiating but low calorie food. This way, I can eat those before and/or after I’ve had my cheat meal, satisfy my cravings, and still keep my caloric intake controlled.
Explore diet and exercise options until you find what you like best
I truly believe that the beauty of fitness lies in its diversity. There are all these kinds of diets and exercises, some of them legit while some of them fads, but everyone experiences these things differently.
I was lucky to find what exercises work for me at a very young age – basketball and old school bodybuilding, so I didn’t have much exploring to do when it came to exercise. But, for nutrition? Man, it was a struggle.
On that note, I believe figuring out what’s best for you is a process that you must go through. Maybe you’re lucky and find what works for you right away, or maybe you need a little more time. Either way, when you do find the right combinations, staying in shape will be second nature.
It’s easier said than done. I get it. But staying motivated truly is one of the best ways to sustain long-term weight loss. I mean, after all, if you’re not motivated to keep on going, every single day will feel like a struggle.
One of the ways you can make sure your drive never runs out is the previous tip – figuring out what works for you.
Other examples include rewarding yourself, establishing a routine, being competitive, taking progress photos, and setting smaller goals.
We’ve discussed these things and a handful of others in our how to find and keep the motivation to lose weight article and I urge you to keep it bookmarked. But, in a nutshell, the trick is to program your brain to constantly release your “feel good” hormone, dopamine, so you rarely ever have to feel forced to workout and eat right.
Be happy. Less stress leads to better weight loss.
One reason you’re not having much success losing weight is that you’re probably way too stressed – and chronic stress leads to constantly high levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol.
Per research, elevated levels of cortisol can make you crave (and eat more) fatty and sugary food, as well as a compromised metabolism. That’s why obese people tend to also have higher levels of cortisol.
Needless to say, those stress-related consequences makes sustaining a healthier weight significantly harder.
Solution? Take a break. Do what makes you happy. If that means leaving town for a short vacay, or long drives with loud music, or cuddling with your pets and/or significant other, just do it.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Now that you know how stress and your metabolism are connected, poor sleep actually makes both of those worse. Essentially, low quality sleep leads to higher levels of cortisol and higher cortisol levels make for poor quality sleep.
Of course, your metabolism suffers with those two instances but your appetite balloons with it as well.
As research shows, the rise in cortisol that comes with poor sleep also comes with elevated levels of glucose and insulin. This leads to elevated levels of ghrelin, making you constantly looking for food.
So, if you really wanted to learn how to lose weight gradually and permanently, get at least 7-10 hours of sleep.
Your body is smarter than you think. Listen to it.
Your body responds to whatever you give it and, believe me, you’ll feel it. If you need food, your body makes you feel hungry. If you need to rest, you feel sleepy. If you’ve got an infection, you get a fever. If you have an injury, it’ll feel painful.
My point is that your body knows what it needs and if you want a healthy and sustainable weight and physique, you’ve got to know how to listen.
Although what I listed here are scientifically proven ways to lose weight and keep it off for good, the fact of the matter is that everyone is still different. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
So, don’t be afraid to go against the current and carve your own path to sustainable fitness. What I can’t say enough, however, is that whatever you choose to do, do it with your own health in mind. A slimmer waist and six pack abs won’t mean anything if you’ve broken yourself down along the way.
And with that, I shall take my leave. Please share this with anyone who you think might need it!