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10 Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work

You’ve likely heard of countless ways to lose weight, from common sense methods like counting calories to fad diets as crazy as eating only cabbage soup for a week. Yet, as many tips and tricks as there are out there, it still always feels impossible to actually shed pounds—and even if you do lose a few, they have a nasty habit of creeping right back up on you. So what’s a girl to do?

We talked to collegiettes and expert Susan Holmberg, a nutritionist and behavior modification clinician, to find the skinny (see what I did there?) on healthy ways to lose weight that actually work. So put down that diet shake because these tips are successful, manageable strategies that work for the long term—and we can guarantee that they’ll satisfy your taste buds more than cabbage soup.

1. Understand nutrition labels and read them 


Holmberg points out the importance of “understanding the calorie math,” since a big part of losing weight is creating a deficit between the calories you consume and the calories you burn. There are 3500 calories in a pound, which means that to lose one pound per week you would have to consume 500 less calories than you burn every day. It’s impossible to keep tabs on how many calories you’re consuming, however, if you ignore nutrition labels. Comparing labels of different foods can help you make better choices. One brand of bread may have 50 fewer calories per slice than another, for example, giving you an easy way to cut out 100 calories from your sandwich!

Find out how many calories are in the foods you typically consume so that you can have a better idea of how many calories you’re taking in per day so that you can adjust accordingly. You may be surprised by how many calories you are unknowingly taking in! There are many websites and apps, such as MyPlate and My Fitness Pal that help you calculate how many calories you should be consuming per day based on your current weight and your goal weight. In addition to monitoring calories, you should also check out the rest of the information on the nutrition labels of the foods you eat in order to make healthier choices. Limit or avoid foods that have high saturated fat, sodium, and sugar contents and instead stock up on foods that are rich in fiber and protein.

2. Keep a food journal


“Use a diary (at least temporarily) to tell yourself the truth about what goes in your mouth,” Holmberg says. Keeping a food journal is a great way to get a better sense of how much you are actually eating in a day and will keep you accountable. Plus, knowing that you have to write down what you eat later may make you think twice about going for that second helping of chips. Forcing yourself to think about your food choices can also help prevent you from mindless snacking, so that instead you’ll eat only when you are truly hungry. Keeping a journal also gives you an opportunity to reflect on your day to note what went well and what could be improved for tomorrow in terms of your eating habits. If you’re not a fan of writing by hand, you can find a food journal online. The aforementioned apps, as well as Calorie Count have features that let you digitally record everything you eat, and it tracks your calorie intake too so you can kill two birds with one app! 

3. Eat real food—especially veggies


“Eat real food—things that walk, swim or grow.  Add the junk you can’t live without on top of that, not instead.  Be discriminating, it all counts,” Holmberg says. This means try to cut down on all the packaged and processed foods in your diet and stick to fruits, veggies, lean proteins (chicken, fish, tofu), beans, and grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa). Holmberg emphasizes vegetables in particular, which seems like a no-brainer, but getting your daily fix of veggies is a very crucial component of weight loss. “Eat tons of non-starchy vegetables at every meal,” Holmberg advises, starchy vegetables being ones high in carbohydrates like potatoes and corn and non-starchy vegetables being leafy greens and the other veggies listed here. According to Holmberg, vegetables will “always dilute the calories and fill you up virtually for free.  That is also the one and only thing upon which everyone in nutrition agrees.”

Holmberg suggests that those looking to lose weight or maintain their current weight over time should forever fill up on vegetables. “Create a huge repertoire of veggie options that can work for you virtually everywhere – work, people’s parties, favorite restaurants, home.  Dilute every meal and snack with them to [replace] enough of the foods that you need to limit without really feeling like you are doing that.  Eat [the vegetables] first,” she says.

4. Don’t drink your calories

Many collegiettes don’t even realize how many calories that morning latte or night at the frat is adding to their daily intakes. Liquid calories do not fill you up and are usually primarily from sugar, so cutting back on high calorie, non-natural drinks (think sodas, sugary fruit juices, energy drinks, milkshakes, and coffee drinks with lots of added cream or syrups) can make a huge difference.

HC Life Editor and UNC senior Michelle explains that she used to drink at least one can of Coke every day after school and ended up losing weight after cutting it out of her routine.

“I never really thought about it at the time, but I was adding more than 700 calories to my diet every week!  For Lent one year I decided to give up soda entirely, and not only did I end up losing a few pounds, but I felt noticeably better than when I was drinking soda.  After Lent was over, I tried to drink Coke again, but it tasted way too sugary to me after drinking water for 40 days.”

According to HC Contributing Writer Elizabeth, a collegiette at the College of William & Mary, “drink A LOT of water.” We often mistake thirst for hunger, so reaching first for a glass of water instead of a snack could help you avoid some unnecessary calories. Water will also keep you hydrated better than any other drink! Seltzer, unsweetened teas (especially green tea), and skim or almond milk are other great drink options. Check out HC’s list of the ten highest and lowest calorie drinks so you’ll know which drinks you can order at the bar without breaking your calorie bank (disclaimer: we sadly cannot say the same for your real bank account…). 

5. Identify your triggers and find alternatives

“Figure out both your tipping points and the things that begin that chain of demotivation for you,” Holmberg says. “They will happen again (they are probably the same reasons you have regained in the past).  Forewarned can be forearmed.” Can you not open a family-sized bag of chips without polishing off the entire thing in one sitting? Does one bowl of cereal always turn into three?  Do you always reach for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s when it’s that time of the month for you? Knowing these habits and finding ways to avoid them can, as Holmberg suggests, keep you from continuing them for the rest of your life.

If you know that having one Oreo will inevitably turn into a full-blown binge, don’t keep Oreos in your house—out of sight, out of mind. Keep healthy snacks on hand instead so you have options and don’t have to resort to whatever junk is in the pantry. Rather than automatically reaching for food when you’re sad or stressed or PMSing, check in with yourself to see if you are really hungry and if you are not, remind yourself that as good as chocolate tastes, it only makes you happier for the moment that you’re eating it and it will not actually solve your problems. Read up on the tips in this HC article on emotional eating so that you can adopt healthier habits and re-train yourself to stray from your old ways!


6. Have a “skinny day” once a week

“Do a couple of reasonable ‘skinny days’ every week in preparation for overeating days—forever,” Holmberg says. “Have a menu for them that is easy, convenient and nutritionally sound.  Plan them for specific days, whether that is based on the week ahead’s agenda, or placed strategically in your schedule to motivate, regroup yourself and so that they can become habitual.” By having a set day in your schedule for being super healthy, you will “save up” calories to spend on that piece of cake at your friend’s birthday dinner or an extra Red Solo Cup of—uh, lemonade of course.  That way, you won’t be depriving yourself of special treats and can indulge without feeling guilty.

7. Add in exercise of any kind whenever you can


Holmberg insists that it’s important to exercise “if you have any real intention of staying motivated for the long run.” “Statistics show that people who are successful at maintaining a loss are always the ones who exercise in addition to making some kind of nutritional change,” she says. She suggests getting in the habit of frequent exercise, “no matter how small an amount you may do on a particular day” because “continuity overrides intensity for people who struggle with their weight.  Exercise keeps the momentum going and is likely to help you get back on track sooner when your food/environment slips… three days of nothing is the kiss of death,” she says.

Bryant University HC Campus Correspondent Hillary says that her friend has lost 40 pounds since January and continues to keep it off from taking up running. “She started with a mile or two a day and now runs about 5-6… She says running helps clear her head and it is something you can do anywhere. Once she saw the results she couldn’t stop.” Exercise doesn’t have to be as major as running six miles—every little added effort counts! Annie, a collegiette at North Toronto Collegiate Institute, suggests “moving at a brisk pace whenever you are walking somewhere. Walking is a great workout and it helps keep you fit and toned. Try and walk for at least 30 minutes every day!” Elizabeth also advises walking and also always taking the stairs instead of elevators. Make working out fun by switching up your routine or doing it with a friend, and schedule specific workout times in your weekly schedule so that you’ll be more likely to do it. Not a fan of the gym? Check out these 7 ways to stay fit outside of the gym.

8. Say goodbye to fad diets

Remember those crazy crash diets mentioned earlier? Avoid radical, restricting programs that promise you will magically lose tons of weight in a short time span, because these gimmicks are not sustainable in the long term. Even if you do lose a few pounds after a juice cleanse, it’ll mainly be water weight and you can’t expect that you’ll be able to avoid solid foods for life. Holmberg explains, “Fad diets can be sort of like cheating on a test and getting an A but never learning good study habits for the future.” She adds, “fad diets are often (although not always) ridiculous and not like real life at all.  So you are not learning the skills necessary for the long run.  The young girl’s body could likely tolerate any unhealthy or extreme food plan for a short time from a health standpoint, but sooner or later you have to learn the actual skills that you are going to need to sustain the weight loss.”

So instead of restricting yourself by going on a diet (let’s be real, it’s no coincidence that the first three letters of that word are “die”), make healthy changes and choices that are maintainable forever so that you can always remain at a comfortable weight.  Holmberg adds that it’s important to “eat for the weight you want to be,” meaning, the daily “caloric budget” that you can consume in order to maintain a specific weight, rather than dieting. Dieting will always be temporary, whereas learning to eat to maintain your desired weight is a lifestyle.

9. Find a support system


“Create environments that support your intentions – at home, at work, in the car, restaurant choices, etc.,” Holmberg says. That means getting rid of those triggers and keeping healthy food on hand, as well as finding people who support you and your goals to keep you motivated. Put up inspiration quotes or pictures around your room so that you can start every day with the right mindset. Having a workout or healthy eating buddy can also be a great way to hold yourself accountable and stay on track. Cook nutritious meals with your friends for dinner, go on a walk with your roommate, or tell your parents about your progress—surrounding yourself with people who support you will always make challenges easier. 

10. Be patient and love your body


Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight—weight loss can take weeks, months, or even years, which is fine because what’s the hurry? There’s no sense looking for a quick fix that promises you your dream body in two weeks, because that just sets you up for frustration and failure because it won’t actually help you maintain a healthy weight in the long run. So be patient because if you do stick to all of these healthy tips, it’s a guarantee that you will lose weight in time. And once you start feeling and seeing the results, you’ll be all the more motivated to keep up the hard work!

Loving your body is just as important as being patient. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy”; this so true when it comes to body image and self-esteem. Constantly comparing yourself to others, like wondering why your thighs will never be as thin as hers or jealously gazing at pictures of celebrities’ washboard abs, will just make you feel upset and hopeless. And then you’ll be more likely to give up, creating a vicious cycle! Instead, focus on your best assets and don’t hate on your flaws. Embrace your body, and you’ll be much better equipped to make the changes you want!


These tips are just a start, but if you try them out, you won’t regret it. Got any more ideas of ways to successfully, healthily lose weight? Comment below!

Sammie is a student at the University of Michigan where she is pursuing a BBA. A foodie since birth, she enjoys cooking, eating, smelling, looking at, photographing, reading about, and playing with any and all types of food. Her idolization of culinary delights is complemented by her active spirit- she enjoys running, swimming, barre classes, and even spontaneous bursts of interpretative dance if the mood strikes her. She has completed two triathlons and a half-marathon and plans to tackle more races in the future. She also dreams of traveling the globe, saving the world, and marrying James and/or Dave Franco.