8 fantastic weight loss tips that are actually evidence-based

Lawrence Lefcort, SATI STAFF

Tired of over-hyped weight loss fads running your pound-shedding efforts astray? With so many Americans striving to lose weight, getting credible weight loss information can be challenging, complex, and downright discouraging. From the latest fat-free craze to the next miracle supplement to quirky practices, choosing the right weight loss strategy can be daunting at best.

If you didn’t already know it, you should: two out of every three Americans are considered overweight or obese. Obesity represents a significant threat to the nation’s health and quality of life, not to mention the astronomical medical bills that cost us an estimated $147 billion a year.

Now more than ever, Americans serious about losing weight need reliable, evidence-based weight-loss practices that work. Whether you need to lose weight for health reasons or are just looking to shed a few pounds for that upcoming wedding, we’ll share eight fantastic weight loss tips that are backed by scientific evidence and research.

1. Water your weight-loss garden

Science tells us that the best way to start a new diet is to drink more water before sitting down to eat, especially if you’re middle or golden-aged. Studies confirm that for older people, water consumption actively reduces the energy intake of any meal and by extension encourages us to lose weight [1].

But how does water do it? It has to do with metabolism. Many diets call on their adherents to drink a certain number of glasses of water per day, but little, if any research has been done to see if drinking water stimulates and accelerates weight loss.

To answer this question, researchers in Germany conducted a straightforward test on a group of fourteen healthy men and women with no weight issues. They asked the group to drink half a liter of water after which they measured each participant’s metabolic rate.

The result? The German scientists discovered that the group’s metabolism, the rate at which they burned calories, jumped by 30 percent within ten minutes of drinking water [2]. The findings led the researchers to deduce that people who drink two liters of water daily may be able to shed a few pounds through enhanced metabolic activity [3].

The results of the German study could have significant ramifications for the development of future weight-loss programs. One thing is for sure: science supports pre-meal water consumption among dieting older adults. Drinking a glass of water before meals could allow you to lose an extra 2 kilos (about 4.5 pounds) over a three-month period [4].

2. Eat (a lot) less sugar

Here’s your upcoming weight-loss mission: the next time you’re at the grocery store, or even right now in your kitchen cabinet, check the labels on a few random items. You’re likely to find that many of the products on your shelves have one ingredient in common: added sugar.

Of course, you’d expect high sugar content in things like chocolate bars, candy, and soft drinks, but did you know that sugar camouflages itself in everything from breakfast cereals, juices, and condiments, to fat-free foods, yogurt, and many health food products as well?

In an eye-opening study published in 2004, researchers sought to find a correlation between weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the consumption of sugar-laden drinks [5]. The nine-year study followed more than 91,000 healthy women between the ages of 24 and 44, who were free from diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Their analysis concluded that for women, drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages will not only put the weight on but to top it all off, will hike the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The female subjects in the study that didn’t increase their consumption of sugared drinks saw no change in body weight or risk of diabetes.

The links between sugar consumption, higher obesity rates, and deadly illness have also been reported by the American Heart Association [6]. They affirm when high quantities of sugar enter our body, their energy and glucose content are stored away in our fat cells. Therefore, the more sugar we consume, the better our chances of putting on weight and of developing cardiovascular disease [7].

The bottom line: sugary foods containing excessive calories and higher quantities of fast-absorbing sugars are key factors leading to weight gain [8]. All things considered, the message from science is clear: cutting sugar from our diets will not only pay health dividends down the road but will allow us to shed some excess pounds along the way [9].

3. Coconut oil rocks

What’s not to love about coconuts? From its butter to its water to the lush beauty of its tropical tree, we just can’t seem to get enough of this exotic fruit, nut, and seed (the coconut can be considered all three). Now there’s another reason to celebrate this awesome food. Coconut oil can help us lose weight too.

Most foods are made up of long-chain fatty acids (LCTs); however, coconut oil comprises mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), which are metabolized in a distinct way than other fats. The shortened chain length means that MCTs are directly absorbed by our liver and their energy more rapidly burned as fuel, allowing us to consume stored fats and stimulating weight loss [10].  

A 2008 Swiss study looked at forty-nine overweight men and women over a four-month period and compared weight loss results from those who consumed MCTs versus LCTs [11]. The low down? The adult MCT group lost more fat mass than the LCT group and MCTs gave them 5 percent more energy-burning capacity after consumption.

Animal studies have also found that replacing other fats with coconut oil kept the pounds off. In one study, researchers overfed rats for six weeks with a diet of either MCTs or LCTs. Incredibly, rats fed with medium-chain fatty acids gained 20 percent less weight and had 23 percent fewer fat deposits than those fed with long-chain fatty acids [12].

Coconut oil’s unique makeup of MCTs means that your liver consumes it super-efficiently and leaves no fat stored elsewhere, thereby preventing weight gain. At the end of the day, this yummy and inexpensive cooking oil can be easily incorporated into your weight-loss regimen to help you successfully lose weight.

4. An egg a day

For some, eating more eggs for breakfast to lose weight might seem counterintuitive; visions of bodybuilders gulping down five raw eggs for breakfast may come to mind. How could eggs ever help us lose weight? But the research doesn’t lie: that spinach omelet is an excellent way to help your body trim down and keep the weight off.

In a compelling eight-week study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers tested the hypothesis that an egg breakfast, instead of a carbohydrate-rich (bagel) breakfast with identical energy density, would stimulate weight reduction in healthy overweight and obese adults eating a reduced-calorie diet [13].

The results were eye-popping: participants who ate an egg breakfast dropped their body mass index (BMI) by 61 percent, shed 65 percent more pounds, and reduced their waistline by 34 percent. Interestingly there was no difference in total cholesterol levels, including high-density (“healthy”) cholesterol, low-density (“unhealthy”) cholesterol and triglycerides between the groups.

When we consume eggs instead of bread or other carbohydrate-rich foods for breakfast, we feel satiated faster, and we consume less food during the rest of the day. Who would’ve thunk it? But research has confirmed that eggs for breakfast can provide you with greater gratification and help cut down your short-term food intake [14].

Therefore, if you plan on dieting, rest assured that science is in your corner. A delicious, simple, energy-dense, and low-cost egg can give your dieting efforts a boost. Enjoy your scrambled or boiled eggs with fresh vegetables instead of that bagel with melted cheese and your waistline will thank you for it.

5. Quit eating refined carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important part of our diet. Their presence in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supply us with invaluable fiber and a variety of nutrients essential to our health and zest. However, when the carbs from whole foods get refined and stripped down of their vital components, we run into problems, particularly when weight gain is concerned.

Refined carbohydrates found in white bread, processed cereals, pasta, and desserts contain that evil of all evils…gluten. Gluten mixed with high amounts of sugar can cause inflammation in the body. And that swelling in our tissues and cells can lead to physical and mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease [15], depression, anxiety, and weight gain [16].

Doctors have confirmed what many nutrition experts have long suspected [17]: refined carbs or high glycemic index foods, encourage you to overeat and can lead you down the path of obesity. Not only that, but previous studies say that processed carbs can be lethal for people who are already overweight or obese [18], hiking their risk for a host of diseases [19].

You don’t have to listen too hard to hear the medical community crying out for a national health plan to reduce refined carbohydrate intake. When we ingest high glycemic index foods, they catalyze a chain of hormonal and metabolic processes that make us crave more of them, the result being that we consume much more of these carbs than we actually need [20].

And when you think about it, it’s true: the high glycemic nature of the sugars in refined carbohydrates means they’re absorbed very quickly by our bodies leading to a nosedive in blood sugar levels, giving us the munchies and cravings for more food just a few short hours later [21]!

The lesson here is clear: if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you’re going to have to give up your beloved Wonder Bread, Cheerios, and Twinkies and most other refined carbohydrates in between. The good news is that by doing so, science asserts that not only will you lose weight, you’ll become healthier and live longer.

6. Drink green tea

You’d be hard pressed to find an obese person in Japan. In fact, only 3.5 percent of Japanese are obese, and according to the World Health Organization, Japan has the lowest obesity rate among all OECD countries [22]. It’s also well-known that green tea is a major staple consumed in homes throughout the country.

Could there be a link between green tea consumption and weight loss? Science says yes. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that the caffeine and nutrient content of green tea can help reduce your total cholesterol levels while increasing your high-density (healthy) cholesterol and that green tea extract may enhance metabolism and burn fat [23].

Green tea seems to work especially well in overweight and slightly obese people, helping them to lose weight and keeping it off. Green tea extract, in particular, contains a generous supply of a natural antioxidant called catechin — that combines with caffeine to enhance your body’s ability to burn fat while preserving the integrity of your muscles [24].

A 2009 meta-analysis provided additional proof of the positive effect catechins had on dropping pounds [25]. The primary elements in green tea induce what’s known as thermogenesis, the process by which our bodies burn fat and calories. Adding a little green tea extract to your morning shake could help keep your love handles in check [26].

7. Grab a cup of coffee

If green tea isn’t your thing, there’s good news on the horizon for you coffee lovers out there: your morning espresso may be able to help keep your waistline trim and fit. Coffee has received a bad rap as far as our health is concerned, and indeed too many cups of coffee daily can lead to adverse health effects.

However, high-quality coffee beans are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, and when taken in moderation, coffee can provide you with a number of weight-loss benefits. Research has shown that the caffeine in coffee can heighten your metabolism and keep it at a high level for several hours afterward [27].

A higher metabolic rate will allow your body to burn fat more efficiently and help you lose weight. One study reported a 3-4 percent increase in metabolism for both lean and obese volunteers who consumed 100 mg of caffeine [28]. A footnote here: by adding sugar or calorie-rich ingredients to your coffee, you may risk offsetting any of its benefits!

8. Chew your food

It may seem obvious, but your mashers can play a pivotal role in helping you trim down and keeping weight off. Many people (this author included) are guilty of “wolfing” down their food when faced with the pangs of hunger. The fact is: Mom may have been right all along, and the research backs her up.

Scientists now tell us that by chewing food more, we’ll fill up quicker, digest better, and eat less in the long-run [29]. The mouth is the first place where food particles are broken down. The enzymes in your mouth prepare your food for its long journey into the stomach and through your other digestive organs.

In 2014, a Chinese study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested the chewing habits of forty-five men of all ages and shapes (from lean to obese). Over three sessions, researchers asked the men to eat slices of pizza by chewing regularly (roughly 15 times) and then chewing each bite 40 times.

What they witnessed was that the men took in 12 percent fewer calories when chewing each bite 40 times [30]. There’s a time lag between when you chew your food until your brain recognizes that it’s full. In our haste to satisfy our hunger, we may scoff down an extra helping of mashed potatoes without even realizing that we’re already full!

Studies have confirmed that more deliberate and unhurried mashing increases the production of weight-loss hormones, helps appetite control, and can potentially aid body-weight management. [31]. If we would only wait a few minutes, or better yet, chew slower, we would give our brains a chance to realize that we’ve had enough and fend off those unwanted calories.

The Sati line

Overeating and obesity have reached crisis proportions in America. In desperate attempts to shed pounds, many people frantically grab onto the latest diet craze, and the diet industry is all too keen to feed you with options: Americans shell out roughly $40 billion a year on weight-loss gimmicks, many of which are questionable at best.

Natural wisdom has provided us with all the foods and tools we need: by drinking more water and green tea, eating eggs, cutting out added sugar and refined carbohydrates, using the right fats, and chewing slower, you can take control of your weight, and prevent diseases brought on by excess body fat.

If you’re like me and you grew up on Kraft Dinner and ice cream, it can be hard to break old habits. But the truth is that inexpensive, time-tested, and evidence-backed strategies are out there that can help you reach the weight you want. With a few diet changes and a healthy dose of vigilance and discipline, you can pave the way for a leaner, healthier life.

  1. Dennis, E.A., et al. “Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults.” Obesity (Silver Spring) 18.2 (2010): 300-7.
  2. Boschmann, M., et al. “Water-induced thermogenesis.”The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 88.12 (2003): 6015-9.
  3. “Drinking Water May Speed Weight Loss.” Web MD (2004)
  4. Dennis, op. cit.
  5. Schulze, M.B., et al. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women.” Journal of the American Medical Association 25.8 (2004): 927-934.
  6. Malik, V.S., et al. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk.” Journal of the American Heart Association 22.4 (2010): 1356-1364.
  7. “The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015)
  8. Bray, G., et al. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 15.4 (2004): 537-543.
  9. De Koning, L., et al. “Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men.” Circulation 10.5 (2012): 1735-1741.
  10. Babayan, V.K., “Medium chain triglycerides and structured lipids.” Lipids 22.6 (1987): 417-20.
  11. St-Onge, M.P., and Bosarge, A., “Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87.3 (2008): 621-626.
  12. Geliebter, A., “Overfeeding with medium-chain triglyceride diet results in diminished deposition of fat.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 37.1 (1983): 1-4.
  13. Vander Wal, J.S., et al. “Egg breakfast enhances weight loss.” International Journal of Obesity 32.8 (2008): 1545-1451.
  14. Vander Wal, J.S., et al. “Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 24.6 (2005): 510-5.
  15. “Nutrition and Dementia: Foods That May Induce Memory Loss & Increase Alzheimer’s.” Alzheimer’s.net (2014).
  16. Hamblin, J., “This Is Your Brain on Gluten.” The Atlantic 20.12 (2013).
  17. Roberts, S.B., “High-glycemic Index Foods, Hunger, and Obesity: Is There a Connection?” Nutrition Reviews 10.6 (2000): 163-169.
  18. Hu, F.B., “Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91.6 (2010): 1541-1542.
  19. Liu, S., “A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71.6 (2000): 1455-61.
  20. Ludwig, D.S., et al. “High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, and Obesity.” Pediatrics 20.3 (1999).
  21. Lennerz, B.S., et al. “Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 26.6 (2013): 1-7.
  22. “Epidemiology of obesity.” Wikipedia (2017).
  23. “Green Tea.” University of Maryland Medical Center (2015)
  24. Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., “Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation.” Physiology & Behavior 26.4 (2010): 42-46.
  25. Hursel, R., et al. “The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis.” International Journal of Obesity 33.9 (2009): 956-61.
  26. Dulloo, A.G., et al. “Green tea and thermogenesis: interactions between catechin-polyphenols, caffeine and sympathetic activity.” International Journal of Obesity 18.2 (2004): 252-258.
  27. Koot, P., “Comparison of changes in energy expenditure and body temperatures after caffeine consumption.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 39.3 (1995): 135-42.
  28. Dulloo, A.G., et al. “Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 49.1 (1989): 44-50.
  29. Andrade, A.M., et al. “Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108.7 (2008): 1186-91.
  30. Zhu, Y., and Hollis, J.H., “Increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduces meal size in normal-weight, overweight, and obese adults.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 114.6 (2014): 926-31.
  31. Andrade, op. cit.