Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lela Lankerani, D.O.
Weight loss can be an excellent way to improve your health, but most people find it very challenging. Fortunately, anyone can lose weight with the right combination of knowledge and motivation. Being informed on how to lose weight effectively and permanently is the key to success. There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding dieting, but if you do careful research, you’ll feel confident that you’re on the right path.
Here is a complete guide to losing weight and keeping it off:
The Math Behind Weight Loss
Although many people struggle to live a healthy lifestyle, shedding pounds is actually fairly straightforward. Staying motivated is the most difficult part of dieting, but fat loss is mostly a math equation.
To lose weight, all you have to do is burn more calories than you consume. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to lose a pound, you have to eat 3,500 fewer calories than you burn. You can either create this caloric deficit by eating fewer calories or by burning more calories, but most people choose to do both.
One of the most common mistakes is creating too dramatic of a caloric deficit. It may be tempting to drastically cut your calories or exercise for hours every day to speed up your weight loss, but this is uncomfortable and potentially harmful to your health. The amount of weight per week you can safely lose depends on your starting weight, but the general recommendation is not to lose more than 1 or 2 pounds per week.
Another common obstacle people face is seeing the number on the scale fluctuate from day to day. Your weight can change by several pounds based on the amount of food and water in your system, so some fluctuations are expected. If you weigh yourself every day, look for long-term trends in your weight instead of daily changes.
Best Foods for Fat Loss
While some foods are certainly healthier than others, fat loss is all about calories. You could lose weight eating only junk food as long as you burn more calories than you consume. However, healthy foods will keep you energized and satiated. Many people are able to lose weight without counting calories by eating healthier meals. It’s easier to eat fewer calories when you stick to lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Some of the most popular foods include chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, avocados, and eggs.
The best foods for fat loss ultimately depend on your own preferences, though. Try to find the healthy foods that you enjoy the most so that you stay motivated. Losing weight requires permanent lifestyle changes if you want to maintain a healthy weight for good, so learning how to make healthy meals you genuinely like will make it much easier to achieve and maintain your goals.
Foods to Avoid
As long as you stay within your caloric goals, you can lose weight on any type of diet. Some foods make it much harder to reduce your calories while staying full, though. Simple carbohydrates in desserts and junk food don’t offer much nutrition, but they can quickly run up your caloric totals.
Fats can be risky when trying to lose weight, too. Foods with a high fat content, such as cheese, nuts, and avocados, are very satiating, so you don’t have to eat a large volume to feel full. However, it’s also very easy to overeat these high-calorie foods, so you should be careful with portion sizes.
Does Exercising Matter?
You don’t have to exercise to lose weight. Many people choose to exercise to increase their caloric deficit, but you can drop pounds only by reducing your food intake. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, though, and it can help you maintain a healthy weight once you’ve achieved your goals.
Any type of exercise can aid in your journey. Cardio exercise elevates your heart rate, which burns calories during the workout. Strength training exercises help you build muscle, which allows you to burn more calories as you go about your daily life.
A common misconception is that exercise allows you to spot reduce fat on certain areas of your body. For example, some people do abdominal exercises because they think it will reduce their belly fat. Unfortunately, you can’t control where you lose fat. You can build muscle in targeted areas, but your fat loss will likely happen fairly evenly across your body.
The mathematics of fat loss is simple, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy. Motivation is the biggest obstacle for almost everyone who attempts to lose weight. When you start your journey, you may feel completely determined to succeed. You eat nutritious foods at every meal, and you start exercising regularly. As the novelty of the routine wears off, though, you may lose your enthusiasm.
Finding ways to stay motivated is the true answer to how to lose weight effectively. Everyone has different motivators, so you should try more than one approach to find the mindset that’s most helpful for you.
You may choose to set smaller milestones that lead up to your ultimate goal, which gives you an opportunity to celebrate your successes along the way. Connecting with friends or family members who are also trying to lose weight can be a great way to make the experience social. Remember why you want to lose weight, too. Remind yourself that you’ll feel healthier and more confident as you get closer to your goal and that the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight are worth the effort.
Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
Dietary supplements don’t need to be approved by the FDA to be sold, so you should always research supplements before using them. Weight loss supplements won’t do all the work for you as you still need to create a caloric deficit to lose weight. They can help with certain aspects of the process, though, like regulating your appetite and increasing your energy levels.
You should speak to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen. Although these products are available over the counter, it’s important to confirm with a professional that they’re safe for you to consume.
Losing Weight Postpartum
If you have questions or concerns about postpartum dieting or fitness, speak with your doctor. It takes time for your body to recover from childbirth, and dropping weight too quickly can slow down the healing process. Most doctors recommend that you wait at least two months after childbirth before actively trying to lose weight. Then, focus on slow and steady fat loss, making sure that you still consume enough calories to stay healthy and energized.