The number on the scale can be misleading and doesn’t always accurately reflect weight-loss progress. While a daily or weekly weigh in can be beneficial, it’s important to keep in mind sustainable weight loss involves focusing on other numbers, too.
Here are five to keep in mind when working toward your health goals:
While the current Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults get 150 minutes of exercise per week, a 2018 study found sedentary adults who got 60 minutes of exercise per day, five days a week, burned 3,000 calories per week and lost weight, while those who exercised only half as often did not. Even if you’re a beginner you can work up to 60 minutes per day, says Tom Holland, certified strength and conditioning specialist and author of “Beat the Gym.” This could be as simple as adding a brief walk to your routine after meals or finding a new activity you enjoy like strength training, swimming or cycling.
Adding more fiber to your diet could be the key to increasing weight loss, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dieters who consumed 30 grams of fiber per day lost five pounds (without making any other diet or lifestyle changes) and lowered their blood pressure and blood sugar. For men, the recommended daily intake is 30 grams; it’s 25 grams for women.
“Fiber also helps to slow digestion, allowing you to feel more satisfied,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD. She recommends adding fiber-rich foods like nuts, chickpeas, beans, fruits and vegetables to each meal.
Dieters who lost 30 pounds and maintained their weight loss for more than a year clocked 12,000 steps per day (compared with 9,000 steps for normal-weight adults and 6,500 for overweight and obese adults), according to 2019 research published in the journal Obesity.
If you’re not at 12,000 yet, don’t worry: “Your goal should be to slowly increase your total steps each day,” Holland says. “If you’re walking 5,000 steps on day 1, your goal for day 2 might be 5,300 steps. Gradually increase your activity level in manageable, sustainable amounts.”
Researchers at Penn State found people who ate 35 almonds per day for six weeks had a significant reduction in belly fat. Other studies have shown monounsaturated fats found in almonds and other nuts (as well as olive oil and avocados) help increase energy expenditure by firing up the fat-burning powers in your cells.
The 80/20 rule recommends getting 80% of your calories from nutritious whole foods and saving 20% for indulgences. This healthy-eating strategy is easier to sustain since you don’t have to eliminate your favorite foods. It will also help support more gradual weight loss. “While it doesn’t seem like losing one pound a week is a big deal, that approach is sustainable and meaningful, resulting in 50 pounds or more lost in one year,” notes Holland.