Maybe it’s a big event coming up: your high school reunion, a friend’s wedding, or a beach vacation. Or maybe you are finally ready to shed those unwanted pounds, you’re just impatient at how long it could take. Although slow and steady typically wins the weight loss race, it is possible to slim down at a quicker rate.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends people to lose one to two pounds per week. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, your age, activity level, and genetics, however, it is possible to lose a little more, especially when you’re starting out—but that could be mostly water weight.
“People you see on TV losing 10+ pounds a week are most likely losing more water weight than fat and they eventually gain it back,” explains Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. “Long-term weight loss takes time and will not happen overnight.”
To really make sure you’re losing fat, make sure you are taking body measurements in addition to weighing yourself (just not more than once a day). To jump-start your weight loss goals, here’s how to slim down quickly (and safely). Just be mindful that the weight is more likely to stay off long-term if you make sustainable, rather than drastic, changes. Looking for even more inspiration? Check out our list of the best weight loss tips.
Decrease Your Calorie Intake
This may be an obvious statement, but it’s important to track calories for weight-loss. Even if you think you’ve been eating “healthy,” you could still be taking in too many calories, leading to a stalled weight loss or even weight gain. “Often times, we are eating too much,” White says. “Dropping calories can cause a deficit and lead to weight loss.”
Start by tracking your food with a food journal or an app such as MyFitnessPal. That way, you can see how many calories you have been eating. To find your exact calorie target, ask your doctor or a registered dietitian; usually, that target should be 1,500-1,800 calories a day, but the amount will depend on age, height, weight, and activity level.
But Don’t Go Under 1,200 Calories a Day
Sure, eating at a calorie deficit will cause you to lose weight—but dipping too low could actually slow down your metabolism and stall your weight-loss efforts. Plus, eating too few calories will leave you feeling too tired and sluggish to complete workouts, and is detrimental to your overall health.
“Don’t go under 1,200 calories per day as you may not get the nutrients you need to support your overall health,” White explains.
Exercise for 1 Hour Each Day
It’s true that any exercise is better than none at all. But if you are really looking to rev up your weight loss, you’ll need to dedicate some serious time at the gym. White recommends aiming to burn an extra 500 calories a day, which can help you lose one pound a week. And although one hour of exercise may sound like a lot, you don’t need to sprint at your fastest pace on the treadmill or jump right into CrossFit—a moderate intensity will suffice. “Do anything that moves your body and gets your heart rate up,” White says.
Watch the Little Things in Your Diet
A splash of cream in your coffee, a handful of M&Ms at the office, or a couple spoonfuls of ice cream at night may seem innocuous enough, but these little calorie additions throughout your day can really add up. “Many times people don’t look at the small things they consume each day,” White says. “These small things when added up can equal large amounts of calories and increase body weight.” Try drinking your coffee black or with a splash of unsweetened almond milk instead. If you know the candy jar at work is too tempting, be prepared with a protein-packed snack for the office instead.
Limit Indulgence Meals
A cheat meal can actually keep you on track and help you avoid feelings of deprivation. Several cheat meals a week or an entire cheat day, on the other hand, is likely to derail your weight-loss goals. “If you are indulging three times a week, try one,” White recommends. “By reducing the amount you indulge in; you can significantly drop unwanted calories from your diet.” Plan out your cheat meal in advance so you have something to look forward to during the week. And when you get to indulge in it, make sure you eat slowly and savor every bite.
Increase Your Portion of Veggies
One of the easiest ways to jump-start your rapid weight loss is by loading up on veggies. “My number-one tip for losing weight is to increase your portion of vegetables while decreasing your portions of grains and proteins,” explains Jenn LaVardera, MS, RD, and owner of Hamptons RD. “So rather than having a bowl of pasta with a few vegetables mixed in, think of it like a bowl of vegetables with some pasta mixed in.”
Vegetables are not only nutrient-dense, they’re also filling. By loading up your plate with veggies, you will feel fuller faster, thanks to the fiber increase, while taking in fewer calories. This will also crowd out more calorie-dense foods from your plate, including refined carbs, grains, and animal proteins.
Eat More Fiber
One of the biggest reasons why more vegetables can aid in weight loss is the addition of added fiber. Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, CN, New York Times best-selling author of the Beauty Detox series and author of the new 30-Day Roadmap for Healthy Weight Loss, says increasing your fiber intake will help you slim down. “Fiber helps to fill you up without adding extra calories,” she explains. “Fiber is cleansing, versus trying to get full from eating dense fat or protein alone. Eat lots of veggies and soups and smoothies (versus juice alone, which has the fiber removed).”
Reduce Caloric Beverages
Sure, you’re tracking everything you’re eating, but what about the liquid calories you’re consuming? “Reduce any calorie-containing beverages,” White says. “This includes alcohol, sugary coffee drinks, and soda; these high caloric drinks can add to weight gain as opposed to aiding your weight loss.” Not only are you taking in extra calories, but liquid calories can cause your blood sugar to spike faster, leading to more fat gain. Instead, he recommends sticking to plain water. If you are looking to drink something more exciting, try one of our favorite detox water recipes.