There is a lot of conflicting advice about how to lose weight.
All sorts of pills, potions and weird diets have been devised, most of which have no evidence behind them.
However, not all of it is nonsense. Over the years, scientists have found a number of weight loss methods that actually work.Here are 10 graphs that show effective ways to lose weight. All of them are based on randomized controlled trials in humans, the gold standard of science.
Source: JS Vander Wal, et al. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International Journal of Obesity, 2008.
What you eat for breakfast is important. According to the study above, eating eggs for breakfast can help you lose 65% more weight than a breakfast of bagels.
The egg group also had a 34% greater reduction in waist size and 16% greater reduction in body fat, although the difference wasn't statistically significant.
This is mostly due to the fact that eggs are highly fulfilling. People who eat eggs for breakfast feel so full that they automatically eat less at the next meal, and fewer calories for the next 36 hours (1).
Of course, there are many other great reasons to eat eggs. Weight loss is just the tip of the iceberg.
Source: Boschmann M, et al. Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis through Osmosensitive Mechanisms. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2013.
The graph above shows how drinking 500 ml (17 oz) of water can boost metabolism by 24-30% over a period of 1 to 1.5 hours.
Not a massive amount, but every little bit adds up.
Source: Andrade AM, et al. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008.
The way you eat your food can affect how many calories you end up taking in.
According to the above study, people who were instructed to eat more slowly ended up eating 67 fewer calories during a meal. They also enjoyed their meal more.
Source: AG Dulloo, et al. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1989.
Caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, can boost metabolism and help you burn fat.
In the graph above, you see how energy expenditure is increased in both lean people and people who have recently lost weight.
According to this study, 600 mg of caffeine (6 "average" cups of coffee) per day can make lean people burn 150 more calories in a day.
The effect was diminished in people who were previously obese but had lost the weight. However, it still amounted to an additional 79 calories per day.
Source: Brehm BJ, et al. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2003.
There is a massive body of evidence on low-carb diets, showing that they are more effective for weight loss than the standard low-fat advice that we're still being given.
Low-carb diets tend to reduce appetite significantly, so that people cut calories and lose large amounts of weight without consciously trying to eat less (3).
Source: Birketvedt GS, et al. Experiences with three different fiber supplements in weight reduction. Medical Science Monitor, 2005.
Most weight loss supplements don't work. However, there are a few supplements that science has shown to be mildly effective.
One of them is a type of fiber called glucomannan. This fiber absorbs water and "sits" in your gut, making you feel so full that you eat fewer calories.
In the graph above, you see 3 different experiments where people who took glucomannan lost more weight than the comparison groups.
It won't work any miracles on its own, but may be a useful addition to a healthy weight loss diet.
Source: Leidy HJ, et al. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2011.
People who diet for a long time tend to get hungry. They even get overpowering cravings and start to literally obsess about food.
This often happens at night, which is terrible because snacks at night tend to be added on top of the daily calorie intake.
As you can see from the graph above, eating protein at 25% of calories has been shown to cut cravings by 60% and reduce the desire for late-night snacking by half.
Source: Weigle DS, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005.
When it comes to losing weight, protein truly is the king of nutrients.
The graph above shows what happens when people increase their protein intake to 30% of calories. Their total calorie intake drops immediately, and they start losing weight like clockwork.
This is because protein is the most satiating of all macronutrients, by far. Numerous studies show that people can lose weight just by adding protein to their diet, without intentionally restricting anything (7, 8).
Sources: Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity and An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity.
Coconut oil is a rather unique type of fat, because it is loaded with bioactive fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides.
Some studies have shown that it can help you lose small amounts of belly fat, which is the "dangerous" fat that builds up around your organs.
Source: Larson-Meyer, et al. Caloric Restriction with or without Exercise: The Fitness versus Fatness Debate. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2010.
In the study above, 2 groups achieved a calorie deficit of 25%. One group did so with diet alone, while the other group restricted calories by 12.5% and increased cardio to reach the other 12.5%.
Both groups lost significant amounts of weight, but the group that also exercised had the greatest improvements in fitness and metabolic health.
Despite what anyone says, calories are important for weight loss. Without more calories leaving your body than entering it, you simply will not lose weight.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you need to count calories.
Many people find that they automatically eat fewer calories as long as they stick to whole, single ingredient (real) foods.
In many cases, nourishing your body with healthy food is all that it takes.
Weight loss follows as a natural side effect.