Losing weight is a very complex process with many factors involved. 

The number of calories you consume is one of the key variables that will determine the success or failure of your efforts.  While the process is more complicated than simply calories and calories out, there is no denying that calorie restriction will help you lose weight and keep it off.  This is one of the lessons from the “Blue Zones” of the world. 

The “Blue Zones” are areas of the world with low rates of chronic diseases and people live longer than anywhere else.  One practice common in these areas, is the 80% rule.  They stop eating when they are about 80% full.  This is in stark comparison to the tendency for most of us in this country to eat until we are stuffed.

Yet most dieters tend to equate calorie restriction to deprivation. It does not have to be.  The following are some practical tips to eat well and keep your calories down.

Vegetables: Eat all the vegetables you want or at least 5 servings a day.  A serving of vegetable is a cup of raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked vegetables.  Vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients.  The green leafy vegetables such as spinach, eggplant, celery to mention a few are particularly low in calories.  They are also rich in fibers which help to maintain regularity and provide food for the good bacteria in the gut.

Fruits: Fruits are also rich in nutrients and relatively low in calories.  Generally, fruits have more calories than vegetables.  The recommendation is to eat 2 servings of fruits a day. They are particularly handy as healthy snacks.

Meal replacement:  Protein meal replacements are a good low-calorie source of protein and nutrients.  They can be used to replace a meal or used as snacks. Studies have shown that adding meal replacements can double your weight loss.

Intermittent fasting:  Restricting your eating window to 4 to 8 hours can help you decrease the total calories consumed.

Fiber supplementation:  Adding fiber supplements such as psyllium can help to control appetite and reduce calories consumed.

Mindful eating: Mindful eating is one of the most useful skills to develop.  Learning to be present when you eat and slowing down can lead you to feel full while eating much less.  Aim to take at least 20 minutes to eat and enjoy your meal. Focus on savoring every moment and being grateful for the experience.

Water.  Drinking more water can help you feel full and eat less.  Try drinking a glass of water before your meal.  Drink 64 ounces of more of water a day. Do not rely on thirst, rather drink throughout the day.

Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA, Dipl. ABOM.