How to Lose Weight

Recently a reader on Instagram asked me, “How do you stay so slim?” Which made me think it might be time to write about a closely related topic —How to Lose Weight.

How to Lose Weight

When it comes to losing weight, the new year is often a time for resolutions of weight loss as well as enthusiastic energy around dieting.

Somehow, by Valentine’s Day, if not sooner, our resolve fades. Then the warm weather rolls around and we start thinking about weight loss again.

What is Yo-Yo Dieting?

Forget about yo-yo dieting, the psychology around losing weight can be an emotional roller coaster in and of itself. And if you’re wondering, what is yo-yo dieting, it refers to the cyclical loss and gain of weight, resembling the up and down motion of a yo-yo.

How to Lose Weight Fast

People ask how to lose weight quickly, and for me, that isn’t the way I approach weight loss. I like to think about lasting lifestyle changes overall, rather than a short-term weight loss plan that is so severe it won’t ultimately be effective.

Does Your Metabolism Slow Down When You Get Older?

I was naturally thin when I was younger. Given this, I had no need to think about how to lose weight.

In the last few years though, my metabolism has become sluggish. In 2021, I turn 54. Between aging, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism (and a TSH level that has reached 20 at times) my metabolism slowed, significantly.

Tips for How to Lose Weight and How to Stay in Shape

Still, I’m at a healthy weight and remain on the slim side. Because of this, I’m often asked how I stay in shape while cooking and testing recipe after recipe on my website. And people also frequently ask me how to lose weight.

Below, you will find my strategies for boosting your metabolism and maintaining your weight, or, for losing weight if you’ve put on too many pounds.

Elana and Puma

Does Sleeping Make You Gain Weight?

Let’s start with sleep. If you’re wondering, “Does sleeping make you gain weight,” it’s actually quite the opposite. According to the National Sleep Foundation:

People who sleep less than five hours a night are almost a third likelier to gain weight (30 pounds over the course of 16 years) than those who get seven hours of shut-eye a night.

I believe that sleep is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight, and is especially critical in the quest for overall health.

How to Lose Weight with Sleep

Human growth hormone is secreted during sleep which heals inflammation and also speeds up the metabolism. Sleep deprivation is not only linked to weight gain, one study demonstrated that “short sleep duration may be associated with the development of obesity from childhood to adulthood.”1

cat kitty kitten sleep

How Much Sleep to Help You Lose Weight?

When confronted with the choice between sleep and exercise I choose more sleep. Every single time. While seven to eight hours of sleep is generally recommended per night, I get eight to nine hours nightly. Given that poor sleep is a risk factor for obesity, think twice about losing sleep to work out.

I’ve written several helpful posts on sleep, including:

Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

If you’re wondering, “can stress cause weight gain,” you are absolutely correct. When we’re stressed we may secrete excess cortisol, which can lead to weight gain.

Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain?

This happens because increased cortisol levels can cause higher levels of insulin, which causes your blood sugar to drop, leading to feelings of hunger. That’s where the habit of stress-eating can come from. You’re not hungry because you need more fuel, you’re hungry because your blood sugar plummets when you’re stressing out.

Too much stress, resulting in higher insulin levels may also lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. The stress-weight connection is real, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Full House

Can Stress Make You Sick?

I have a decent amount of stress in my life. We are empty-nesters, so it is not the stress of running after, and around with, our boys, which was great fun as you can see above.

My stress is comprised of health issues including Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis, osteopenia, the BRCA gene, and the MTHFR genetic mutation which is likely partially the cause of many of the aforementioned conditions.

How to Reduce Stress to Lose Weight

To reduce stress I sleep, meditate, hang out with my darling cat, snuggle or hold hands with my husband, and spend time with friends.

Elana Snow Hike

Does Muscle Burn More Calories Than Fat?

When we exercise, we use our muscles. Exercise builds muscle mass, a very good thing since muscle tissue burns twice as many calories as fat tissue when at rest.

Can You Lose Weight Walking?

Not only does exercise boost your metabolism and burn calories, but it also releases endorphins that improve your sense of well-being. If you’re wondering, how much do I need to walk to lose weight, the answer is –everybody’s different and start slow. I walk two to three miles a day, every day, rain, snow, or shine.

Elana Fall Walk

For cold days I bundle up in ski pants and long underwear with a hat and heavy jacket. And when there’s ice on the sidewalks I use yaktrax. I am obsessed with my Santana Boots!

Elana Summer Walk

When it’s hot out I walk in the morning or early evening, and if it’s still uncomfortable I wear my ice vest. Staying cool is critical if you have MS so that inflammatory cytokines do not increase to unhealthy levels.

Walking is my go-to exercise, but that’s not where it ends.

How to Lose Weight at Home with Exercise

When I’m not walking, I like to do gentle stretching and yoga, at home, along with very light weight lifting to maintain muscle mass. All of these are things you can do to lose weight at home during quarantine.

Does a Low-Carb Keto Diet Make You Lose Weight?

I’ve been on a low-carb keto diet for over two decades. That means no alcohol (ever), no grains (ever), and no starchy vegetables like rice and potatoes (ever). Yes, that’s a lot to cut out, but it makes my life easy. I’ve summed it up in 10 Easy Keto Recipes to get you started.

What to Eat to Lose Weight

I know what to eat to make my body burn fuel in a clean way that optimizes my performance both mentally and physically. What many view as a diet, for me is a habit that has turned into an easy lifestyle.

It works so well that my husband now eats the way I do –no starchy foods for either of us, which is not a problem since I have the Best Low-Carb Healthy Swaps for the Keto Diet.

The Case for Keto

Gary Taubes: The Case for Keto

According to weight-loss researcher and New York Times bestselling author Gary Taubes, it’s not fat that makes us fat, it’s carbs.

Carbohydrate-rich foods create a hormonal milieu in the human body that works to trap calories as fat rather than burn them for fuel…if we want to avoid being fat or return to being relatively lean, we have to avoid these foods.

Intermittent Fasting

I began intermittent fasting in 2014, and it’s a key component of my healthy lifestyle. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as skipping breakfast or not eating any food after dinner.

I wrote a helpful post on intermittent fasting benefits and how it contributes to weight loss and much more, called Intermittent Fasting for Beginners. It’s a great starting point if you’re thinking of adding intermittent fasting into your routine.

Can Drinking Water Help You Lose Weight?

Staying well hydrated by drinking water can be helpful for weight loss. First, thirst often presents itself as hunger. Once you’re hydrated you’ll likely find that your hunger diminished, if not eliminated. Water is fantastic for these reasons and more::

  • 100% calorie-free
  • appetite suppressant
  • improves metabolism2
  • ideal replacement for sugary beverages

Further, a recent study found that staying hydrated increased participants’ metabolism by 25%.3
Low-Carb Strawberry Lemonade

What is the Best Flavored Water to Lose Weight?

Now and then I mix up my hydration strategy with a batch of my Strawberry Lemonade. This low-carb drink is so amazing that I used to serve it to the boys and their friends at our parties and no one was any wiser to the fact that it was sugar-free lemonade. The only thing they said was, “more please!”

You can also experiment with these fun flavored waters:

  • Cucumber Orange
  • Mint Lemon
  • Ginger Lime

Habits for Weight Loss Success

In the end, it is my belief that weight loss and healthy weight come from healthy habits, not binge diets, cleanses, or temporary plans to restrict food intake.

For me, healthy habits have established a healthy lifestyle that has become part of my day-in-and-day-out routine, actions that are so automatic I no longer need to think about them.

Lifestyle Weight Loss Tips

Finally, to recap, here are my favorite lifestyle weight loss tips that work well together:

  • Sleep
  • Reduce Stress
  • Gentle Exercise
  • Low-Carb Keto Diet
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Drink Water

Your Weight Loss Success Stories

That’s what works for me, but we’re all biochemical individuals. What’s working for you? What are you struggling with? Leave a comment and let me know!

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paleo cooking from elana's pantryGluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

An especially wonderful article.


22 responses to “How to Lose Weight”

  1. I’m sorry you are at your wits end. I’ve been there. I have been following Elana for many years & she is truly an inspiration. I’m 73 with autoimmune issues. Went thru menopause at 52. It took me quite some time to realize that there is no sure fit and we are all different. For example, eating fermented foods is trendy and very good for your gut. BUT not for me. I have a yeast allergy along with candida. Eating fruit and say sauerkraut, both which are low in calories, will cause a quick weight gain for me along with complete lethargy. I eat “almost” grain free. The only grain I eat is a rice cake that I have with an egg in the morning. I have some knee issues but do jazzercise on line, modified, along with walking. You can go to You Tube and virtually gently walk through countries. I used to consume way too many nuts. I would roast them myself but learned I can only do a few a day. That was hard for me. My cholesterol went up a lot so I’m doing a test to see if cutting back on the fat of all the nuts I was eating will bring the numbers down. We are all a work in progress and you sound like you are diligent and I trust you will find a solution to help you.

    • Linda, thank you for your inspiring and thoughtful comment in support of myself and others. I remind myself every day that there is no one “thing” that will cure me or work as a magic bullet. It’s just the patience to keep listening to myself so that I know what works best for me. There are so many twists and turns, hills and valleys on this healing path; glad to be on it with you and Kat and all my other readers :-)

      • Key is listening to our bodies……I am approaching 73……I always listened to my body when younger…..I am still listening, but not following……..I am struggling with lack of motivation. I know what I need to do, but I am not motivated. I have early stage Parkinson’s Disease……I could easily sleep all day at this point.

        • Margaret, thanks for sharing your story here. I understand what it’s like, MS is exhausting and sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed or off the couch. Those are the days I spend 15 minutes not listening to my body, and going for a super slow walk instead of resting. Usually I feel better when I’m on the other side of that walk, and I try to remind myself of that the next time. Sending you hugs and I hope you’ll keep me posted on how you’re doing :-)

  2. Hi, Elana, this is an Especially wonderful article– I used to be chunky, lost about 30% of my body weight, and have kept it off with fluctuations— these days I am at the much slimmer side of the range.

    If input is invited, Here is something additional I find necessary.
    I used to eat endlessly and MINDLESSLY.
    For me, I have found that noticing my food, appreciation it, only eating while eating is very very helpful. So, for example, I don’t read while eating. If we had TV, I would leave it off while eating…….
    That’s it– well, I all try to get myself to sit at the table when I eat— but don’t always.

    I will say that these slower work-from-home days also help.

    And in my religion, we are prescribed to rest one day a week—- Taking a nap is the norm on Saturdays for sure! That is a delight!
    Wishing you and all your loved ones Moments of Peace, joy and delight.
    And vibrant good health,

    • Ruth, input is welcomed, especially from long time readers like you! Thanks for the great mindful eating tip –it is so helpful. Take good care and be well :-)

  3. Hi! What are your thoughts on Keto during pregnancy? I have adhered to Keto for years not pregnant and stayed at a great weight, but now pregnant, have started integrating carbs again and my weight gain has skyrocketed. Not loving it!!! Would love to go back to Keto if it is fine for the baby.

    • Jane, TBH, I’m so far past that point in life that I haven’t thought about it. Now in menopause. If this was my situation I would speak to a very experienced functional medicine doctor since most traditional doctors do not have the nutrition training to entertain the keto diet as a treatment let alone lifestyle :-)

  4. Dear Elana: Thanks for your insights.I’ve been athletic all my life, and a devoted walker though now knee injuries from skiing etc have left me with arthritis in both knees.The effect of knee injuries has now precluded me from yoga which was my passion and solace, as was walking, this all happened at 51. Lots of grief about not being able to do the physical things I have loved. Weight gain has been a slow& steady. I turned 60.I did loose 25 lbs with Keto and unfortunate for me ( I am that 3% of the population that raise my cholesterol on Keto from 110 to 320) my GP suggested the Mediterranean diet or Paleo. I have realized that grain, though not I am intolerant does inhibit my weight loss, as does fruit. I did find intermittent fasting helpful and made not eating at night a personal committment for a year or more. Long story short I found rowing and swimming, covid hit and so did my gaining weight. I am at my wits end with a metabolism of a gnat at this point. I eat all organic and keep food diaries. It really feels horrible for an otherwise accomplished educated woman to not be able to once and for all conquer my weight. It feels like my body holds on to ever ounce and I have to work 3x’s as hard to even lose a pound a week. Its disheartening. Menopause at 57 has caused insomnia and i average about 6-7 hours a night, usually about 6. I rarely drink alcohol. I have digressed, do you have any suggestions. I will not give up, Thank you, Kat

    • Kat, I’m so very sorry to hear about all that you have been through. I imagine it’s especially frustrating given that you’re doing everything right. I am the same as you, eating carbs packs on the pounds for me, so avoid them. The only next step I can think of is a good integrative medicine doctor. Please stay in touch and keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  5. Thanks Elana for your very helpful information and recipe for lemonade. We had a Meyer lemon tree planted in our yard last year and are just beginning to enjoy its bounty so will definitely use your recipe. I noticed you mentioned you had Hashimotos. Both my husband and I were recently diagnosed with Hashimotos. Have you found that a Keto diet helps and do you have any tips about the foods that should be avoided. Our Dr. only said to avoid Himalayan salt and use ionized instead. Thanks so much for any helpful tips you have.

    • Sharon, you’re so very welcome! Making lemonade with those lemons sounds amazing. Per Hashimoto, my Mom and Dad both have it too. For me the best thing is to avoid sugar, and yes, staying on top of iodine is key, checking TSH and all the other thyroid numbers at minimum 2x per years is also important for me :-)

  6. I’m wondering if I’m the only one who saw “MTHFR” and thought it was a new creative way to express a certain swear word . Anyway, thank you for sharing such personal information.

    • Lota, you are so amazing! Sometimes people do refer to it as “that” swear word gene, since it is so challenging to deal with :-)

  7. Hi Elana, thanks for sharing all of this great info. For IF, what are your target intervals — 8/16, 10/14, 12/12 or what? And if you have coffee, tea or dandy with any kind of milk in it, in the morning, do you consider that ok within the fasting interval or do you consider that as breaking the fast?

    • Susan, thanks for your comment! It changes all the time, but usually somewhere around 10/11 hours eating and 13/14 fasting. I don’t count any liquids even coconut milk as breaking the fast :-)

      • Thanks for clarifying those things Elana! I asked because I’ve tried 8/16 at various times, which has been touted as the optimal intervals, but I have found that to be counter-productive for my mind and body. It increases my stress and makes me feel anxious. Instead, my typical windows are like yours. But during the “fast” I drink coffee with whole cow’s milk. I don’t ever try to force specific intervals; I just do what feels natural, and like you, that fluctuates within a narrow range of intervals. The main difference is that whole milk is less “keto” than coconut milk or heavy cream. But unfortunately, I don’t like straight cream or any non-dairy milks or straight fats in my coffee and I can’t stand drinking it black; for my taste buds the only thing that tastes right in it is full fat whole cow’s milk. So my fasting intervals are probably not as ideal as yours.

        • Susan, of course, happy to help. Like you it really depends on where my body is at. I’d say 10/14 is a goal, but that’s not what happens every single day. My fasting intervals are probably not as ideal as many other folks, but given that I’m in my mid-50s and dealing with a bunch of medical issues, I try to be gentle with myself –not at all easy given how tough I am on me. Love talking with you and thanks for each and every one of your comments over these years :-)

  8. I don’t think I’ll ever be as thin as you are, I have never been slim. At age 62 I am 5’8″ and 130-131 pounds so I am not heavy. I have never been a dieter so my metabolism is still intact. I am fairly active. I have always walked and aim for 10,000 steps a day on my pedometer. I also do some yoga and Pilates and also work with light weights and exercise bands. I do try to consume a lot of fiber every day, I aim for 50 grams., as constipation was common for both my parents. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, meat, some grains and legumes. I have had to cut out gluten, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and shellfish over the years due to various reactions.

    Happy New year and thank you for your blog.

    • KD, thanks for your comment! It seems like we are almost exactly the same size. I’m an inch taller and weigh a few more pounds than you do. Thanks for sharing so much info about what works for you, I love hearing from other people and gathering information. Take good care :-)

  9. Happy New Year Elana! Thank you for always sharing of yourself in your posts. I also appreciate the time and expansive information you put into posts like this one. I have Lyme Disease, MTHFR, and a host of other issues. I too have found that I no longer do well in the heat and will end up in a flare if I get too warmed up. I love being out in the sun and getting my vitamin D but my inflammatory cytokines disagree. It is always a balancing act. So I cherish the good days and endure the hard ones knowing that there are better days ahead.
    Thank you again! Take care and may your 2021 be a happy and healthy one.

    • Erin, I think we are heat-sun-D twins and more. I’m so grateful for your comment and feel very lucky that we are on this healing path together. Take good care :-)

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