Resolution time is upon us, and this year, more than 50 percent of Americans are making weight loss their number one goal, and even more – 60 percent – want to get healthier. If you're one of them, chances are you're putting a premium on eating healthier foods, avoiding processed junk, and making a commitment to exercise, which are proven ways to lose weight and keep it off.

Because there are expert-approved strategies that work – and traps that are proven not to work – when it comes to lasting weight loss and overall wellness, here are five tips to help you achieve your health and wellness goals, from Nicole Osinga, RD, and creator of The Beet's Plant-Based Diet. Follow her best advice when it comes time to lose weight and keep it off this New Year.

Here are five expert tips, along with research that backs up Osinga's expert advice, on how to make 2022 your healthiest year yet. Use these strategies to get on track and stay on track.

Expert Tip #1. Make Healthy Eating a Lifestyle, Not a "Diet"

First and foremost, do not leap into a draconian plan, like a fad diet or a deprivation mindset, since research has shown that fast weight loss doesn't work, and can backfire. Studies have revealed that fad diets don't work since they deprive the body of healthy nutrients.

A follow-up study that tracked contestants on The Biggest Loser found that fast weight loss led to a slower metabolism. Even those contestants who managed to lose drastic amounts of weight quickly gained it back, and their metabolic rates remained suppressed, years later, meaning their bodies burned 500 fewer calories a day, while their hunger hormones remained higher than was healthy – indicating that losing weight by starving yourself not only isn't sustainable but can leave your body in worse metabolic shape than before.

So instead of putting yourself on a strict diet, or depriving yourself, think about adopting a healthy lifestyle that entails eating mostly plant-based foods full of healthy fiber that fills you up and keeps you satisfied for longer. Then if you have a treat every now and then, instead of telling yourself you've blown it, just take it in stride and get back on track, according to Nicole Osinga, RD and creator of The Beet's Plant-Based Diet, a 14-day weight loss program that allows for small cheats along the way.

Why a Plant-Based Diet Works for Healthy Weight Loss

The reason why a plant-based diet works for reaching your weight loss goals is that the diet consists of eating mostly healthy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds plus whole grains, all of which are high in fiber. When you eat a high fiber diet and avoid processed foods, it can keep your blood sugar steady and avoid insulin spikes, which signal the body to store fat rather than burn it.

Plant-based diets have been linked to reducing the risk of diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance, all while promoting healthy and natural weight loss. Eating plant-based whole foods also means staying away from processed foods full of artificial additives and stripped of their natural nutrients and engineered to make you want to eat more.

Diets high in full-fat dairy and meat have been linked to certain cancers and heart disease, while plant-based diets have been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes as well as certain cancers.

Expert Tip #2: Focus on Eating Fiber-Rich Foods

Eating more fiber is one way to lose weight because it helps us feel fuller longer, which ultimately helps your body burn fat and boost your resting metabolism. When fiber is consumed, the food in your gut gets broken down into a gel-like substance that slows down the process of absorption, so the body absorbs calories more slowly, promoting fullness and keeping blood sugar steady.

If you eat simple processed foods such as sugar or chips, that are absorbed at a fast pace, your body gets more calories than it needs and doesn't have time to signal it's full, so you eat more. When fiber is consumed, the body doesn't experience sugar spikes and insulin surges, which can lead to weight gain, inflammation, and eventually diseases like type 2 diabetes. Eating a whole food plant-based diet is one way to reduce appetite because fiber only exists in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains – and keeps you feeling fuller longer.

Expert Tip #3. Eat Plant-Based to Keep Blood Sugar Steady

A plant-based diet has been linked to keeping your blood sugar steady, which helps you lose weight and lowers your lifetime risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Because you change the way your body metabolizes glucose – by keeping blood sugar steady – you avoid insulin spikes that signal that the body needs to store excess energy as fat, according to a study.

One reason that eating plant-based is healthy for natural weight loss is that many plant-based foods are rich in magnesium, which has been shown to be helpful for regulating blood sugar and insulin levels in people who are overweight or obese, according to studies. Foods high in magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and avocados – and many other plant-based foods, including tofu. Eating a diet rich in magnesium can help your body achieve natural weight loss since this essential mineral has also been linked to a lower risk of diabetes and obesity.

Eating Plant-Based Lowers Risk of Insulin Resistance

More than 100 million Americans now live with insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes or diabetes. Insulin resistance results in weight gain because as your body releases more and more insulin to signal that there is too much blood sugar in circulation, it stops listening to the signal, essentially requiring a louder knock on the door before it responds. This means that even if you are eating less, insulin gets triggered, telling the body to store fat more readily. The result is weight gain, along with unnecessary hunger cues.

To reverse this trend and lower insulin resistance, people who eat plant-based foods can reduce blood sugar spikes, control insulin surges and ultimately reduce inflammation in the body which can help lower disease risk, A diet full of processed foods or high inflammatory foods like cheese and red meat raises the risk of insulin resistance. In order to lower your risk of insulin resistance and prediabetes, eat a plant-based diet full of anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, whole grains, legumes fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Expert Tip #4 How to Start Eating Plant-Based? Keep it Simple

The first step to go plant-based is to commit. Find your reason for wanting to remove animal products from your diet for your health, the planet, or for animal welfare, or simply because you want to lose weight the healthy, natural way. When your purpose is complete, educate yourself about the pros and cons of eating plant-based because eating vegan doesn't always mean healthy. (After all, table sugar is technically vegan. So are Twizzlers.)

Meal prep in advance, one or two days a week, Osinga advises. Shop for the week on Sunday and make that your biggest day for chopping, cleaning, and storing your veggies, fruit, and other ingredients so that during the week it's super simple to make a quick snack or meal before your get so hungry you're ordering in. Instead, plan your meals in advance, make the ingredients easy to access, and clear the pantry of junk food like chips and cookies or other temptations that could get in the way of your reaching your healthy eating goals.

Stick to whole foods that come from nature rather than foods made in labs like faux burgers or factories like potato chips. For a helpful weight loss guide, check out The Beet's 2-Week Plant-Based Diet and you'll get meal plans, shopping lists, expert tips (from Osinga), and everything you need to lose weight in just two weeks. In addition to this plan, check out these healthy plant-based meals for weight loss that include:

Expert Tip #5: Introduce Fitness into the Equation

In addition to eating a plant-based diet, add exercise to the equation to live your healthiest life, and see the results of your weight loss goals sooner. Optimal exercise helps build strong muscle which boosts metabolism and helps burn fat, according to a study.

Exercise can be as easy as walking around your neighborhood to get your heart rate up, or stretching in your living room to improve circulation and blood flow. Either way, you're ultimately building stronger legs and endurance which over time boosts metabolism.

To raise your heart rate more and burn fat faster, try high-intensity interval training, which adds short bursts of exertion followed by short rest intervals, such as jumping jacks and then rest, burpees, mountain climbers, and other moves that are easy to do at home in your living room.

For ideas on how to exercise, watch any one of our 5-minute easy workouts by Caroline Desiler and Berto Calkins.

Bottom Line: To Lose Weight, Go Plant-Based and Focus on Eating Healthy

Expert advice and studies both tell us that diets don't work in the long run. What does? Eating a healthy diet, high in fiber, which is only found in plant-based foods like fruit, vegetables, as well as whole foods eaten in their most natural unprocessed form. Try a 14-day plant-based diet from The Beet to start your health weight loss journey in 2022, then keep on going.

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