We all love instant results, but when it comes to losing weight, patience is your best asset. While weight loss won't happen overnight, staying consistent can help you safely lose 30 pounds relatively quickly.
Although you won't be able to lose all 30 pounds in a week or two, adding some tweaks to your diet and exercise can help you start to see the scale move in a matter of weeks. As you adjust your habits, though, be sure to consult a healthcare professional to make sure these changes are right for you.
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Create a Healthy Calorie Deficit
Before you cut calories, though, get an idea of what your maintenance calories are like. Your calorie maintenance level is the number of calories you can eat each day without gaining or losing any weight, and this number is affected by factors like your age, sex and activity level. You can find your maintenance calories by tracking your food intake for a few days using a food diary, or using a calorie counter app.
Once you've found this value, you can start trimming your calories. It's safe to cut between 500 to 1,000 calories a day for most people, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since a pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, that will net you about 1 to 2 pounds in weight loss each week. (Keep in mind, though, that women should get at least 1,200 calories a day and men shouldn't fall below 1,500 calories a day in order to stay healthy and avoid nutritional deficiencies, per Harvard Health Publishing.)
Using this approach, it will take between four and eight months to lose 30 pounds. And while this may sound like a long period of time, you'll be more likely to keep the weight off in the long run if you lose it at a slow-and-steady pace.
Tips for Sticking with a Low-Calorie Plan
Creating a healthy and sustainable calorie deficit (think: one that doesn't leave you starving and craving junk food) is key for weight loss, but it can be tricky to maintain. There are some tips and tricks that can make it easier, though.
1. Replace highly processed foods (like chips or sweets) and sodas with lower-calorie, more nutrient-dense whole foods, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Making swaps like fruit instead of juice, a baked potato instead of fries and oatmeal instead of cereal will not only cut back your calories but will ensure you're getting the vitamins and minerals you need, too.
2. Fill your plate with plenty of veggies. Vegetables are extremely low in calories but high in fiber, which means they can add a lot of volume to your dish and help you feel satisfied on less food. Getting enough fiber (about 25 grams per day) as you cut calories will help you feel full and promote healthy digestion, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
3. Prioritize protein. Instead of slashing calories across all food groups, a December 2019 meta-analysis published in Advances in Nutrition suggests that folks who are actively losing weight should eat more protein than usual. Eating a good amount of protein helps you feel full, requires more energy to break down than other foods and can help you preserve lean muscle mass as you burn fat.
The study suggests that people losing weight aim to get 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. One kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds, so a 150-pound person, for example, would clock in at about 68 kilograms. That person should aim to eat about 88 grams of protein each day while cutting calories for weight loss.
When it comes to protein choices, go for leaner options like low-fat dairy, chicken or fish to get more protein for less calories.
Get into a Regular Exercise Routine
While your diet is the key part of your weight-loss plan, incorporating regular exercise will help you stay healthy and increase your calorie burn. Each week, you should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity, like walking or hiking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alternatively, you can opt for at least 75 minutes of vigorous cardio each week. If you prefer more intense exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to go. HIIT training will ramp up your heart rate and help boost your metabolism, leaving you burning more calories well after your workout is over (a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Plus, HIIT has been proven to help reduce body fat and improve aerobic fitness while preserving lean muscle mass, per an April 2012 study in the Journal of Obesity.
Incorporating about two days of strength training each week can also help with weight loss. This form of exercise can help increase your muscle mass, which can speed up your metabolism, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Ready to get started? Discover your ultimate weight-loss workout plan, including the best cardio, HIIT and strength-training workouts to add to your routine.
While a healthy eating plan, paired with a regular exercise routine can help you shed those 30 pounds, it's important to stay consistent. And remember, if you want to lose the weight in the healthiest way possible, it will take some time, so stay patient and persistent.
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Getting Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Dietary Fiber"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "WhatShould I Eat?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans "
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Truth About Metabolism"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie counting made easy"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Protein Intake Greater than the RDA Differentially Influences Whole-Body Lean Mass Responses to Purposeful Catabolic and Anabolic Stressors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
- Journal of Obesity: "The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males"
- Nutristrategy: Calories Burned During Exercise Chart
- PrimusWeb: Activity Calculator
- NHLBI: Aim for a Healthy Weight