Trying to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time is a bad idea. It's not a healthy approach to weight loss. Worse, if you lose weight fast, the odds are very high that you will simply gain back the pounds you lost.
So if you are thinking of weight loss in terms of a year, you are on the right track. Slow weight loss (i.e., 1 to 2 pounds per week) can be achieved in a healthy manner, and you'll build habits that will help you keep the weight off permanently.
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Always talk to your doctor before starting a weight-loss plan to make sure it's the right decision for you and to discuss any health issues you should keep in mind during your journey.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
If you stick closely to your diet and exercise plan and lose 1 to 2 pounds a week — which is considered a healthy rate of weight loss — you can expect to lose somewhere between 50 to 100 pounds in a year.
1. Cut Calories
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, meaning you're burning more calories than you're taking in.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests aiming to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. (And you must run a deficit of about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.)
Here's a calorie deficit breakdown:
To Lose 1 Pound Per Week
- Aim for a 500 daily calorie deficit.
- Aim for a 3,500 weekly calorie deficit.
To Lose 2 Pounds Per Week
- Aim for a 1,000 daily calorie deficit.
- Aim for a 7,000 weekly calorie deficit.
Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn't dip below a minimum amount of calories. People assigned male at birth shouldn't eat fewer than about 1,500 calories a day, while people assigned female at birth generally should eat at least 1,200 calories a day. A low-calorie diet that delivers less than that isn't safe because it could slow your metabolism and lead to muscle loss and nutritional deficiencies, among other concerns.
Many other factors influence how your body burns and stores calories or energy. That said, your body may need more time to adjust to losing weight. If it's been over three months and you've lost less than 5 pounds, or your weight loss isn't as expected, consider seeing a weight loss expert, per Johns Hopkins.
If you want to lose weight without focusing as much on calories, you can try the Plate Method when you eat meals. Half of your plate should contain non-starchy vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter whole grains, per the American Diabetes Association.
2. Tweak Your Diet
Losing 50 to 100 pounds in a year in a healthy way is not only possible, but the slow, steady rate of weight loss is actually the best approach. To be successful, you'll need to make a commitment to long-term changes in your eating and exercise lifestyle.
First up: How to choose healthier foods for weight loss.
Protein helps with weight loss because it helps you feel full and helps you build and maintain muscle, which supports a healthy metabolism.
Choose lean, protein-rich foods like:
- Chicken breast
- Ground turkey
- Nonfat yogurt
Spreading your protein intake throughout the day, as opposed to once in your evening meal, can help promote muscle growth and keep you satiated for longer, according to a June 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition.
Eat Plenty of Fiber
Fiber is the MVP of weight loss because it helps you feel full and supports your metabolic and gut health. Indeed, one February 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that simply aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber per day can help you lose weight as effectively as a more complicated diet (on average, adults aren't getting nearly that much).
Foods high in fiber include:
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Chia and flaxseeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Firm tofu
Nix Processed Foods
Research has found a link between processed foods and weight gain. In a November 2019 review in Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology, researchers found that the following processed foods most contribute to weight gain:
- Potato chips
- Sugary drinks (think: soda, flavored coffees and teas)
- Refined grains
- Sweets and desserts
- Red and processed meats
3. Add Exercise
To lose weight in one year without over-restricting your diet, add more exercise to your days and weeks.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like walking, biking or jogging, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like running. If you break that down, it's about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
These cardiovascular exercises can help burn belly fat, which has been found to increase heart disease risk, per the American Heart Association.
The guidelines also recommend doing strength training at least two days a week, including moves that work all your major muscle groups (think: your arms, legs, back and chest). If you're not keen on weight-training, consider this: Muscle burns more calories than fat, so adding muscle to your frame will help you burn through more calories on a daily basis.
There's no "best" exercise for weight loss. Rather, the key is to find movement that you enjoy and can incorporate into your life long-term. You'll need to stick to a regular exercise routine for the entire year in order to continue losing weight.
4. Find Ways to Stay Accountable
We all know that it takes mental strength to continue on the path of a weight loss journey. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to keep yourself accountable and on track. One is weighing yourself often.
Indeed, a small April 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that weighing yourself everyday led to greater adoption of weight control behaviors.
Weighing yourself daily may not be the best for everyone, per a March 2016 review in Current Obesity Reports so other ways to stay accountable include keeping a food journal or fitness journal/tracker and partnering with a "weight loss buddy," or friend who has similar weight loss goals.
You can even join an online weight loss community for motivation.
Mindful Eating Can Improve Hunger and Fullness Cues
Mindfulness — a practice of living in the present moment — can also relate to eating and weight loss. When you eat mindfully, you take the time to enjoy your food without life's distractions (like smartphones, laptops or the TV).
Some mindful eating steps include, per Harvard Health:
- Start with small portions
- Pause before you eat to appreciate your food
- Take small bites
- Chew thoroughly
- Eat slowly
- Chat with company — if eating in a group
Mindful eating can help you listen to your body to determine when you're truly hungry or full. It can also help you tell the difference between hunger and thirst and whether you are eating for other reasons, like fatigue, boredom or stress, according to the Mayo Clinic.
5. Drink More Water
Proper hydration is not only beneficial for overall health, but it can aid your weight loss efforts, too.
Staying hydrated throughout the day can help you diffuse cravings and prevent hunger confusion — when you eat because you think you are hungry, but you're actually thirsty.
In fact, the more hydrated you are, the better your body is at burning fat, per Johns Hopkins University.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Besides feeling energized, proper sleep plays a role in weight loss. It may even help you eat less calories.
A February 2022 randomized clinical trial in JAMA Internal Medicine followed 80 participants with overweight that slept less than 6.5 hours per night. After undergoing an intervention to help them sleep longer, participants also ended up eating an average of 270 less calories per day.
That means, getting an adequate seven to nine hours of sleep per night may help you eat less calories. Just make sure to follow a night routine that helps you relax and get to bed on time.
7. Manage Stress
Stress is linked to higher levels of belly fat because of the way it affects hormones, and it can also lead to emotional eating for some people. While it may not be possible to eliminate stress from your life altogether, aim to find healthy ways to manage it and lessen its effects.
Difficulty controlling your stress may also be a sign of an untreated mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Reaching out to a professional can be helpful.
Exercise helps with stress management for many people, as does yoga and meditation. Incorporating these stress-relieving practices into your life can help you on your quest to lose 50 pounds or more in a year and help you maintain a healthy weight beyond that.
8. Consult an Expert
When in doubt, it's never a bad idea to ask for help.
Losing weight can be challenging. There are several experts who can help you on your journey, like doctors trained in weight loss and dietitians. Weight loss doctors help you discover the root causes of your weight issues.
Meeting with a dietitian can help you narrow down your weight loss goals and concerns. They can also make a personalized meal plan for you, so you can feel confident in food choices you make to lose weight in a year.
Lastly, if you are struggling with motivation, a health coach or therapist can be helpful on your journey.
Remember, everyone loses weight differently, and you are not able to choose where and how your body sheds fat. Try not to compare yourself to others. Focus on what's best for your body's needs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "A randomized trial of single- versus multi-component dietary goals for metabolic syndrome"
- Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology: "Beyond the Calories—Is the Problem in the Processing?"
- American Diabetes Association: "What is the Diabetes Plate Method?"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults"
- American Heart Association: "Too much belly fat, even for people with a healthy BMI, raises heart risks"
- The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Weighing everyday matters: Daily weighing improves weight loss and adoption of weight control behaviors"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mindfulness While Eating"
- Johns Hopkins University: "Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight"
- PKD Foundation: "Hunger vs. thirst: tips to tell the difference"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings"
- Orlando Health: "How Too Much Stress Can Cause Weight Gain (and What to Do About It)"
- Harvard Health: "8 Steps to mindful eating"
- Johns Hopkins: "Doctors Who Specialize in Obesity"
- Current Obesity Reports: "Self-Weighing: Helpful or Harmful for Psychological Wellbeing? A Review of the Literature"