After a quick search on the internet, you may find dozens of diets that promise to help you lose a lot of weight quickly and easily. But if you're looking to drop 50 pounds in six months, you want to avoid certain diets that sound too good to be true.
The easiest way to lose 50 pounds — and keep it off — is to adopt healthier eating habits and an exercise regimen you can stick to long term as part of your lifestyle. Before starting any weight-loss plan, consult with your health care provider for guidance.
Your 50-Pound Weight Loss
Losing 50 pounds may sound like an impossible task, especially if your past attempts at weight loss have been unsuccessful. But you're not alone in your battle against the bulge. More than 70 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Like you, many have tried various methods to drop their unwanted pounds.
When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady leads to long-term results, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). If you lose weight too quickly, you're more likely to lose more water and muscle, not all fat.
Though you're likely to lose some muscle when you follow your 50-pound weight-loss plan, losing too much can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. As noted in a December 2018 review published in Nutrients, losing too much muscle affects your overall health, including your psychological and emotional health.
It also makes it harder for you to keep the weight off because losing muscle lowers your metabolism, so your body burns fewer calories. When your weight creeps back up, those extra pounds are more likely to be fat than muscle, affecting your overall body composition.
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you aim for losing no more than 2 pounds a week so you lose the fat and not the muscle. At a rate of 2 pounds a week, you can drop 50 pounds in six months.
However, most experts agree that when it comes to dropping those unwanted pounds, you need to keep your weight-loss goals realistic. Both the NIH and AND recommend keeping weight-loss goals at 5 to 10 percent of your current body weight over six months.
So, if you currently weigh 250 pounds, aiming for a 13- to 25-pound weight loss over six months is a healthy and realistic goal. Though it's not impossible to drop 50 pounds in six months, not reaching your goals may affect your motivation.
Finding a Diet Plan
From your social media feed to the ads on TV, you certainly have many options to help you with your 50-pound weight loss. However, you may find all of these weight-loss options a bit overwhelming and wonder which plan is best for you. Should you go with a low-carb or low-fat diet or just cut calories?
In February 2018, JAMA published a clinical study that investigated the effects of a low-fat versus low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss over a 12-month period. This study included over 600 overweight adults randomly assigned to follow a low-fat or low-carb diet.
Throughout the 12-month study period, health educators met with each diet group to discuss strategies specific to their plan aimed at helping them achieve long-term weight loss. The health educators also encouraged the study participants on both diet plans to include more high-quality, whole foods.
At the end of the 12 months, researchers found no significant difference in weight loss between the two diet groups, noting an average weight loss of 12 to 13 pounds. Though each diet plan had a different macronutrient distribution, both groups ate 500 to 600 fewer calories a day and consumed high-quality, nutrient-rich foods.
Based on the results of the JAMA study, you can lose weight whether you choose the keto diet or low-fat diet. However, you should choose the plan that fits your lifestyle and food preferences.
If you enjoy eating more fish, chicken, lean red meat, healthy fats and veggies with small amounts of fruits and grains, then the keto diet may work best for you. However, if you prefer fruits, veggies and whole-grains over chicken, fish and red meat, then you may have more long-term success following a low-fat plan.
Read more: Ketogenic Menus & Meal Plans
Calories Still Count
Though both groups in the JAMA study followed different types of diets, it's important to note that both groups reduced their daily calorie intake by 500 to 600 calories a day. No matter what plan you follow to help you with your 50-pound weight loss, calories still count.
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories, exercising to burn more calories, or both. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 1 pound of fat has about 3,500 calories. Creating a 500-calorie daily deficit leads to a 1-pound weekly weight loss. To lose 50 pounds in six months, you need to create a 1,000-calorie daily deficit in order to maintain your weekly 2-pound weight-loss goal.
Cutting 1,000 calories from your diet may be difficult and unsustainable. It may also make harder for you to meet your daily nutrient needs for good health.
The NIH says women can safely lose weight and meet all their nutrient needs eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day and men can lose weight eating 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day. Eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day isn't recommended unless you're being closely monitored by your health care provider.
To create the calorie deficit you need to lose 50 pounds in six months, you need to add exercise to burn calories. The participants in the JAMA study were encouraged to engage in 150 to 300 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
What does that mean? A 30- to 60-minute brisk walk, hilly bike ride or aerobics class five days a week. Adding in two days of strength training — lifting free weights or performing body resistance exercises — helps you maintain more of your calorie-burning muscle mass.
Making Lifestyle Changes
In addition to diet and exercise, a good weight-loss program should also include behavioral therapy, says NIH and AND. There are many factors that influence your weight, including your genetics, sex, health, age, diet choices, activity, habits and culture.
Though many of these factors are out of your control, behavioral therapy can help you understand how these factors affect your weight-loss efforts. Counseling also helps you develop strategies to change the things you can control. For example, you might keep a food and activity journal, track your weight (even after you've reached your goal) and find healthy outlets to manage stress.
Your sleep habits may also affect your weight loss. According to the NIH, lack of sleep may cause you to overeat. In addition to diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies, you can aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night on your 50-pound weight-loss plan.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-Loss Plan"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What a Healthy Weight Loss Plan Really Looks Like"
- Nutrients: "Body Composition Changes in Weight Loss: Strategies and Supplementation for Maintaining Lean Body Mass, A Brief Review"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "What It Takes to Lose Weight"
- JAMA: "Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"