How to lose weight

How to start, what to eat, what not to do, and much more in our comprehensive guide to losing weight.

  • How to start losing weight
  • What to eat for weight loss
  • The fads you should avoid

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Why is losing weight so hard?

Obesity is a big health problem both for individuals and for society as a whole. In fact, Australians are gaining weight faster than the rest of the world. So why are Aussies struggling so much? 

In short, because losing weight can be hard. It sounds so simple: eat less and move more. But in reality, it’s far more complicated than that. This comprehensive guide will help show you the best methods on how to lose weight and how to maintain weight loss results for the long term

What you'll learn in this guide:

What are the benefits of weight loss?

Losing weight isn't about becoming as thin as a stick insect, it's about finding a healthy weight that you're happy with that enables you to live the life you want to live. For some that means simply being able to be more active. For others it means reducing the risk of obesity-related illness in the future.

The great news is that weight loss comes with many benefits beyond the number on the scales. Typical health benefits of losing weight include:

  • better sleep 
  • improved mood 
  • decreased food cravings 
  • reduced risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and certain cancers 
  • increased sex drive and fertility. 

According to studies, almost 60% of respondents reported improvements to their prediabetes as a result of following the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet while about 55% reported improvements to type 2 diabetes as well as high cholesterol. Other conditions including sleep apnea, mental illness, high blood pressure, and chronic body pain have also improved as a result of weight loss.

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Top 7 conditions improved by weight loss: Pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, mental illness, sleep apnoea, chronic body pain

How to start losing weight

The most important part of starting a weight loss plan is to simply just start. Right now is as good a time as any. It's easy to put it off because life is busy at the moment, but if you think about it, when isn't life busy?

Research shows that CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet members who got off to a stronger start at the beginning of their weight loss program lost more weight than slow starters by the end of the program.

Establish a weight loss mindset

Getting mentally prepared for weight loss is just as important as getting your kitchen prepared. Starting with the right mindset can help to increase your chances of success. By preparing for a marathon, not a sprint and recognising that your weight loss journey won’t always be smooth sailing, you’ll be ready for the obstacles that may appear and be more likely to overcome them. 

Take the CSIRO Diet Types quiz. It can help you to identify your diet personality, along with your strengths and weaknesses, so you can strategise for success. 

Remove temptations

When first learning how to lose weight an important step is to remove temptations in the house. This makes it more difficult to snack on unhealthy or high sugar and high Kj foods that can actively work against weight loss. Healthy alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, or yoghurt to snack on throughout the day can help curb food cravings in a healthier way

Establish clear motivation

The desire to lose weight can be a result of extrinsic motivation, or external factors, or intrinsic motivation, or internal factors. Extrinsic motivation typically is focused on a specific outcome and the reward comes from outside sources such as validation from others or avoiding consequences. Conversely, intrinsic motivation centers around the process and the self. Its rewards are found by satisfying the basic needs of capability and autonomy. Research has found that most often intrinsic motivation is more successful when it comes to achieving goals including weight loss. Determining your reason to lose weight can help set you up for success early on by providing the right type of motivation.

Track food

When discussing how to lose weight food tracking is an important habit that allows you to keep a close eye on your weight loss progress by identifying both strengths and weaknesses in your daily eating habits. A food log serves as a constant reminder of your daily Kj intake and the types of nutrition that your body is receiving. Food tracking is an easy way to understand your current eating habits. It allows you to spot patterns that are preventing you from losing weight, for example, are you skipping meals which is resulting in too many processed snacks later in the day? Are a few too many indulgences sneaking in throughout the week?  

Set specific goals

Setting goals is one of the most important ways to trigger new behaviours or habits while also providing a level of focus in what you are trying to achieve. Setting a specific goal for your weight loss will let you plan out specific steps necessary to lose weight. Most importantly, a goal allows you to focus on creating long term habits that will allow you maintain healthy results.

Identify good and bad habits

Identifying both positive and negative habits can help to sustain long term change. Positive habits may include drinking water instead of a sugary drink or noticing when a food craving comes about due to boredom or stress. Identifying negative habits, such as giving in to food cravings, are also important to notice in order to prevent reinforcing negative behaviour. 

If you need some inspiration from successful CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet members, their top weight loss tips include:  

  • Take it one day at a time.
  • Make exercise a non-negotiable appointment.
  • Cook ahead for busy days.
  • Exercise in the morning when nothing else can get in the way.

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What should I eat to lose weight?  

Finding an eating plan that you enjoy and you'll be able to stick to is key to sustainable weight loss. When discussing how to lose weight you must understand that following strict diet rules that recommend avoiding a long list of banned foods will only leave you feeling deprived, deflated and hungry. And while reducing kilojoules (or calories) is pivotal to weight loss, counting them every day can get tedious. Kilojoule counting also doesn’t take into consideration the quality of your food choices. For example, you could eat chocolate all day until you reach your targeted number of kilojoules for weight loss, but even chocoholics would agree this isn’t the healthiest approach!  

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is a higher protein, low GI eating plan that helps you get the right balance of foods in the right amounts each day. While many other weight loss programs rely on kilojoule counting to help you eat less, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet uses a special food groups system to help you get optimal nutrition from delicious whole foods. Research shows that a combination of low GI and higher protein meals is the best way to reduce both body weight and feelings of hunger when on a diet. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet also distributes protein evenly across all meals for an even greater reduction in hunger.  

Low GI foods are carbohydrate-containing foods that take longer to digest. This slow digestion means you feel fuller for longer.  

Low GI foods for healthy weight loss

Examples of low GI foods include:

  • dense grainy breads
  • oats 
  • beans 
  • basmati rice
  • yoghurt.  

Examples of protein-rich foods include:

  • beef
  • chicken
  • eggs
  • tofu

By combining low GI foods with lean protein-rich foods you’ll feel fuller for longer. Without this hunger-busting combo, chances are you’ll end up hungry again soon after you’ve eaten. 

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Benefits of Protein Balance: Better appetite control, metabolic boost, reduced cravings, improved body composition, reduced energy intake

Weight loss tips to avoid

There’s no shortage of unsavoury advice when discussing how to lose weight. For example, fat has been vilified for decades but science now shows that cutting out fat is counterproductive, particularly if you replace it with sugar!  

Most popular diets can help you lose weight but often only for a short time. Drastic changes to your diet, like cutting out whole food groups, tend to be a short-term fix and unsustainable. An eating plan that comes as close as possible to a lifestyle that you can realistically live will be the one that works. 

See how the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet compares to:

Other trendy dieting techniques like detoxing or avoiding sugar, dairy or wheat and gluten can lead to weight loss initially, but what you’ll find is that while these approaches have some positives, the drawbacks are simply too many. 

This is because these approaches to weight loss don't offer a complete package. Ditching a whole food group, like dairy for example, means it's easy to lose out on important nutrients – and of course miss out on foods you love to eat. 

But eating isn’t just about the best nutritional value. For many it’s also about enjoyment and social connection – like eating out with friends or family – so being able to enjoy what you eat is crucial for a long-term healthy relationship to food. 

Total bans on certain foods make everyday life that much harder. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet allows a small daily serving of indulgences (think: chocolate, pizza, or alcohol) because healthy, sustainable weight loss is all about implementing lifestyle changes you know you’ll stick to. Completely denying yourself of any chocolate or pizza might help you lose weight, but total deprivation is unsustainable and is likely to start to have a negative impact on your overall happiness and wellbeing. 

What if I have a lot of weight to lose? 

When you have a lot of weight to lose, the idea of reaching your goal weight can seem daunting and discouraging. But breaking down your bigger weight goal into smaller milestones will keep you motivated along the way.  

How to start making weight loss goals

When creating your weight loss goals, start with an initial goal of 5 percent weight loss. So, if your starting weight is 100 kg, set your sights on losing 5 kg. From here, break it down into smaller weekly milestones of up to 1 kg a week. Once you’ve achieved your 5 percent weight loss, you can reassess your goal and perhaps set your next long-term goal by aiming for another 5 percent. Remember, these small losses add up and come with big health benefits!  

Achieving these manageable milestones – especially at the beginning of your journey – goes a long way towards building momentum, inspiring self-confidence and maintaining motivation. 

What if I just can’t lose weight? 

If you've tried to lose weight before without success it’s completely understandable that you'd be hesitant to try again. Being scared of failing is perfectly normal – especially when it comes to a challenge such as weight loss. 

Feeling hungry and being time-poor are common reasons people don't stick to a diet long-term. So finding a plan, like the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, that keeps you satiated, takes the guesswork out of grocery shopping and cooking and is scientifically proven to work, can give you the confidence you need to try again and succeed this time. 

It’s important to be prepared and plan ahead for potential barriers that can derail your weight loss efforts. Without a solid plan in place it can be difficult to deal with daily stressors that can trigger your cravings, particularly when you're surrounded by endless temptations and triggers to eat. 

How to stay motivated for weight loss

  • Keep sight of your destination. Remember why you’re trying to lose weight and improve your habits. Try to visualise a better future self – how are you hoping to transform emotionally, mentally and physically? When you feel yourself losing a bit of motivation along the way, you can return to this ‘why’ to help get you back on track.  
  • Track your progress. Always focus on your long term progress and don't pay too much attention to the day-to-day or week-to-week fluctuations as these can be misleading. 
  • Be prepared for setbacks. Plan ahead for times you know will be difficult, such as when winter arrives and you know you’ll crave comforting foods and want to spend less time outside. In this situation, you could prepare ahead by finding exercises to do indoors and cooking healthier versions of your favourite comfort meals.  
  • Find a community. Having people who have already gone through, or are going through, the same journey as you is an invaluable resource. A supportive community, like our Facebook Private Group, will keep your spirits high and spur you to keep succeeding when your motivation drops.
  • Practice self kindness. Everyone experiences setbacks from time to time. Be kind to yourself when you have a slip up along your journey so you can rebound and quickly get back on track. 

Should I get help to lose weight? 

If you want to lose weight, first discuss it with your doctor to find out if you have any underlying medical issues that could complicate a weight loss program. 

If you need more personalised support, the Total Wellbeing Health Coaches, who are university-trained Accredited Practising Dietitians, will be able to work around your specific circumstances.  

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Premium program offers access to three free sessions with a Health Coach. 

5 practical weight loss tips:

  1. Get mentally prepared for your weight loss journey.
  2. Track what you eat to understand your eating habits. 
  3. Have a plan in place to maximise your chances of success. 
  4. Set yourself SMART goals.
  5. Arm yourself with long-term motivation strategies.