If you’re like many Americans, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to shed some pounds. In fact, about a third of Americans say they want to make a commitment to lose weight in the New Year, according to a Nielsen survey from 2015. But starting a weight-loss regimen may seem daunting, particularly if you’ve tried in the past, only to see the weight come back later. Here, we’ve outlined some of the best tips for losing weight, including how to get started, stay motivated and keep weight off.
Why Lose Weight?
Obesity is known to increase the risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and gallstones. But there’s good news: Obese people who lose as little as 3 to 5 percent of their body weight can see improvements in their health.
How to Get Started
Although there’s no single “best” way to lose weight, a successful weight-loss program usually involves cutting back on your calories, increasing your physical activity and making behavioral changes to help you stick with a diet and exercise regimen over the long term. Here’s how to get started:
1. Take a close look at your current lifestyle.
Before you start, try keeping a food dairy.
2. Set a realistic goal.
Doctors generally recommend that people aim to lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight over six months. You should expect gradual, steady weight loss, but not immediate results.
3. Calculate your caloric intake.
To lose weight, you’ll need to consume fewer calories than you burn. The exact number will depend on your current weight and activity level, but generally, people should aim to cut 250 to 1,000 calories from their diet per day in order to lose 0.5 to 2 lbs. (0.2 to 0.9 kilograms) per week. There are calculators available to help you determine how many calories you should consume per day.
4. Eat foods that keep you full.
Some experts recommend a low-glycemic diet that’s high in protein, fiber and healthy oils, and low in starches and other sugars. This diet may help combat feelings of hunger.
5. Get moving.
You should aim to meet physical-activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) every week. But you can break this down into short bouts of exercise, such as three 10-minute walks per day.
6. Monitor your progress.
You should keep track of your progress toward your goals and tweak them if needed. For example, you may want to use a pedometer or other device to keep track of how far you’re walking.
When the Going Gets Tough
It can be difficult to stay motivated throughout the year, but here are some tips for when the going gets tough:
- If you fall behind on exercise, try setting a specific goal, such as running or walking a 5K. It also may be a good idea to exercise with a friend because it holds you accountable.
- Tricks such as using smaller plates and tall, narrow glasses can also help you eat and drink less without consciously thinking about it, studies have shown.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Getting too little sleep may increase levels of an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin and decrease levels of the hormone leptin, which makes you feel full, according to the National Institutes of Health. This may lead to an increase in hunger and make it harder to stick to a diet.
Gear That Can Help
Everyone’s weight-loss journey is different, and you shouldn’t think you need any particular gadget or gear to lose weight. That said, here are some tools that may be helpful for some people:
- Fitness trackers: These gadgets — which track steps, calories burned and a slew of other metrics — may help with weight loss and provide extra motivation for some people. Here are some of the best trackers, as reviewed by our sister site Tom’s Guide: Best Fitness Trackers 2016.
- Calorie-counter apps: These apps make it easy to log food and can help you track your calorie intake so you know if you’re meeting your daily goal.
- Running apps: Log every mile and keep track of your person best times with a free running app.
- Paper tape: This simple item may help prevent blisters while running.
And if you’re new to the gym, check out our list of weird gym equipment, so you know a kettlebell from a Bosu ball.
Infographic: Weird Gym Equipment
All About Weight-Loss Programs
There is no “best” method for losing weight; what works for you might not work for someone else. Some people find it helpful to join an official weight-loss program. But of all the weight-loss programs out there, are some better than others?
A study published in 2015 found that, out of 11 weight-loss programs, only two were linked with a significant amount of weight loss that people kept off for a year: Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.
Recently, researchers have found that a therapy called Acceptance-Based Behavioral Treatment (ABT)may help with weight loss. This therapy involves learning to accept uncomfortable feelings, such as fatigue and urges to eat. Those who learned ABT lost more weight, and kept it off longer, than those who underwent a standard obesity treatment.
The amount of weight you lose also may depend on your genes. A recent study found that people’s genes predicted whether they lost weight during a weight-loss program.
Tips to Keep the Weight Off
For many people, losing weight is only half the battle — the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off over the long term. And it’s no surprise that keeping weight off is difficult — studies have shown that the brain and the body are hardwired to regain lost weight. But don’t despair: Research also has revealed that people who are successful in keeping weight off share some habits. They tend to do the following:
- Engage in high amounts of physical activity — more than 200 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
- Watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
- Consume 1,380 calories per day, with less than 30 percent from fat.
- Eat the same foods regularly, without “splurging” on high-calorie foods on the weekends.
- Weigh themselves at least weekly.
- Engage in high amounts of light activity (like taking a stroll around the office), and sit less.
The Lowdown on Weight-Loss Supplements and Prescriptions
There’s no magic pill for weight loss, and people should be wary of any over-the-counter supplements that claim to help you shed pounds. These supplements can be dangerous because they can contain ingredients not listed on the label. A 2015 study found that weight-loss supplements send more than 4,600 people to the ER every year in the United States.
In contrast to supplements, weight-loss drugs (including prescription pills) have more scientific evidence supporting their use. The makers of these drugs must conduct studies showing that the drugs can lead to weight loss before they can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, these drugs still need to be used along with diet and exercise measures for people to achieve a meaningful amount of weight loss. You should also keep in mind that the long-term safety of these drugs has not been well studied.