A question that I am asked all the time is: What’s the best way to lose weight? More than 100 million dieters typically make four to five attempts at weight loss per year, fuelling a $20 billion industry of consumer products and services. Unfortunately, many of their claims have little scientific basis or are unsustainable. But if you are ready to achieve and maintain a more ideal body weight, I have some tips that may help.

Know your numbers

Before embarking on any weight loss program, you should have a few simple blood tests to be sure you’re physically ready. The natural tendency is to assure ourselves no harm will come, but occasionally we find an underlying health issue that could be standing in your way. For example, sub-optimal levels of vitamin D, thyroid, and other hormones may all prevent you from taking off weight or keeping it off. Understand also that just because your lab numbers fall in the “normal” range, it doesn’t mean your levels are optimal for successfully losing weight or for keeping it off.

Follow the fat

Whether your goal is to get off cholesterol medication, feel good, live longer, or just look better in your swimsuit, the number on the scale may not be the best one to watch. Doctors typically follow your body mass index (BMI), a ratio from measured weight and height. But BMI too has limitations because muscle mass and fluid status will vary. The best approach is to measure your total body fat percentage. Body fat measurements are typically done using bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) equipment by doctors specializing in medical weight loss; this enables you to follow and track what really counts.

Catch a coach

Successful weight loss hinges upon making behavioral changes and that is just difficult for us to do! Humans have adapted over billions of years for survival in part by resisting changes. Your brain is actually programmed to continue your old long-standing eating and exercising behaviors even if you’re consciously convinced it should change. For this reason, a lifestyle/nutrition coach can make all the difference in the world. A good coach will motivate you, keep you on task, and make you accountable until the new healthier behavioral patterns are set in place; they too will then be hard to change!

Pile on the protein

Protein is the single most important nutrient when it comes to losing weight. A high protein diet boosts metabolism by as much as 100 calories per day and reduces hunger. One study showed that consuming 25 percent or more of your calories in protein reduces obsessive thoughts about food by 60 percent and cuts late-night desire for snacking in half. Another study demonstrated an average eight-pound weight loss and an increase in lean muscle by just replacing a part of total calories with whey protein. So simply adding protein to your diet may be in itself one of the easiest ways to lose weight.

Surrender the sugar

Sugar, particularly in liquid form, may be the single most fattening aspect of the standard American diet. One study found that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60 percent increased risk of obesity in children. This applies to fruit juice as well, which can contain as much sugar as a soft drink; so avoid them altogether. Eat whole fruit instead, but in moderation. Apples and pears are the best because of their high fibre content; people who eat more fibre-rich foods tend to lose weight easier.

Support your sleep

Poor sleep is linked to an 89 percent increased risk of obesity in children and a 55 percent increased risk of obesity in adults. This makes sleep deprivation one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. Better sleep also promotes more energy and increased activity throughout the day. If you are having sleeping troubles, consult your doctor – there are many causes for insomnia that need to be considered.

You’ll look better, feel better, and enjoy more quality years of life if you have an ideal body weight. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve tried to lose weight in the past; successful weight loss is possible and worth the effort. You may be ready to see a doctor who offers specialized evidence-based weight loss programs. Our programs at Peak Health Group bring together medical oversight, specialized testing, detoxification, hormone balancing, lipotytic (fat burning) injections and even medications all with the professional services of lifestyle/nutritional coach Carrie Hogan for your optimal success.

Patrick Yassini, MD, is board certified in family medicine, integrative and holistic medicine and is fellowship trained in metabolic medicine, anti-aging and regenerative medicine. He has practiced in Coronado since 2000 and is the medical director at Peak Health Group, 131 Orange Avenue, Suite 100, Coronado; (619) 522-4005