The New Year means we get a blank slate, a chance to make changes in our lives that come in the form of resolutions. While a resolution can be just about any goal or desire you have, some are more common than others. One of the resolutions made the most in the United States is weight loss. A recent study found that 37% of Americans made weight loss their top 2021 resolution (1). People often choose this resolution due to the numerous physical and mental benefits of losing weight – such as a reduced risk of diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc.), lowered inflammation, improved mood, mental health, and even reduced knee pain!
Although so many of us start the new year with all the right intentions of keeping these resolutions, studies have shown that less than 25% of US adults will stick to theirs by the end of the year (2). Because weight loss can be such a transformative way to improve your health and happiness, we want to share with you the most effortless changes you can make in your life this year to lose weight. That way, we can help you keep that weight loss resolution in 2021. And that change is easy – simply eat more fruits and vegetables!
Before we explain why consuming more fruits and vegetables is the best change to make for faster weight loss, it helps to understand how weight loss works in the body. The food we eat is measured in calories (cal), a unit of energy that the food provides. The only way to lose weight appropriately (from body fat) is to put your body in a calorie deficit. This means you are burning more calories every day than you are consuming. A pound of body fat is equal to about 3,500 cal; therefore, to lose a pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories total (3). This is why it is important to consider food for weight loss.
Many people believe that the best way to enter a caloric deficit is to burn their calories through exercise. However, research has shown that only 10-30% of the total calories we burn is from physical activity (4). What's more, “physical activity” accounts for more than just exercise, as it also includes walking, working, and even movements as small as fidgeting – meaning exercise has even less of an impact on the calories burned than most people realize. We also burn a small number of calories by digesting the food we eat. However, we burn the MOST calories from what is known as our basal metabolic rate. This is the energy used to keep your body functioning (breathing, thinking, pumping blood, etc.). Because so few calories are burned through physical activity, it is much more useful to limit our caloric intake to lose weight, rather than trying to burn calories after they've been consumed. And, this is why some foods are better for a weight loss diet than others.
If there is one change you can make to your lifestyle to promote fast and lasting weight loss in 2021, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Eating more produce is a great way you can lose more weight without exercise. Currently, only one of every ten adults in the US is getting their daily recommended servings (5). There are many benefits to eating more fruits and vegetables, but here are the top reasons to do it when it comes to weight loss.
Fiber is an excellent way to promote faster and lasting weight loss. Fiber is essentially the part of plants that we cannot break down through digestion, so it completely passes through us. When we eat high amounts of dietary fiber, our metabolism increases as our bodies work to move it through our bodies (6). By increasing our metabolism, we boost our basal metabolic rate – meaning our bodies begin to burn more calories throughout the day. Fiber, therefore, turns your body into a calorie-burning machine! Eating high amounts of fiber is also associated with higher feelings of fullness after eating, which helps us eat less food and fewer calories (7). By taking in fewer calories, it is much easier to reach that coveted calorie deficit.
There is a common misconception that fullness when eating is the same as satisfaction. While they are similar, there is an important yet subtle distinction. Fullness is a physical sensation that signals the body is at capacity and physically cannot take in more food. However, Satisfaction is a mental state that you have had enough food, even if you could technically eat more (8). The problem with eating processed foods and empty calories are that, although we might feel full after eating these kinds of foods, we may not feel satisfied. This is because empty calories do not provide our bodies with adequate nutrients, so we continue to crave more food (9). When we keep craving food, we keep eating food – thus taking us further from a calorie deficit. Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that promote satisfaction, which helps us eat less food over time. They offer the best nutrition for weight loss!
Another benefit of fruits and veggies is that they are typically much lower in calories than other foods*. This means you can eat high amounts of fruits and vegetables without taking in more significant amounts of calories. Many processed foods are filled with sugar and fat, which pack many calories into a small package. This can make it easy to eat a very high number of calories in a single meal. Opting for fruits and veggies as low-calorie foods can allow you to eat a much larger quantity of food while keeping your calorie intake low, which will help you lose weight much faster.
* some types of produce are higher in calories, such as avocados and coconut.
Along with fruits and vegetables, there are other things you can add to your lifestyle to lose weight faster. Staying hydrated is an essential factor since dehydration is associated with weight gain (10). Managing stress, especially amid COVID-19, is also crucial to being able to lose weight effectively. Stress can lead to poor eating habits such as mindless snacking, emotional eating, and turning to junk food for comfort. Stress also causes the release of a hormone called cortisol, which causes our bodies to hold onto body fat, making it harder to lose weight (11).
Lastly, we know that while fruits and vegetables are great for you, there are times where we crave junk foods – and that's completely normal! Finding healthy alternatives to your favorite treats will help you curb your cravings without hurting your progress. Our candy, FAVES, is an ideal weight loss-friendly food when you have a sudden urge to snack on something sweet! Finding what works best for you will help you find the best success on your weight loss journey.