Nutrition

Is it Possible to Lose Weight Fast?

The reality is that it’s tough to lose weight fast, and if we do then we usually regain it. Diets that promote fast weight loss and reduction in body fat are usually very restrictive and leave you feeling hungry and deprived.

Because of this, fad diets end up producing short-term results and ultimately fail, as they’re difficult to stick to.

This is why it’s important to move away from the mindset of losing weight quickly and shift towards a mindset of making healthy lifestyle changes that will last, allowing us to lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

Rather than aiming to eat fewer calories and developing an unhealthy relationship with food, the best way to lose weight fast and keep it off is to follow a balanced, lower-carbohydrate diet. It’s important to note that nutrition is only one of the factors affecting weight loss. Exercise, mindset, sleep, and stress are all equally important to effectively make healthy changes.

Following a weight loss plan that includes all the different aspects of health can be the most effective way to begin a weight loss journey. These top weight loss tips will help to kick start your healthy lifestyle changes and ensure the fastest, most effective results.

1) Consider carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a large source of energy for our bodies and provide our cells with food (in the form of glucose). Low-carb diets are a common weight loss tool.

The rationale behind a low-carb diet is that healthy fats and protein are digested slower than carbs and so leave you feeling fuller for longer. Higher intake of protein and healthy fat also helps to keep our blood glucose (sugar) levels stable throughout the day. These factors reduce the likelihood of feeling deprived and snacking.

Low-carb is also thought to help with weight loss by lowering insulin. Insulin is one of the hormones responsible for regulating blood glucose levels, but it also promotes the storage of fat in the body.

The more extreme ketogenic (keto) diet eliminates carbohydrates almost entirely and focuses on eating a lot of fats instead. This deprives our body of its primary source of fuel, glucose. The body then creates new metabolic pathways and starts burning up fat (or more accurately, ketones produced from the breakdown of fats) for energy instead. This process is called ketosis.

While the keto diet does burn fat, it’s quite challenging to follow effectively in the long term, as one slip up will take you out of ketosis temporarily. Similarly, highly restrictive popular diets, such as the Atkins or Dukan diets, reduce carb intake but also provide many strict rules, making it tough to follow in the long-term.

There are many other benefits of following a lower-carb approach, including lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Overall, it seems that a lower-carb diet, but not a carb-free diet, is probably the most effective way to lose weight relatively quickly and keep it off. A study comparing the weight loss over 2 years between low-fat, low-carb, and Mediterranean diets demonstrated that the low-carb diet produced the most short-term weight loss. At the 2 year mark, the low-carb group had maintained weight loss significantly more than the low-fat group.

Graph depicting weight loss over 2 years for a low-fat, low-carb and Mediterranean diets.
When you do eat carbs, you should opt for complex carbohydrates (for example, sweet potato, oats, or wholewheat pasta). These have a larger molecular structure than simple carbohydrates (for example, white rice, white bread, or white pasta) and contain more fibre. Fibre makes us feel fuller for longer and has many other health benefits.

Key points:

  • Reducing the number of carbs we eat means we naturally eat more protein and fats, leaving us feeling fuller for longer.
  • Eating a lower-carb diet also lowers insulin, which promotes the storage of fat in our bodies.
  • Whilst the keto diet, which almost entirely eliminates carbs, sounds ideal for weight loss, it can be challenging to follow effectively in the long term, whereas a lower-carb approach is more simple.

2) Avoid ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods can be defined as industrial formulations that have been made with five or more ingredients, for example, biscuits, crisps, cakes, and fizzy drinks.

These foods have been manufactured to appeal to our reward systems. They contain the perfect amount of fat and sugar that keep us coming back for more, known as ‘the bliss point’. This is the reason many of us struggle to stop eating junk food.

Our guide on junk food explores the best way to kick these cravings. As well as trying to avoid the obvious ultra-processed foods (e.g. biscuits, chocolate, cakes), it’s worth looking out for less obvious ‘bliss point’ foods (e.g. sauces, dressings, dips, bread).

If we get into the habit of eating balanced meals made up of whole foods, rather than consuming a large amount of ultra-processed foods, then we can enjoy them occasionally without the guilt or strong cravings in between.

Key points:

  • Ultra-processed foods can be defined as industrial formulations that have been made with five or more ingredients, for example, biscuits, crisps, cakes, and fizzy drinks.
  • It’s easy to overeat these foods as they are formulated to appeal to our reward systems.

3) Beware of fat-free

A common myth is that fat makes you fat. In line with this myth is the idea that low fat or fat-free products are key to reducing body fat and healthy eating. This isn’t always the case.

Quite often, especially in dairy products, manufacturers replace the fat with sugar to add flavour. That’s why there are so many seemingly healthy dairy products, particularly flavoured ones, that are low-fat or 0% fat. When in reality, these products contain much more sugar than the full-fat options, so they’re not necessarily a healthy alternative.

So, it’s important to check food labels in supermarkets. Let’s look at different yoghurt products from the same brand as an example:

Comparison of full-fat natural yoghurt with 0% fat flavoured yoghurt.

By changing from 0% fat flavoured yoghurt (14% sugar, highlighted in red) to full-fat, natural yoghurt (5.6% sugar, highlighted in green) you can reduce the amount of sugar eaten by almost 3 times.

Sugar has a number of harmful effects on our health, from reducing energy levels to increasing sweet cravings. These can have knock-on effects on preventing you from exercising and driving you to snack on ultra-processed foods more, slowing down any weight loss. Our guide on reducing sugar intake explores the best practical ways to reduce your sugar intake.

On top of this, the fat in full-fat, natural yoghurt will help to keep you fuller for longer. As previously mentioned, fats are digested slower than carbs or sugar, keeping you feeling satisfied and reducing the chances of cravings.

Key points:

  • Low fat or fat-free products are not necessarily a healthy alternative.
  • Low-fat flavoured dairy products often contain huge amounts of sugar as a replacement for the fat.
  • Fats will keep you fuller for longer, whereas sugar will increase cravings and cause our energy levels to fluctuate.

4) Exercise

All types of exercise can greatly benefit our mental health and improve the quality of our sleep.

Research published in the official review journal for the World Obesity Federation suggests that the combination of dietary changes with exercise provides significantly more weight loss than dietary changes alone.

This research combined trials looking at longer, less intense exercise with trials focusing on shorter, more intense exercise. However, overall, the evidence suggests that shorter, intense bursts of exercise result in more weight loss.

In our guide on finding the time to exercise, we discussed a study that compared high-intensity exercise to longer steady exercise. Results demonstrated that those in the high-intensity group lost significantly more fat than those in the steady exercise group.

Infographic explaining a trial that demonstrated that HIIT exercise was the most effective for weight loss and insulin sensitivity.

In this study, their diet was controlled, so it’s likely that the differences in weight were down to the differences in exercise. The researchers suggested that high-intensity exercise has a positive impact on certain stress hormones released by the kidney that accelerate fat oxidation. So, if you are trying to lose weight quickly, consider adding some short, intense bursts of exercise to your daily routine.

Key points:

  • All types of exercise benefit our health, both mental and physical.
  • Shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise seem to be the most effective for fat loss.

5) Sleep

Evidence suggests that poor sleep increases feelings of hunger and food intake. There are also a number of other reasons why getting enough good quality sleep is important.

If we are feeling low on energy and experiencing strong sweet cravings, we are less likely to exercise and more likely to snack on ultra-processed foods. This would slow down any weight loss, and prolonged poor quality sleep might even lead to weight gain.

Our guide on increasing the quality of our sleep examines the best ways to ensure a good nights sleep.

Key points:

  • A lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, can strongly influence our food choices.
  • When we’re tired, we are less likely to exercise and more likely to experience sweet cravings.

6) Stress

Stress can lead to weight gain in a number of ways.

Stress can impact our food choices, making us favour energy-dense foods. On top of this, research suggests that stress can lead to weight gain independently from our diet, by influencing our hormones.

Overall, science suggests that trying to manage our stress levels are equally important to changing our diet and exercising when it comes to losing weight.

Key points:

  • Stress can impact our food choices and our hormones leading to weight gain.
  • It’s important to manage our stress levels, as well as focusing on diet, when we are looking to lose weight.

Take home message

  • Eating a lower-carb diet where you reduce, but don’t eliminate, the number of carbs you eat, seems to be the most effective for fast weight loss that can be sustained.
  • Aiming to avoid ultra-processed foods and have 3 balanced meals a day is the best way to reduce your cravings.
  • Fat-free products are not necessarily a healthy alternative to full-fat and leave us feeling less satisfied, as the fats are digested slower than sugar.
  • All types of exercise benefit our health, both mental and physical.
  • Shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise seem to be the most effective for fat loss.
  • Sleep and stress can impact our hormones, food choices, and energy levels, which means they’re both important factors for weight loss.

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