Losing weight is not easy or fun. You may want to get it over with as quickly as possible, and may have been typed “how to lose weight fast” into Google for ways to speed the process up. Sure, there are tons of fad diets and extreme weight loss methods out there promising to get the job done in a short period of time, but they really can backfire and take a toll on your health.
“Fad diets that tout rapid weight loss often involve cutting out entire food groups or severely reducing caloric intake,” explains Danielle Crumble Smith, RDN, a nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching. “Unless you have a known food allergy or intolerance, eliminating an entire food group can result in you missing out some key nutrients that are beneficial for energy and overall health.”
Unhealthy methods of weight loss can also lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other health problems, especially if they involve skipping meals, fasting, or other unsustainable practices, says Jordan Hill, RD, of Top Nutrition Coaching. “Extreme weight-loss methods can lead to disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food, which can have long-lasting negative effects on mental and physical health.”
Additionally, drastically cutting back on calories may have the opposite effect you want on your body. “Your metabolism slows in an effort to conserve energy for essential functions such as breathing and walking around. This can have cascading negative impacts on other aspects of our health such as our thyroid and hormones,” explains Smith.
Trying to drop pounds too quickly can also result in muscle loss. And that can further slow down your metabolism and make it harder to maintain weight loss in the long term, adds Hill.
You’ll most likely end up re-gaining the weight, and then some. “When we cut out foods that we love or don’t consume enough calories, we get hungry! Under-consuming calories can also lead to low blood sugar, which signals our body to produce stress hormones such as cortisol,” says Smith. “Excess cortisol can actually make it more difficult to lose weight and is linked to weight retention around the mid-region.”
So if you’re trying to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way, you shouldn’t expect to see serious pounds melt away in the course of a week.
“To set yourself on a trajectory for long-term success, aim for a weight loss of one to two pounds per week,” says Crumble. “It takes 3,500 additional calories (on top of what we need to survive) to gain just one pound of fat. To lose one pound of fat, we require that same deficit.” That’s why it is often recommended that you reduce your daily caloric intake by 500 calories, or burn an additional 250 calories while reducing your calorie count by 250.
If you want to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, here are 16 fitness and nutrition tips to follow from experts.
Meet the experts: Danielle Crumble Smith is a nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching. Jordan Hill is also a nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching. Kami Blease is a personal trainer on Fyt.
Follow these tips from personal trainers to lose weight, and keep it off.
1. Find physical activity you can do consistently.
Maintainable weight loss is best done when it comes through changes that will actually stick. “Start smaller than you might think. Often people overcommit because they are excited. However, it’s then easy to get burnt out,” says Kami Blease, a personal trainer on Fyt.
She encourages her clients to start with one day a week, especially if they haven’t been consistently doing any movement so far.
“Then after a few weeks, add in a second day. When that feels seamless, add in a third. Keep going until you feel like your days of movement fit the lifestyle you desire, and it feels sustainable,” says Blease. “You can increase the time you are doing the activity as well. Your body eventually adapts to whatever you’re doing, so constantly increasing intensity over time is a good way to ensure you continue to get stronger and see results over time.”
2. Get walking.
“Walking more frequently is a sustainable, approachable way to burn more calories and stick with your weight-loss goals,” says Tatyana Johnston, CPT, the sports performance lead at OMORPHO. “It’s also low impact and is not a super strenuous form of movement, which increases the chances that someone will stick with it.”
A brisk 30-minute walk a day (even if it’s broken up into three 10-minute walks) has been shown to increase calorie burn and push you closer to your weight loss goals, Johnston notes.
“You can bring your dog and a podcast and make it fun! To increase intensity, walk faster or longer. Just remember to recover with hydration, fuel, and stretching,” she says. “Be super consistent with your walking, and be okay with the fact that the distance and location might change occasionally. Don’t let a short walk derail you from your motivation, and remember how good you will feel when you’re done!”
3. Ask a trainer for help.
“Having a trainer helps create a program that is specific to your needs and ensures that you are more likely to get the results you are looking for and keep your body safe in the process,” says Blease. “There are a variety of trainers out there, so take the time you need to find someone who fits your goals, training style, and budget.”
Working with a trainer at least once a week ensures that you are getting in that movement consistently and that your form is also correct, she adds.
“It’s typical to have programming outside of those sessions, so decide on a number of days that fits your goals and lifestyles, and ask your trainer to help hold you accountable,” she says. “Working with a trainer has so many benefits beyond weight loss, but if that is the focus, they will likely help you put more muscle on your body, which helps you burn more calories even at rest, resulting in possible weight loss.”
4. Get your heart rate up.
The easiest way to do this? Cardio. “If sustained on a regular basis, cardio can help you lose weight and maintain that weight loss,” says Johnston. The average recommendation for cardiovascular activity is 150 to 300 minutes a week (two and a half to five hours a week), per The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
However, this number can vary based on someone’s individual health, and the intensity of the cardio, Johnston notes. “Consistency is key! If you can establish and stick to a cardio schedule, you have a better chance at losing weight and keeping it off. Secondly, make your cardio fun! Play sports, grab a friend, or listen to a podcast while doing your cardio. You will be more inclined to stick with this habit if you enjoy it.”
5. Start making weights a part of your routine.
While it’s important to enjoy the movement you do, lifting weights consistently has so many benefits. “It helps with balance and stability, improves metabolism, and even lowers your risk of certain diseases,” says Blease.
It’s easy to assume that lifting weights makes you bulky, so many women avoid going to the gym or grabbing heavier weights.
“This is not typically the case unless your body is predisposed to that body type or you are intentionally lifting to gain muscle mass in that way,” Blease says. “I always recommend practicing weighted exercises without the weights first to get comfortable with the form.”
Try lifting weights three to five days a week. This ensures that you are able to target specific muscle groups multiple times and focus on progressive overload, which means gradually increasing the weight, frequency, or number of reps over time. “This will constantly keep the body adapting and your muscles growing,” she adds.
And eating is also a huge part of supporting your body as you start adding in weights. “Make sure you are doing a programmed routine consistently and eating to support putting more muscle on your body,” adds Blease. “Don’t cut back on calories; your body needs them to function and to ensure that you can build healthy muscles over time.”
6. If you’re short on time, ramp up the intensity.
While these aren’t for everyone, HIIT workouts are a great way to build muscle and expend a lot of energy in a short period of time.
“As long as you feel you can maintain proper form, it’s a great way to get in a workout for people with busy schedules,” says Blease. “Even one day is better than no days, but aim for about three days if possible with more low-intensity movement one to two other days. You can ramp up the intensity by trying to get in more reps during a certain amount of time or using heavier weights while maintaining the same time goal. Both will increase your intensity and continue to challenge your body.”
If you love HIIT workouts, make sure you are also implementing rest days. “Make sure to use your recoveries properly and don’t overdo it,” she says. “People can get so fixated on weight loss that they end up hurting themselves. Take time to stretch, rest, and recover as needed.”
7. Persevere through setbacks.
When you encounter a setback in your weight-loss journey (like when you skip a few days of workouts), it can be discouraging and all-consuming, and can cause you to fall off track.
“We think if we veer from our plan in one element of our lives, the day is ruined and we might as well veer from the whole plan,” says Johnston. “One of the most crucial components of successfully reaching a goal is to not let setbacks ruin our progress. The setback is often not as severe as we think, and will not impact our end goal very much at all. If we meet the setback with the understanding that we are all human and mistakes are normal, we can simply move forward with our healthy mindset and plan.”
Giving yourself grace and returning to your plan will help reinforce your goal and remind you that this weight-loss journey requires patience and perseverance. “Practice giving yourself and others grace when they slip up! As long as it doesn’t become a habit, you will continue moving forward towards your goal,” says Johnston.
8. Think ‘lifestyle movement.’
This means looking at the overall lifestyle you want and building movement into it. “Some people have very little desire to go to the gym and lift weights or go to a workout class. That’s fine! Hiking, swimming, skiing, surfing, or biking are all forms of movement that might feel more sustainable,” says Blease.
It’s all about finding ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life, like taking the stairs every day at work, walking around the block two times on your lunch break, or holding a plank first thing in the morning.
“All these things add up over time and can feel more reasonable for someone who is not your typical gym goer,” says Blease. “When it comes to lifestyle movement, I recommend finding things you could do almost daily. You can always increase intensity by increasing the amount of time you spend doing these activities or the number of activities you try to do in a day.”
Nutritionists share the eating habits that can get you to your goal.
1. Make protein a major part of your diet.
Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, and also include protein with snacks. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and fats and helps keep us full for longer.
“It’s much easier to make healthy choices when you’re not hungry! Additionally, protein foods help support stable blood sugar levels,” says Smith. “High-carbohydrate meals spike insulin levels, and one function of insulin is that it triggers fat storage.”
An additional benefit of consuming a higher-protein diet when focusing on weight loss is that protein helps maintain lean muscle mass which results in a higher resting metabolic rate, she adds.
2. Practice intuitive eating.
Listening to your internal cues of hunger and fullness can help you control portion sizes. “Honoring fullness can help prevent overeating and ensure that you’re not consuming more calories than your body needs,” says Hill.
3. Don’t skip meals.
“When you skip meals or go too long in between meals or snacks, you get overly hungry. This makes it much more difficult to make healthy choices, and it also makes it harder to not overeat later,” says Crumble. Skipping meals can result in a slower metabolism, and can often leave you feeling fatigued, which can negatively impact your workouts both in effort and recovery.
If eating consistent meals is tough for you, try setting alarms and packing snacks. “Set alarm reminders on your phone or schedule meal or snack breaks on your calendar so that you don’t forget,” says Crumble. Also, set yourself up for success by bringing healthy snacks with you when you’re away from home, so you’re not caught in a situation where you are really hungry but have no access to healthy food.
4. Stay hydrated.
“Drinking enough water can help you to feel full and prevent overeating,” says Hill. Aim to drink about half your body weight in ounces of hydrating fluids per day.
5. Ditch (or greatly reduce) sugary beverages.
“Juices, sodas, fancy coffees, etc. often are the calorie-equivalent of a meal, yet, they will still leave you hungry,” says Crumble. “Moreover, the sugar content is often more than a candy bar, which will cause blood sugar levels to rise. If sodas or fancy coffees are staples in your diet, the simple act of removing those could result in a caloric reduction of at least 250 calories per day, which brings you halfway to the recommended 500-calorie deficit.”
Instead, make sure you find other beverages that you enjoy so that you’re staying hydrated. Fruit-infused waters, sparkling water, herbal teas, coffee with cinnamon, milk of choice, and monk fruit are ways to excite your palate without overloading your body with sugar, she says.
6. Limit processed food intake and enjoy them in moderation.
Processed foods are often high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and empty calories, which can contribute to weight gain, says Hill. “Instead, focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods that will provide your body with the nutrients it needs.”
7. Balance your meals with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
For any eating pattern to remain successful long-term, you need to feel satisfied. The combination of protein, carbs, and healthy fats helps regulate appetite and also supports more stable energy levels throughout the day.
“When you have more energy, you move more and push harder in workouts. When you’re satisfied, you’ll also find that pesky cravings for sugar also decrease naturally,” says Crumble. “Keep it simple and prep in bulk if you’re able. Allocating one day to prepare several different protein and carb options will make it so much easier for you to balance your meals during the week. Use different fats and flavorings to add variety.”
8. Fill half of your plate with colorful veggies.
In addition to providing a host of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, vegetables also provide fiber and water.
“Fiber is more slowly digested and helps keep you feeling full for a longer period of time,” says Crumble. “Vegetables are a very low-calorie way to add volume to your meal as well, which leaves you more satisfied. Increased vegetable intake is also linked to lower blood sugar levels, lower LDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and increased HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Vegetables also help promote liver detoxification.”
To eat more veggies, she suggests you try to switch up the vegetables that you consume and eat the rainbow. “The different colors of vegetables (and fruits) is due to different antioxidants which help protect your body from cellular damage,” says Crumble. “If veggies are a struggle, try pureeing and adding them to sauces or shredding and adding them to meatballs.”
Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness. She is currently based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and American history.
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