What really produces lasting weight loss

What really produces lasting weight loss
Illustration by storyset on Freepik

Over the last 3 years, I've coached dozens of clients to achieve and maintain weight loss of 20+ pounds naturally. Today, I want to share the most important factors for weight loss that the science backs, and that I've seen play out again and again in my firsthand and secondhand experience.

When people first commit to losing weight, they're often willing to jump right onto the latest trend. They may start fasting for 16 hours a day, buy the latest superfood shake, or sign up for an extreme fitness regime.

In a landscape dominated by aggressive marketing that promises health, beauty, and happiness, it's hard to ignore the allure of quick fixes. The fitness industry is greedy, and it is designed to capitalize on your insecurities by presenting you with flashy, new solutions each and every year. But while these product offerings allow you to feel good about yourself momentarily, they skirt around the ingredients needed for real, lasting change.

One of the most common mistakes I see is people putting the cart before the horse when it comes to weight loss. Many people direct their time and attention toward things that have little to no payoff, while putting off the big things that will really move the needle for them. People are often willing to spend hundreds of dollars a month on pills and powders and pricy gym memberships, all while continuing to make poor food choices, binge drink on weekends, and get by on a measly 5 hours of sleep. I'm sorry, but this just isn't going to work.

The pyramid of weight loss priorities

I like to visualize weight loss priorities as a pyramid. You need to start with building a strong foundation, as the effectiveness of each level depends on having first established all the levels beneath it.

It's easy to be drawn to the upper levels: supplements, meal timing (e.g. fasting protocols), and physical activity. These are the quick punches that feel effortful enough to be life-changing. But if you want to be successful long-term, you'll want to focus on the base levels first. First, the closely connected trio of sleep, stress, and recovery lay the necessary groundwork for your body to respond to any other lifestyle changes. Then, nutrition (which includes the quantity and quality of food you consume) acts as the main mover for body weight and body composition changes.

Sleep, stress, recovery, and nutrition are the foundational elements of weight loss.

When they are well-managed, you can lose weight effortlessly without changing anything else. When you neglect them, however, your efforts in other areas may be wasted. A lack of quality sleep disrupts your energy, hormones, and appetite. High stress with insufficient recovery hinders your body's ability to respond to exercise. Poor nutrition undermines pretty much everything else.

You can have the ultimate, hardcore fitness routine and the most expensive supplements that money can buy. But if you don't eat right and sleep well, you will still struggle to lose weight, or at the very least, struggle to keep it off.

So before you commit to a new gym or a new superfood powder, make sure you have the basics down and are ready to benefit from those changes.

Curious to read more? Check out my previous writing for simple and practical tips on improving your sleep and nutrition.