Losing Weight: What Really Works

When diets backfire, and exercise alone won’t do the trick, listen to what the pros say about shedding pounds effectively: Go for a multipronged approach that involves changing what you eat, how you exercise, and your mindset about food and your body.

Isabel Smith Nutrition

By Anne Marie O’Connor

Every expert has a different surefire method for optimizing body weight: Never even look at a carb. Stick to a plant-based diet. Hit the gym. Reserve your SoulCycle class from here to eternity. It turns out you may be going about it all wrong.

Decades of studies have shown that a high-fiber diet helps you feel fuller on fewer calories, and can give your efforts to drop pounds a boost. A new study at Georgia State University found that fiber helps prevent obesity by promoting the growth of “good” bacteria in our microbiome. “Fiber is one of the most helpful tools I have my clients use for weight loss,” agrees Isabel Smith, MS, RD CSN, a dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition in New York (isabelsmithnutrition.com). “It’s really good for the gut microbiome and all the bacteria that live inside of us, which are very important for weight loss.” Another bonus: People who eat lots of fiber have a lower risk of breast and colon cancer, and increased longevity. Unlike other hard-to-follow special diets, eating more fiber is easy: It’s in almost every fruit, vegetable, bean and whole grain. Smith advises loading up on vegetables in particular, as they offer more fiber for fewer calories. “Fill half or three-quarters of your plate with veggies at every meal,” she says. Some high-fiber choices include collard greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, green beans, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness compared high-impact cardio (kickboxing, HIIT or boot-camp classes) to sessions combining low-impact aerobics and strength training. Women in the high-intensity exercise group, the study revealed, lost more weight—about 10 pounds, versus 6 pounds in the low-impact group.

It may seem counterintuitive, but a regular meditation practice may be the key to lasting weight loss. “Until recently, meditation has been disregarded as a tool for weight loss because most people don’t understand how sitting still and not burning calories can help them lose weight,” says Sarah Anne Stewart, a holistic health practitioner, health coach and founder of the Holistically Slim Movement. “But to successfully lose weight and keep it off, it is essential to understand why we haven’t been successful in the past. Often it’s because we haven’t healed our relationship with food and our body.” Stewart recommends starting with a 10-minute-a day meditation practice. “Begin with a simple meditation app, like Stop, Breathe & Think, and then get a coach or take an online program. Recognize in meditation any patterns that no longer serve you. This will help you shift, and let go of sabotaging behaviors, and teach you to be patient with the weight-loss process.”