When you're trying to lose weight, you may be tempted to go for extreme diet measures to see almost-instant results and lose weight as fast as possible. If you want long-term results, though, you're better off with a slow and steady approach to weight loss. Losing 30 pounds requires months of effort -- and if you're already close to your goal weight, it might take you more than half a year to meet your weight-loss goals.
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Recommended Rate for Weight Loss
For the best results, you should aim for a moderate weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds of fat each week, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing weight slowly means you'll be more likely to keep those excess pounds off, notes the CDC. Slower weight loss gives you time to develop sustainable healthy lifestyle habits that you can continue throughout your life, which reduces your risk for weight gain. It also means you're less likely to practice extreme dieting measures that put you in "starvation mode" and cause your body to hang on to excess body fat, and it lowers your chance of losing significant amounts of muscle, which ultimately lowers your metabolism.
If you're following a relatively aggressive weight loss plan and losing 2 pounds per week, a 30-pound loss will take 15 weeks, or around 3 1/2 months. If you lose 1 pound a week, your weight loss journey will take 30 weeks, or around seven months. If you hit a few weight loss plateaus -- or you're losing weight at a slower rate per week in general -- it could take a year or more.
People who have overweight or obesity will likely lose the 30 pounds on the faster end of that spectrum. On the other hand, if you don't, your 30-pound loss will likely happen more slowly.
Create Your Weight Loss Plan
To figure out how to set realistic goals for your 30-pound loss, use your daily calorie needs to create a tentative weight loss schedule. How fast you lose weight depends on the size of your calorie deficit -- the gap between how many calories you take in and how many calories you burn. Use an online calculator to figure out your daily calorie needs, then decide how to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.
Each pound of fat lost corresponds to 3,500 extra calories burned, so a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds weekly requires a 500 to 1,000 calorie deficit each day. The size of the deficit you'll be able to create depends on how many calories you currently burn daily. Don't go lower than the minimum needs for adequate nutrition, which is 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men.
For example, a highly active, 6-foot tall 25-year old man who weighs 185 pounds and works out more than an hour each day burns approximately 3,860 calories daily. He could create a 1,000-calorie deficit by eating 2,860 calories each day and lose 2 pounds a week, achieving a 30-pound weight loss in 15 weeks.
However, a 1,000-calorie deficit might be too aggressive for some people. A sedentary 60-year old, 5-foot tall women who weighs 165 pounds burns only 1,746 calories per day. Cutting 1,000 calories from her daily intake would take her way below the 1,200-calorie minimum. Instead, she could cut 500 calories from her daily intake and eat 1,246 calories per day to lose 1 pound a week, or eat 1,246 calories daily and burn 500 extra calories through exercise to create a 1,000-calorie deficit and lose an average of 2 pounds per week.
Make sure you choose a daily calorie intake that feels doable. If, after you've started your diet, you're finding yourself drained and hungry, try for a smaller calorie deficit and slower weight loss that you can sustain for several months.
Eat High-Protein Meals
Make sure your meal plan includes adequate protein to help you lose the 30 pounds and keep it off. Protein fuels your active lifestyle by providing amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. Your body also uses protein to support your immune system, which can fend off illnesses that might otherwise derail your weight loss efforts.
Start your day right with a high-protein meal; it might help you lose weight even if you currently skip breakfast, according to a study published in Obesity in 2015. The researchers compared the effects of a high-protein breakfast to a lower-protein breakfast in 57 adolescents who typically skipped breakfast. Over the 12-week study period, the high-protein breakfast group ate less during the day and reported feeling fuller than the low-protein group or the breakfast skippers, suggesting that the higher-protein diet might help with weight loss.
Start your day with an omelet stuffed with high-protein ingredients, like chopped chicken breast and low-fat cheddar cheese. Add other filling ingredients like veggies, or serve your omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast or a piece of fruit. Whole grains, fruits and veggies all contain fiber, another nutrient linked to weight loss.
Since protein helps you feel full, you should include it at other meals and snacks to feel satisfied. Snack on a hard-boiled egg, a handful of almonds or veggies with black bean hummus. Serve a tuna salad sandwich -- made using cottage cheese or plain yogurt in place of mayo -- on whole-grain bread with an ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese for lunch, and try grilled salmon or tofu served with quinoa pilaf and roasted veggies for dinner.
Even the best-laid plans for your 30-pound weight loss can get derailed if you regularly give in to cravings. The types of foods most dieters crave -- usually sweet or salty "junk" foods, fast food fare or fatty deserts -- tend to take up a big portion of your daily calorie budget without filling you up. This only increases the odds that you'll overeat later in the day. And while the occasional treat won't stop you from losing 30 pounds, regularly succumbing to cravings can prevent you from creating the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
For example, a package of peanut butter-flavored candies has 229 calories, while a 2-ounce serving of sour cream and onion chips contains 300. If you're planning for a 500-calorie deficit and you eat one of these treats in addition to your regular meal plan, you'll take a significant chunk out of your weight loss for the day. If you ate a large order of fast food fries -- 497 calories -- in addition to your regular meals, you'd negate your planned 500-calorie deficit entirely.
Defeat cravings by creating a meal plan that allows for one to two snacks throughout the day, and keep a healthy snack on hand -- whether that's a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds or another favorite healthy snack -- to help you stay away from junk food. If you're fixated on a specific food, try satisfying your craving with a small serving -- such as a fun-size candy bar, or a kid's size order of fries -- to prevent binging later on. Just make sure you count your indulgence as part of your daily calorie intake to avoid overeating. Chewing sugar-free gum and getting regular exercise can also help fight cravings to keep you on track.
Work Out to Lose 30 Pounds
Regular exercise burns calories, so it helps you create the 1,000-calorie deficit you need to lose 30 pounds in 15 weeks. For the best calorie-burning results, go for aerobic cardio sessions that get your heart pumping. A 125-pound person can burn 315 calories in a vigorous 30-minute stationary cycling session, and a 185-pound person can burn 466 calories in the same amount of time. Longer periods of brisk walking, leisurely biking and intensive housework like shoveling snow and yard work also count toward your daily activity level.
Incorporate strength training into your exercise routine, too. Lifting weights helps you get strong and feel more fit -- which can make cardio workouts more enjoyable -- and also helps you retain muscle mass, which naturally burns more calories throughout the day to raise your metabolism and help you lose weight. Use compound exercises -- such as pushups, squats, lunges, deadlifts and rows -- to work multiple muscles at a time, and perform two to three strength workouts each week.
Dealing with Plateaus
Weight loss isn't always smooth sailing, and you might run into weight loss plateaus in the months when you're trying to lose 30 pounds. Plateaus are normal and can occur when your body gets used to your new healthy lifestyle habits. Work through these plateaus by switching up your routine. Take the opportunity to experiment with unfamiliar healthy ingredients, or try re-arranging your diet program -- you might decide to switch from three medium-size meals and one snack, for example, to three smaller meals and two snacks.
Switch up your workouts, too -- if you're currently logging all your cardio hours on the treadmill, try using the elliptical or rowing machine. Rearrange your strength training workouts to boost your calorie burn. Instead of resting between sets, march in place or perform jumping jacks to keep your heart rate high and your metabolism revving.
You should also reassess your diet habits when you reach a plateau, too. Pay close attention to your portion sizes and log the foods you eat; you might unwittingly be underestimating your calorie intake, which stalls your weight loss. Measure your portions, eliminate any extra snacks, and you'll be back on track to reach your 30-pound goal.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- Obesity: A High-Protein Breakfast Prevents Body Fat Gain, Through Reductions in Daily Intake and Hunger, in "Breakfast Skipping" Adolescents
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial
- Wall Street Journal: How to Fend Off a Food Craving
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- University of New Mexico: New Insights Into Circuit Training
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Candy, Chips, French Fries)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight