Scientifically proven ways to lose weight and improve health

By Ashley Welch

/ CBS News

Scientifically proven ways to lose weight

It's no secret the United States has an obesity problem. More than 93 million Americans are obese and millions more are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a recent study from the Cleveland Clinic shows few people are actually doing anything about it.

Researchers found that three-quarters of those they surveyed are concerned about their weight and 65 percent are worried about getting heart disease due to extra pounds. Yet, less than half actually tried to make any dietary changes to lose weight.

The findings also revealed that many Americans don't fully understand the relationship between extra weight and their overall health. Nearly 1 in 5 of those surveyed said they believe their diet has nothing to do with their heart health and more than half didn't know that obesity is linked to high "bad" cholesterol levels. Two-thirds said they didn't know being obese could lead to a stroke.

"Most Americans understand abstractly that being overweight or obese is not good for your health, but it seems we are not grasping that the leading causes of death and disability — stroke, cancer, coronary artery disease — are all adversely affected by increased weight," Steven Nissen, M.D., chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement. "We need to do a better job of educating patients and the public about the major consequences of carrying excess weight and the benefits of losing weight.

He notes that a person only needs to lose 5 percent body weight to start seeing important health benefits.

So what's the best way to shed those extra pounds?

Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian at NYU Langone Health, says while physical activity is important, it all starts with what we put on our plates.

"As much as I love exercise, diet is everything. It's not only how much you eat but it's the quality of food you eat that makes a difference," Heller told "CBS This Morning."

Dietary guidelines

The United States Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines for Americans emphasize a healthy eating plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean meats, fish, and beans.

Specifically, the USDA says most adults should be getting 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 servings of fruit per day. Or put more simply, half your plate should be filled with produce.

Trans fats, sodium, and added sugar should be limited.

Mediterranean diet

While there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone, one eating plan that has been shown again and again to have scientifically proven health benefits is the Mediterranean diet. This heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, along with healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados.

A number of studies have shown the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease and may have numerous other health benefits, including reduction of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, as well as a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and cancer. One study published in British Journal of Nutrition even found following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 25 percent lower chance of death from any cause.

DASH diet

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is another option to consider. The eating plan was originally designed to help manage blood pressure, but experts say it has many overall health benefits. The diet emphasizes healthy food sources, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry and fish, and nuts and legumes. It also limits red meat, salt, and sweets.

The DASH diet has been shown to help lower blood pressure, and research suggests it may also reduce the risk of diabetes and help fight depression.

Healthy eating habits

Experts recommend staying away from fad diets for weight loss, such as "detox" diets and the currently trendy ketogenic, or keto diet, as they are not sustainable in the long run.

In addition to following a healthy diet, scientific research has found certain habits may make it easier to shed extra pounds.

A 2018 study published in the journal BMJ Open that tracked the eating habits of nearly 60,000 people found that eating more slowly, avoiding snacks after dinner, and not eating within two hours before going to bed were all linked to weight loss.

"I like the idea of closing the kitchen after dinner," Heller said.

To stay on track, she also recommends seeing a registered dietitian, who can help individualize a healthy eating plan that's going to work for you. She advises checking with your insurance to see if it's covered. A dietitian may also work with you on a sliding cost scale.

Finally, Heller emphasizes the importance of planning ahead.

"Sit down with your family and plan what you're going to eat during the week," she said. "That's going to help with food waste, save money, and get your kids and family involved in the shopping and prep."

First published on February 19, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ashley Welch

Ashley Welch covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com

Twitter

Scientifically proven ways to lose weight

Experts say it's the quality, not just the quantity, of what you eat that matters

updated 7M ago

Ex-cop who killed teen contests rare challenge to his sentence

Jason Van Dyke's attorneys say such the challenge from prosecutors is only warranted in extraordinary circumstances

updated 49M ago

It's Ruth Bader Ginsburg's first day back on the bench

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back for arguments at the Supreme Court after lung surgery

updated 56M ago

Newspaper publisher suggests KKK should lynch Democrats

Goodloe Sutton, publisher of Democrat-Reporter newspaper, makes controversial comments to another Alabama paper

1H ago

Statue of WWII sailor kissing nurse vandalized with "#MeToo"

A day after the sailor seen kissing a woman in the iconic World War II photo died, a statue commemorating the couple was found vandalized

updated 41M ago

It's Ruth Bader Ginsburg's first day back on the bench

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back for arguments at the Supreme Court after lung surgery

updated 56M ago

Newspaper publisher suggests KKK should lynch Democrats

Goodloe Sutton, publisher of Democrat-Reporter newspaper, makes controversial comments to another Alabama paper

1H ago

Bernie Sanders raises more than $1 million in under 4 hours

Sanders formally joined the presidential race Tuesday morning, telling CBS he intends to win the Democratic nomination and the White House next year

1H ago

Some New Hampshire Dems lukewarm on Sanders' second run

Sanders, who won the New Hampshire primary by 23 points in 2016, is so far getting a lackluster response to his second bid for the presidency

updated 47M ago

Roger Stone ordered to appear in court over Instagram post

The longtime Trump adviser is under a limited gag order in his criminal case

1H ago

"Several people buried" in avalanche at Swiss ski resort

Officials in Switzerland's Valais region say snow cascaded down a slope at the Crans Montana resort, burying skiers

2H ago

Honda's U.K. plant closure adds to rising Brexit worries

The decision threatens at least 3,500 jobs, making uncertainty about Britain's divorce from the EU even worse

3H ago

Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel fashion icon, has died at 85

A decades-long fashion career led to Vogue magazine dubbing him the "unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment"

2H ago

Huawei CEO: "We will never" provide China with any information

In his first TV interview with an American journalist, Ren Zhengfei spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Bianna Golodryga

5H ago

Vatican confirms secret guidelines for priests who father kids

Church forbids clergymen from sex and marriage, but sometimes vows are broken, and until now, many children have suffered in silence

3H ago

Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel fashion icon, has died at 85

A decades-long fashion career led to Vogue magazine dubbing him the "unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment"

2H ago

Brothers questioned in Jussie Smollett case speak out

Ola and Abel Osundairo went from persons of interest in the case to potential suspects to being released without charges

20H ago

21 Savage on his immigration case: "I'm not leaving without a fight"

The rapper opened up about his time in ICE custody and how his uncertain immigration status shaped him into the man he is today

22H ago

Preserving the sounds of rare Stradivarius violins

In Cremona, Italy, the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari, an ambitious recording project aims to immortalize some of the finest musical instruments ever made

Feb 18

Jussie Smollett: Timeline of alleged hate crime on "Empire" actor

The alleged attack of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has sprawled into a three-week saga of confusing reports and contradictions

21H ago

Scientist who popularized term "global warming" dies at 87

Longtime Columbia University professor and researcher Wallace Broecker was known as the "grandfather of climate science"

5H ago

"Snow moon" 2019 will be this year's brightest "supermoon"

All 3 of this year's supermoons fall between January and March; here's how to get the best views of this one

5H ago

Misinformation online helps fuel measles outbreak

Tech companies like Facebook and Google are being criticized for the role false medical information may have played in the ongoing measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest​

Feb 18

Amazon wants half of shipments to be carbon neutral by 2030

Ecommerce giant has faced criticism for not doing enough in the fight against climate change

15H ago

Black snow falls from the sky in Siberia, and it's toxic

A pall of eerie black snow covered several towns in the Siberian region of Kuzbass, home to 2.6 million people and one of the world's largest coal fields

Feb 18

Scientifically proven ways to lose weight

Experts say it's the quality, not just the quantity, of what you eat that matters

updated 7M ago

Grand Canyon tourists reportedly exposed for years to radiation

A safety manager for the park says the exposure came from uranium rocks stored in buckets

1H ago

Salmonella outbreak hitting pet food brands

At least two makers of animal food have been affected by a widespread turkey recall that has sickened hundreds

1H ago

Mediation program helps patients fight surprise medical bills

In 2018, the Austin, Texas, program negotiated $9.7 million worth of bills, saving patients $8.4 million in medical expenses

15H ago

Can weighted blankets really help you sleep better?

Weighted blankets have become popular, but do they really deliver on their promise of reducing stress and helping you sleep?

20H ago

How to make money in the stock market over time

Watching stocks swing up and down can be scary — but not if you keep these basic investment tips in mind

1H ago

Honda's U.K. plant closure adds to rising Brexit worries

The decision threatens at least 3,500 jobs, making uncertainty about Britain's divorce from the EU even worse

3H ago

Americans shocked by impact of new tax law: "My jaw hit the floor"

The first tax filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is confusing and, in some cases, expensive for taxpayers

3H ago

Salmonella outbreak hitting pet food brands

At least two makers of animal food have been affected by a widespread turkey recall that has sickened hundreds

1H ago

After Amazon's HQ2 hunt, some states target corporate tax breaks

The retail behemoth has sparked a backlash against the kind of deal secured from New York before dumping it

20H ago

Ex-cop who killed teen contests rare challenge to his sentence

Jason Van Dyke's attorneys say such the challenge from prosecutors is only warranted in extraordinary circumstances

updated 49M ago

4 dead, including children, in western Michigan shooting

Officials in Kent County, Michigan, say they are not searching for a suspect in the shooting at a home Monday

14H ago

Vatican hopes sexual abuse summit will be a turning point

Organizers of an extraordinary summit said they hope it will mark a "turning point" in the Catholic church's approach to clergy sex abuse

17H ago

Illinois "honor system" in question after deadly workplace shooting

Aurora's police chief says Gary Martin​ shouldn't have had the gun he allegedly used to kill five of his colleagues Friday

17H ago

Brothers questioned in Jussie Smollett case speak out

Ola and Abel Osundairo went from persons of interest in the case to potential suspects to being released without charges

20H ago