If you're gearing up for a beach trip or big reunion, slimming down may be high on your list of priorities. While fat loss doesn't happen overnight, making the right lifestyle changes will help you lose pounds and inches over the coming weeks. Once you've reached your desired size, continue on a healthful path to ensure the weight doesn't return.
Find Your Pace
For healthy weight loss, plan to shed 1 to 2 pounds per week. This goal allows enough calories in your diet for proper nutrition while still producing significant results on the scale. When you shed weight more quickly, as with crash diets, you lose more muscle and water than fat. Your metabolism will slow as your body tries to conserve energy, so you're likely to gain all the weight back -- and possibly more -- soon after you resume a normal eating pattern.
One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, so you'll lose 1 to 2 pounds per week by eating 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than you expend every day. While calorie burning varies with body composition, activity level and other factors, most people can estimate their burn by multiplying weight in pounds by 15. For example, a 160-pound person burns roughly 2,400 calories each day and will lose 1 to 2 pounds per week eating 1,400 to 1,900 calories per day. For your health, however, don't consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day if you're female or fewer than 1,500 calories per day if you're male.
If you're like most Americans, you consume too much sodium. Excess sodium leads to water retention, which can add several pounds to your frame. When you cut back to healthy sodium levels, however, your body will flush the extra water, prompting quick weight loss. Limit yourself to no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, the tolerable limit for most people under 50; if you're over 50, consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. An easy way to reduce sodium intake is to eat fewer processed and prepared foods, and choose natural, fresh fare instead.
Work It Off
Along with a healthy diet, exercise is crucial for weight loss. You'll see optimal results by engaging in 300 minutes of moderate cardio, such as brisk walking, or 150 minutes of vigorous cardio, such as running, each week. Strength-training exercises such as lifting weights, performing yoga or doing situps and squats are also important because they build muscle mass; muscle tissue is more active than fat tissue, so your metabolism will increase. Perform these exercises two to three times per week, working all major muscle groups.