Do you struggle to lose weight, even on the strictest diets? Read on to learn lifestyle hacks that may help you reach your goals.
Basic Weight Loss Advice
Based on the evidence, lifestyle factors and healthy habits that complement dietary changes and help with weight loss include :
- Self-monitoring body weight
- Being determined and sticking to the chosen diet
- Getting medical supervision, psychological support, and positive feedback
- Being consistent with meals and energy intake
- Eating slowly
- Not skipping breakfast
- Cutting out unhealthy snacks
- Regular exercise
Complementary Strategies to Lose Weight
The following lifestyle interventions may help you with your weight-loss plan. Although most of them have multiple benefits to overall health, remember to talk to your doctor before implementing any major lifestyle changes.
1) Exercise More
Doing high-intensity exercise is probably the best strategy to lose weight. In addition to promoting fat burning, the increased norepinephrine production may suppress food intake according to a study in rats .
Exercise also increases endorphins, which activates mu-opioid receptors and also suppresses appetite .
You can see a whole list of ways to naturally activate opioids here.
Any exercise is good, though. Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc) has also been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in multiple studies [4, 5].
Although the reason is not fully understood, yoga can be a useful tool for weight loss too [6, 7, 8].
The bottom line is you need to move. Stand, get a treadmill desk, bike to work, do yoga, mix it up. This will burn calories and increase BDNF, ultimately causing you to eat less .
2) Get More and Better Quality Sleep
Short sleep duration has been associated with weight gain in many studies. A meta-analysis of 30 studies and over 630,000 people associated short sleep duration with a 55% higher incidence of obesity in adults and 89% in children [10, 11, 12].
Poor sleep can increase hunger and cravings and disrupt hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin [13, 14].
If your quality or quantity of sleep is bad, everything else will be out of whack. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night, that’s bad news.
You can read the following articles on how to fix your sleep:
- Top 25 Methods For Better Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Entrainment
- 54 Effective Ways To Fall And Stay Asleep (Even For The Worst Insomniac)
3) Reduce Stress
Stress is a well-know risk factor for obesity. It increases cortisol and dynorphin, both of which cause weight gain [15, 16, 17, 18].
It also increases glutamate, which increases appetite, while decreases NGF and BDNF, both of which are appetite suppressors .
Additionally, stress makes the brain resistant to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that also suppresses appetite. Stress also causes resistance to dopamine, which may cause us to eat more as we’ll need to eat more food for the same rewarding effects [20, 21, 22].
4) Get More Sun in the Morning
Intense (above 500 lux) light exposure, particularly in the morning, was associated with a lower BMI independent of sleep duration and timing in a study on 54 people .
In a similar study on 34 overweight women, exposure to at least 45 minutes of morning light (between 6-9 AM at 1,300 lux) for 3 weeks resulted in reduced body fat and appetite .
Particularly, red and green light exposure (for 2 hours immediately upon waking) altered the levels of the satiety hormones leptin, and ghrelin in a clinical trial on 11 sleep-restricted (5 hours of sleep per night) people. Both of these hormones cause reduced hunger following sleep deprivation .
In addition to visible light, UV radiation may also contribute to weight loss. In a study in mice fed a high-fat diet, UV reduced obesity regardless of their vitamin D status. On the downside, this radiation is a well-known cause of skin cancer .
UV stimulates the production of vitamin D in the body. The deficiency of this vitamin has been suggested to be a cause of obesity .
5) Block Out Blue Light at Night
Increased blue light exposure at night has been associated with obesity and weight gain in both humans and mice [27, 28].
In a study of 54 healthy adults, there was a 1.28 unit increase in body mass index for every extra hour of bright light in the evening .
Light exposure in the evening reduces rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep, thus worsening metabolic function [29, 30].
Even dim light at night may disrupt the circadian clock and increase body weight, as seen in a study in mice .
Studies have shown that 35% of the variance in body mass index is caused by light exposure, in particular at night .
Prolonging daily light exposure increased obesity in mice by decreasing energy expenditure (through a reduced noradrenergic activation of brown fat tissue) rather than increasing food intake or activity .
You can reduce your exposure to blue light by wearing blue-blocking glasses for four hours before going to bed, covering any electronics that emit blue or green light with black tape, and put the blinds down at night if light is coming in.
6) Increase Cold Exposure
This means take cold showers, wear an ice helmet/cryohelmet, use fewer layers, etc. Cold increases metabolism and energy expenditure (by increasing brown fat).
In a clinical trial on 50 healthy men, those exposed to a cool environment overnight for a month had a 42% increase in brown fat with a corresponding 10% increase in metabolism .
Cold also stimulates the thyroid hormone cascade, which are hormones that cause weight loss.
7) Love and Be Playful
Oxytocin is released by positive human interactions and has been shown to decrease hunger in multiple animal studies .
Love also increases NGF, which reduces appetite, and increases endorphins, which activate mu-opioid receptors .
8) Be Passionate
Be passionate about your work and life. Being bored will make you prone to overeating, while being busy will help get food off from your mind. In a study on over 500 college students, proneness to boredom and difficulty to regulate emotions were associated with inappropriate eating behaviors .
9) Be Mindful and Meditate
Similarly, you will eat less and enjoy it more if you are mindful about your food. Meditation will allow you to be less impulsive and anxious, which may help prevent you from binge eating [36, 37].
10) Drink High Amounts of Water
Researchers have estimated that drinking 500 ml (17 oz) of water per day can boost metabolism by 24-30% over a period of 1-1.5 hours, while 2 liters (68 oz) of water can make you burn an additional 96 calories .
Molecular hydrogen water is often claimed to be better for weight loss. In the only study carried out so far (in mice) it induced FGF21, which resulted in the burning of brown fat. Whether hydrogen water has the same effects in humans remains unknown .
11) Get a Sauna
Saunas can increase weight loss, mainly in overweight people, as seen in a study on almost 700 sedentary students. However, the observed reduction in weight mostly stems from water loss due to sweating [40, 41].
12) Optimize Your Hormones
If you have a severe hormone imbalance, the most important thing is to consult a doctor to identify the underlying condition that may be causing it and to develop a treatment plan.
Make sure your levels of free and total T3, growth hormone, and testosterone and estrogen are optimal. Testosterone has proven effects on weight loss in men, and many men are deficient. You can put LLLT on your testes for a few minutes every other day to boost your testosterone levels or try any of the complementary approaches discussed in this post [42, 43].
If you’re a woman with low estrogen (usually post-menopausal), estrogen replacement therapy can prevent you from gaining weight [44, 45].
Growth hormone or GHRH (its precursor) increases muscle and decreases fat. Low-dose growth hormone treatment with diet restriction accelerated body fat loss and increased muscle building in a clinical trial on 24 obese men .
Oxytocin, MSH, and TRH can reduce hunger levels. Having positive relationships, sun, and cold, respectively, may help optimize these 3 hormones. You can also buy them as supplements or put LLT on your thyroid for a few minutes every other day to raise your thyroid hormones [33, 47].
Keeping to a circadian rhythm is also important for balancing all of your hormones.
Synthetic birth control hormones can cause you to gain weight (up to 2kg) by increasing fat and decreasing muscle. You may discuss your birth control medication with your doctor .
13) Breath In More Oxygen By Being Outside More
Coinciding with the increase in obesity, atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by more than 40%. Furthermore, we now spend more time indoors, where CO2 often reaches even higher concentrations .
Increased CO2 concentration in inhaled air slightly decreases the pH of blood. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus that regulate appetite and wakefulness have been shown to be extremely sensitive to acid levels, doubling their activity if pH decreases by 0.1 units .
Based on this and on the fact that a similar trend has been observed in multiple species although their diet, food availability, and physical activity remains unchanged, the study hypothesized that increased atmospheric CO2 may lead to increased appetite and energy intake, while decreasing energy expenditure .
14) Take Care of Your Vagus Nerve
Increase your vagus nerve activity and oxygen through breathing exercises. A study on 24 people associated obesity with a decreased heart rate variability, and therefore vagal tone .
The following dietary interventions may help you lose weight. Remember to talk to your doctor and never follow a strict diet without supervision.
1) Eat Less Energy-Dense Foods
Studies consistently show that dieters who eat less energy-dense foods lose more weight than those who eat foods with a high energy density [52, 53, 54].
Eat more protein (best in the form of seafood) instead of other foods. Studies on high-protein diets show that they increase fat burning, reduce appetite, and lead to increased weight loss [55, 56, 57].
Consume more fish, seafood, vegetables, fruits and seeds like chia and flax, which have lots of soluble and insoluble fiber – instead of other foods, not in addition to.
In a clinical trial on over 300 young, overweight men, the inclusion of fish (either lean or fatty) or fish oil as part of an energy-restricted diet resulted in approximately 1 kg (2.2 pounds) more weight loss after 4 weeks than did a similar diet without seafood or a supplement .
Vegetables are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to help with weight loss in several studies. Fiber gets broken down by bacteria in the digestive tract to produce butyrate, which showed weight-loss effects in animals [59, 60, 61, 62].
Fruits are another good option for those watching their weight. In a study of 91 obese people, eating half a fresh grapefruit before meals caused the loss of 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) over a period of 12 weeks. In another trial on over 100 women, different berries reduced weight, waist circumference, and inflammatory markers [63, 64].
Some studies have shown that eating the exact same food, except made in a soup instead of as solid food, makes people feel more satiated and eat significantly fewer calories [65, 66].
In one study on 200 overweight and obese women, those who ate soup lost 50% more weight than women who ate an energy-dense snack .
2) Stay Away From Junk Food
Junk food is packed with sugars, unhealthy fats, and additives. Consumption of junk food has been consistently associated with increased body fat .
Using some oils such as olive oil, MCT oil, and caprylic acid oil INSTEAD OF (not in addition to) saturated fat-filled oils may also help lose weight. In an 8-week trial on 44 women, an olive-oil enriched diet brought about greater weight loss than a lower-fat diet. MCT oil was even more effective in a similar study on 49 overweight people [69, 70].
Many ultra-processed foods contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavoring agent that increases appetite and reduces GH secretion, thus contributing to obesity .
3) Lower Carb Intake
Insulin is one of the big four fattening hormones. High glycemic index carbs will cause insulin spikes and insulin resistance, ultimately increasing your risk of obesity. However, they also increase satiation in the short term .
In a clinical trial on 119 overweight people, a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet was as effective as a low-fat diet for weight loss but had the advantages that it reduced appetite and negative affect. A meta-analysis of 13 studies and over 1,500 people concluded that low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets are more effective than low-fat diets for losing weight [72, 73].
One study of 30 overweight women showed that eating eggs for breakfast, instead of bagels, increased satiety and made them eat less for the next 36 hours .
4) Prevent Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugars increase glutamate release, which increases appetite. You can prevent hypoglycemia mainly through a healthy diet rich in fiber (veggies and fruits), a good amount of proteins, and moderate fat levels .
5) Chew / Eat More Slowly
If you chew your food well, you will eat less of it, enjoy it more, and release more satiating hormones. In a clinical trial on 30 healthy women, those instructed to eat more slowly ended up eating 67 fewer calories during a meal. The women also reported enjoying their meal more .
6) Eat Within a 12-Hour Window
In a clinical trial on 52 women, caloric intake after 8:00 PM increased the risk of obesity, independent of sleep timing and duration .
In addition, eating in the evening or before sleep predisposes individuals to weight gain through higher total calories .
7) Intermittent Fasting
Fasting every other day for 12 weeks caused 32 people to lose an average of 12 pounds more than those who followed a daily program of calorie restriction .
Several other trials found benefits of other intermittent fasting modalities (5:2, severe calorie restriction every second day, low-calorie protein-packed diet) for weight loss [79, 80, 81].
8) Eat Certain Foods
The following foods reduced appetite or helped lose weight in clinical trials:
- Chili/cayenne/sriracha (due to their content in capsaicin) [82, 83, 84, 85]
- Green tea [86, 87, 88]
- Yerba mate [89, 90]
- Dark chocolate 
- Avocado [92, 93]
- Kefir 
- Vinegar 
- Fenugreek 
- Quinoa 
The following supplements may help lose weight based on the existing evidence. Remember that they are not approved for medical use due to the lack of solid clinical research. In addition, regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
- Probiotics (L gasseri, L. rhamnosus, and B lactis) can help decrease intestinal inflammation, which can be a cause of weight gain [98, 99].
- Berberine helped obese people lose an average of 5 pounds in 12 weeks in a small trial on 16 obese people. Berberine induces the development of brown fat and increases UCP1 and other thermogenic genes in white and brown fat. It works via AMPK and PGC-1α. Berberine also inhibits AMPK activity in the hypothalamus .
- HMB increases muscle mass and fat loss .
- EGCG/tea (jasmine) caused an average weight loss of 0.2-3.5 kg with supplements in clinical trials. EGCG inhibits MAO B, which results in weight loss [102, 103, 104]. Green tea can make us burn more calories, even at rest. In most studies, this amounts to about 3-4% increase, although some showed an increase as high as 8% [105, 106, 107]. For 2,000 calories, 3-4% amounts to an additional 60-80 calories per day. In one study of 60 obese people, the group taking green tea extract lost 7.3 lbs (3.3 kg) and burned 183 more calories per day after 3 months .
- Glucomannan induced body weight reduction in a trial on 176 healthy overweight subjects eating a healthy diet, whereas the addition of guar gum and alginate did not seem to have any added effects to eating a healthy diet .
- Forskolin decreases body fat in a clinical trial on 30 men and mitigated body fat gain in another trial on 23 women [110, 111].
- CLA caused a weight loss of about 0.2 pounds (0.1 kg) per week for up to 6 months in a review of 18 different studies. Another review study found an average of 3 pounds (1.3 kg) of weight loss compared to placebo [112, 113].
- Calcium significantly caused weight and fat loss and increased the percentage of fat lost from the trunk region in a clinical trial on 32 obese adults. In animals, calcium-stimulated fat tissue uncoupling protein UCP2 and muscle UCP3 and slightly increased core temperature. Calcium increased fat busting/lipolysis, decreased fatty acid synthesis, and reduced fat regains. You are likely to be deficient in calcium if you don’t eat sardines or dairy daily. Take calcium with K2 and D3 to prevent its buildup in your arteries [114, 115].
- Green coffee extract/Chlorogenic acid: a meta analysis found that green coffee extract results in weight loss of about 2.5kg or 5.5 pounds .
- Kidney bean extract blocks carbohydrate absorption, which may help lose some weight .
- Mucuna may help increase dopamine if you have low levels. It might, theoretically, combat appetite. People with genetically fewer dopamine D2 receptors needed to consume more of a rewarding substance (such as drugs or food) to get that same effect. Manipulating dopamine levels altered eating behavior in a study on 29 obese and 45 non-obese people. For example, AA or AG of rs1800497, which is a DRD2 variant, is associated with less pleasure and a higher risk of obesity [118, 119].
- Garcinia: a review of 12 studies on Garcinia cambogia found that, on average, it caused a weight loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) over several weeks .
- Synephrine/Bitter orange shares similar mechanisms with ephedrine, but is less potent. It can reduce appetite and significantly increase fat burning .
- Meratrim caused a weight loss of 11 pounds (5.2 kg) of weight and 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) off the waistlines in a clinical trial on 60 obese people .
- PRP was predicted to help combat obesity in a gene expression analysis .
- Cissus quadrangularis helped reduce weight, fasting blood glucose, blood fats (total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides) and inflammation in a trial on 123 overweight and obese people .
The following drugs have been shown to help lose weight in clinical trials, although lifestyle and dietary interventions may be safer ways. Discuss it with your doctor before taking them for weight-loss purposes, since they may have unwanted effects. Some of them have been included for information purposes only, since we strongly advise against their use.
Caffeine is a well-known metabolic booster. In 12 clinical trials on 135 people, caffeine (100-600 mg/day) increased energy use and fat burning. Paradoxically, the effects were more pronounced in lean than in overweight people. Caffeine also helped maintain weight loss in 2 long-term studies on 2,500 people [125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135].
Remember that high intake of caffeine can cause adverse effects such as insomnia, anxiety, increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, diarrhea and increased urination, and muscle twitching .
Nicotine reduces appetite by activating nicotinic receptors in the lateral hypothalamus. In a clinical trial on over 800 smokers, those randomized to low-nicotine cigarettes gained 1.2 kg over 6 weeks. Although smoking cigarettes has very harmful effects on health, you can get low doses (since high doses are addictive and toxic) of nicotine with patches .
Metformin decreased food consumption and induced weight loss in a clinical trial on 12 obese women with type 2 diabetes. Metformin may help you lose weight if you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor prescribes you this medication. You may discuss with your doctor if it may be recommended in your case .
The following drugs have also been shown to help lose weight, but we strongly advise against using them for this purpose due to their potential adverse effects and safety issues.
- Amphetamines 
- MAO Inhibitors 
- Ephedrine (banned by the FDA) 
- Sibutramine (a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that was withdrawn)