Cardio exercise, strength training, and calorie restriction are the key elements to losing weight slowly and keeping it off. In an article about "Losing Weight" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "Once you've achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60 to 90 minutes, moderate intensity), you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term." Following a strict program for one year is just enough time to lose 100 lbs., so the weight loss can be done slowly. Losing weight too fast can lead to "yo-yo dieting," so aim for 2 lbs. a week to reach 100 lbs. by the end of the year without having to worry about putting it all back on again.
Change Your Eating
Eat less junk food, smaller portions and fewer calories overall. Track your caloric intact each day with a written or online food journal. Specifically, eat 1,000 calories a day less to lose 2 lbs. of weight per week, as recommended by the American Obesity Association. Two pounds a week of weight loss over 52 weeks in a year should get you to your 100 lb. goal with a built-in two week vacation.
Choose smaller meals and healthy snacks. The National Academy of Sports Medicine says that eating approximately every three hours for a total of four to six small meals or snack a day will boost your metabolism and keep you from overeating due to an empty belly. Small meals are around 350 to 400 calories and snacks, such as a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots, are less than 100 calories.
Eat a varied diet that includes lean meat or protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The American Obesity Association says, "Reducing calories involves making sure to balance your diet with a variety of foods." The association suggests following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Exercise for Weight Loss
Do some sort of physical activity five days a week. The American Obesity Association says that the "U.S. Surgeon General recommends moderate physical activity on most days of the week of at least 30 minutes per day for adults and 60 minutes per day for children." Moderate physical activity can include brisk walking, dancing, jogging, cycling or using a cardio machine. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you are breathing hard and getting your heart rate up, without working so hard that you are unable to hold a conversation.
Include strength training two to three times a week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says that weightlifting, yoga and heavy gardening can all count toward this goal. Try a yoga or resistance training class at a gym or studio if you are unfamiliar with weightlifting exercises.
Change up your program every few weeks so your body does not adapt. Do different types of exercise, exercise longer, or increase your speed and/or resistance to make the exercises you are doing challenging again once you have adapted, as recommended by NASM. If your body adapts and you do not make changes, your weight loss will slow down. You may still lose weight due to your diet restriction, but not as much as you could if you continue shocking your body with new exercises.
Use an online calorie counter or tracker to determine how many calories each meal or snack contains.
Avoid a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) of less than 1000 calories a day. Very low-calorie diets carry health risks and should only be done under the supervision of a doctor trained in this type of special diet.
- American Obesity Association: Weight Loss Strategies
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training: Course Manual; National Academy of Sports Medicine; 2008
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Eat More, Weigh Less?
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Very Low Calorie Diet
- United States Department of Agriculture: Vegetarian Diets
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Manage Your Weight