Here's the scenario: You're a 180-pound woman and would really like to lose some weight. Achieving this won't be easy, but it's possible. And applying a little science to the endeavor will at least help you reach your goal more effectively.
If you’re starting out at 180 pounds, cutting your current intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily will help you lose you about 1 to 2 pounds a week. But eating a healthy diet is more important than obsessing about calories.
Understand the Weight Loss Basics
Plugging your stats (weight and height) into a body mass index (BMI) calculator like the one from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute can help you assess your current health risks. But regardless of your starting point, slow and steady is the weight loss mantra recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
All methods of weight loss essentially work by consistently eating fewer calories than you burn up through daily activity. The Mayo Clinic says if you cut about 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet, you'll lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week. You can use the LIVESTRONG.com MyPlate Calorie Counter to track those calories and also get a more accurate indicator of how much you should eat for healthy weight loss.
Don't be daunted if the weight you need to lose feels like a big number. Research published in the February 2016 issue of Cell Metabolism suggests that losing even just 5 percent of body weight has big benefits to heart health and markers of diabetes risk. As a 180-pound woman, that means you'll start reaping real health benefits by losing just 9 pounds.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health warn that it's not just the number of calories that counts when you are losing weight, but also the quality of the foods you eat.
If you're a 180-pound woman, you'll definitely lose weight if you cut calories to 1,200 or 1,600 calories a day, but you could miss out on vitamins, minerals and fiber if you don't pay attention to nutrition-dense foods.
If you were to pick a calorie-controlled diet that is most likely to support your weight loss goals, many authoritative sources, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend a Mediterranean-style diet. If you want to follow this eating style, the Dietary Guidelines provide details on the recommended amounts of foods from each food group at 12 different calorie levels.
One reason a Mediterranean-style is good for weight loss is that it includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, which the Centers for Disease Control and Protection say have satiating (stomach-filling) properties.
Get Ready Psychologically
Half the battle in getting off the pounds is being ready for that weight loss journey in your head. As well as being mentally ready to overhaul your diet, the Mayo Clinic says that this means making sure you have addressed any big distractions in your life.
If you are dealing with big stressors like relationship problems, job woes or financial worries, right now might not be the best time to think about weight loss.
Trying to resolve any emotional issues connected to your weight is also worth doing — anger, stress, grief and boredom can trigger emotional eating. Friends and loved ones can offer invaluable support, or if you need more support, you could consider some professional help.
Another great tip from Harvard Health Publishing is to clean out your pantry. The goal is to throw out the foods that are likely to be too much of a temptation and stand in the way of your weight loss success.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Calculate Your Body Mass Index"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What a Healthy Weight Loss Plan Really Looks Like"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Cell Metabolism: "Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans With Obesity"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "The Best Diet: Quality Counts"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 4. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern"
- Centers for Disease Control and Protection: "Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Help People to Manage Their weight?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight Loss Readiness"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Clean Out Your Pantry, Clean Up Your Health"
- American Psychological Association: :"Getting Your Weight Under Control"