Whether you're thin but carrying too much abdominal body fat, which is a condition called normal weight obesity -- or you're relatively fit but trying to lose the last few pounds -- if you want to lose weight, you'll need to make some lifestyle changes. Creating a calorie deficit, sticking to unprocessed meals, avoiding bloat-inducing foods and stepping up your exercise routine can tone you up and trim any excess weight from your frame. As you become leaner, though, you might find that the amount of work you need to do to see results takes away from other enjoyable aspects of your life.
Cut Calories to Lose Weight
Whether you need to lose 5 pounds or 50, the key to fat loss is to create a caloric deficit. That means you'll need to burn more calories than you eat, so you are forced to burn stored fat for energy. Consult a professional or use an online calculator to estimate the calories you need to maintain your weight -- this will vary, based on your age, gender and activity level. Then, subtract calories to create a deficit. General weight loss guidelines advise a daily calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 or 2 pounds per week, respectively, but those goals might be too aggressive if you're already thin. Instead, go for a daily deficit of 250 to 500 calories to lose 0.5 to 1 pound weekly. And never go under 1,200 or 1,800 calories daily for women and men, respectively; you'll risk slowing down your metabolism, which will make it more difficult to lose weight.
Once you've set your target caloric intake, make sure you stick to it. Measure your portion sizes to ensure that you're eating the correct amount -- simply "eyeballing" your portion size might cause you to eat too much without realizing it. Also, weigh starchy produce, such as sweet potatoes, to make sure that you're recording the correct portion size and calorie intake.
Banish Bloat to Look Thinner
Your weight-loss diet should be made up primarily of unprocessed, whole foods such as nuts, beans, skinless poultry, lean beef, fish, eggs, whole grains, nonfat dairy, fruits and vegetables. These foods offer nutrients that nourish your body, and protein and fiber to keep you full, so you'll feel satisfied, even on a reduced-calorie diet.
Healthy foods also naturally limit your intake of sodium, which is found in processed and packaged foods, as well as in fast foods. Although cutting sodium won't directly trigger fat loss, reducing your sodium intake helps limit water retention, which could otherwise make you look heavier than you actually are. You should also avoid carbonated beverages -- even diet sodas -- since the carbonation can trigger bloating.
Step Up Your Workout Routine
Exercise will help you lose weight, even if you're already thin. If you're already performing steady-state cardio, which is keeping roughly the same level of intensity throughout your workout -- incorporating high-intensity interval training -- or HIIT, can help you burn more fat. HIIT helps your muscles burn fat and carbs more effectively, so you'll burn more energy during your workout. After you've warmed up, try working out at a high intensity for 1 minute, then recovering at a slow or moderate pace for 2 minutes, and repeating 6 to 8 intervals before cooling down.
Strength training two to three times weekly also boosts your metabolism, which can help you achieve and maintain your new svelte physique. Compound moves that work multiple muscle groups -- such as push-ups, dead lifts, inverted rows, squats and lunges -- burn the greatest number of calories to help you lose weight, while also triggering new muscle growth. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest, strength training for muscle growth increases your metabolism.
The best workout for you depends on your current activity level, as well as on your flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness. Consult a doctor to get medical clearance before you start a new fitness routine, and talk to a fitness professional to get a personalized plan.
Other Weight Loss Tips and Considerations
When you're already thin, you'll have a more difficult time losing weight than if you were obese, and carrying too much body fat. If you're already watching your diet and following an exercise program, you might need to make other changes to shed the last few pounds.
Examine your sleep schedule and your stress levels. Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of gaining weight, and chronic stress can affect your hormone levels, and may make you feel hungrier. Make sure you're getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, and try meditation or yoga to relieve stress.
Keep in mind that getting a ripped physique might require other sacrifices, too. To stick to your diet, you might need to avoid social situations that involve food or you might need to take time away from other hobbies to make time for exercise and healthy cooking. It's up to you to decide whether those sacrifices are worth the effort, and to find the right balance between time spent on fitness and health vs. other hobbies, to give you the fulfillment you desire.