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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Before you start, get to know an ideal weight for your body, and 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, which means you'd need to create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day, or 3,500 per week.
(Note: This is just an estimate. Not everyone will lose 1 to 2 pounds per week; weight loss depends on other factors like your body composition, genetics, metabolism and level of physical activity.)
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 (AMAB) shouldn't eat fewer than about 1,500 calories a day, while people assigned female at birth (AFAB) generally should eat at least 1,200 calories a day.
Anything less than that is considered a low-calorie diet, which can cause you to lose weight too fast (i.e., more than 2 pounds per week). This is unsafe and can slow your metabolism, leading to weight gain and health issues in the long run.
Other side effects of a low-calorie diet include the following, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM):
- Muscle loss
- Vitamin deficiencies
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 fewer than 5 pounds, or your weight loss isn't as expected, consider seeing a weight-loss expert, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
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 have non-starchy vegetables (think: leafy greens, carrots, Brussels sprouts), one quarter lean protein (like chicken or turkey breast, fish or tofu) and one quarter whole grains (such as brown rice, oats or quinoa), per the American Diabetes Association.
2. Tweak Your Nutrition
Losing 50 to 100 pounds in a healthy way is not only possible, but this slow, steady rate of weight loss in a year is actually the best approach. To be successful, you'll need to make a commitment to long-term changes in your eating and exercise routine.
Beyond focusing on your ideal caloric intake for weight loss, you should also try to eat more nutritious foods. Try to:
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
Unfortunately, the amount of weight you gain in a year may be due to eating ultra-processed foods.
In fact, a November 2019 review in Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology found that the following processed foods most contribute to weight gain:
- Potato chips
- Sugary drinks (think: soda, flavored coffees and teas)
- Refined grains (think: white rice, white bread, white pasta)
- 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 each week. 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, per the Mayo Clinic.
There's no "best" exercise to achieve weight loss in a year. 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 to continue losing weight over a year.
4. Find Ways to Stay Accountable
We all know 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 every day led to greater adoption of weight-control behaviors.
(A helpful tip: Purchase a smart scale that connects to an app on your phone, which can track your weight and body fat over periods of time. This can be an important part of your yearly weight transformation.)
Weighing yourself daily may not be the best for everyone, though, 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 a friend who has similar year-long weight-loss goals.
You can even join an online weight loss community to get motivated and to share your weight-loss progress over 12 months.
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). Many people rely on mindful eating during their 1-year weight-loss transformation.
Some mindful eating steps include the following, per Harvard Health Publishing:
- 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
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
Healthful weight reduction over a year can also be achieved with the help of proper sleep.
It's true: Besides feeling energized for your day, quality sleep may also help you eat fewer calories.
A February 2022 randomized clinical trial in JAMA Internal Medicine followed 80 participants with overweight who slept fewer than 6.5 hours per night. After undergoing an intervention to help them sleep longer, participants also ended up eating an average of 270 fewer calories per day.
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, or support your yearly weight-management goals.
8. Consult an Expert
When in doubt, it's never a bad idea to ask for help.
Losing weight can be challenging. But there are several experts who can help you on your journey, including doctors trained in weight loss who can help you discover the root cause of your weight issues and registered dietitians, who can make a personalized meal plan for you, so you can feel confident in the food choices you make to lose weight in a year.
Lastly, if you are struggling with motivation, a health coach or therapist can encourage you and help set realistic weight-loss goals for the year.
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.
Losing weight in a healthy and sustainable way over the course of a year can increase the likelihood of keeping it off, too.
To make sure you're on track with your goals, check in with each of the above habits, and reach out for help if you're feeling stuck.
And try to avoid crash dieting, which can cause you to gain weight back and then some, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.
How much weight can I lose in a month?
If you safely cut or burn about 500 to 1,000 calories per day, you can possibly lose up to 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means, you could potentially lose up to 8 pounds in a month in a sustainable way.
But keep in mind that every body is different — i.e., the amount of weight you lose will depend on other factors like your body composition, overall health, genetics, metabolism and level of physical activity.
You should also talk to your doctor before going on any sort of weight-loss plan, to see if it's right for you.
Will I get loose skin if I lose 100 pounds?
If you lose a significant amount of weight — like 100 pounds or more — your skin may not be elastic enough to return to its original shape. This can cause your skin to sag and hang, per the NLM.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to remove this excess skin apart from surgery, per the NLM. Talk to your doctor about your options, and be patient/easy with yourself if excess skin results from weight loss.
What does being 50 pounds overweight do to your body?
Excess weight, especially up to 50 pounds or more, can pose serious health risks if it's not normal for your body. You may be at a greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and you may see other negative effects on things like your respiratory function, memory and mood, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
If you're unsure of what a healthy weight for your body type is, talk to your doctor, who can offer some guidance.
- 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 Publishing: "8 Steps to mindful eating"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Doctors Who Specialize in Obesity"
- Current Obesity Reports: "Self-Weighing: Helpful or Harmful for Psychological Wellbeing? A Review of the Literature"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Basics"
- National Library of Medicine: "Considering plastic surgery after a large weight loss"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Obesity Prevention Source: Health Risks"
- National Library of Medicine: "Diet for Rapid Weight Loss"
- Obesity Action Coalition: "The Risks of the Crash Diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories"