The key step to weight loss is learning to eat less but still feel full. Fortunately, different studies have shown various methods proven to help you to reduce portion sizes, but still feel full. My patients have also found these methods helpful.
1. Drink at least 2.5 liters of water a day
Dehydration makes it more difficult to lose weight. Scientists don’t agree exactly how much water a person needs to drink each day, but for a normal healthy person (with no medical conditions such as heart failure or kidney disease) about 2.5 liters a day is optimum. Increasing your water intake has been shown in many studies to help in weight loss [R1]. So-called diet drinks like Diet Coke should be avoided and it is best to drink water instead, as studies show that this helps you to lose weight [R1]. If you don’t like drinking plain water, try adding a bit of natural flavor by mixing it with some drops of fresh fruit such as lemon, orange, lime, watermelon or mint. As we tend to over-estimate how much water we drink, you should measure out your water by counting the number of glasses or bottles you drink.
2. Eat soup or drink water before meals
Studies have shown that having soup before you eat can reduce the total amount of food you eat during that meal [R1]. Drinking 500 ml of water before eating a meal can also have the same effect [R1]. However, having a protein-based soup is more effective than water on its own, as proteins can stimulate the hormones that give you the sensation of feeling full.
3. Sleep well
Poor sleep has shown to result in increased appetite and impulsiveness. This in turn can cause weight gain. How does that happen? It seems that staying awake for longer makes us eat more to sustain longer periods of wakefulness. But when food is easily available, we tend to eat more than what we need [R1]. Poor sleep can also make you snack more frequently, particularly at night [R1].
4. Increase protein
One of the most common reasons for hunger after making the food changes described here is not eating enough protein. As mentioned earlier, eating protein makes the endocrine system secrete hormones involved with the sensation of feeling full [R1]. So if you find yourself hungry throughout the day, make sure you are eating enough protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Click here to view the table listing the protein content of common foods.
5. Eat Breakfast like a King
In Step 2, we saw that people who eat breakfast tend to lose more weight than those who don’t. As the saying goes, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar“. Why does this work? It’s because by eating this way, we reduce food cravings later in the day. It is these food cravings that cause people to make the wrong food choices in the afternoon and evening. That high calorie snack can really make it difficult to lose weight.
I have found that most people struggling with their weight tend to eat breakfast like a beggar, lunch like a prince and dinner like a king. Why not try something different, especially if what you do now isn’t working?
One particularly good breakfast choice to help you lose weight is wholegrain oats. Increasing the protein content of your breakfast can also help you feel more full throughout the day [R1]. This can be done by adding egg whites, yogurt, seeds or nuts to your breakfast.
6. Reduce High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and processed food
HFCS (also called glucose-fructose) is a common sweetener in processed food. Studies have shown that it increases appetite more than regular sugar and is contributing to the obesity epidemic [R1, R2]. So read the food labels and make sure you can reduce or avoid this substance.
7. Reduce Salt
There is now very good evidence that salt is linked to obesity [R1]. Processed foods are usually high in salt. So even if you don’t add salt to food, you may already be on a high salt diet if you eat a lot of processed food. See Step 5 for tips on reducing processed food with home-cooking. Try reducing salt by seasoning your food with herbs such as basil, parsley, mint, oregano or black pepper instead.
8. Avoid Dehydration
9. Eat attentively
Let’s face it, how many of us actually focus on what we are eating when we eat? Most people watch TV, read, send e-mails or surf the net instead. We end up eating more than we need as a result. Science has shown that focusing on the look, smell and flavor of food (mindfulness) decreases food intake [R1, R2]. Not only will this make eating even more pleasurable, you’ll actually eat less!
10. Eat slowly
In the frantic pace of modern life, we often forget to take some things slow. Eating is one of them. Eating slowly by chewing food more often has been shown to reduce the amount of food eaten [R1]. It also increases the sensation of feeling full [R1]. This is because the hormones that send signals to your brain that you are full take some time to work. So if you use a tablespoon to eat, try using a teaspoon instead.
11. Go nuts!
Nuts are an important part of a healthy lifestyle, provided you don’t eat too much. Even though they are high in calories, interestingly they don’t seem to be associated with weight gain in clinical trials [R1]. They also help you feel full [R1]. So if frequent hunger is a problem for you, try including some nuts (less than a handful) as part of either your breakfast or lunch. Make sure they are unsalted!