Making the decision to lose weight can feel extremely overwhelming. Between the choices of how to change up your diet, exercise, and lifestyle, the mounting choices can prevent you from starting. But according to dietitians, successful weight loss does not need to be complicated and can happen with small, simple changes over time.
“The first thing an individual needs to remember when starting on a weight loss journey is that you need to be patient! It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix,” says Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet. “The winner in weight loss is not the person who loses the weight the quickest, but rather who keeps it off the longest.”
“Think about making realistic lifestyle changes you can stick with for the long haul,” says Kristen Smith, MS, RD, registered dietitian, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Don’t make lifestyle or dietary changes you can’t stick with.”
While each person’s weight loss journey is individual, there are a few tips that will go a long way and help you reach your goal. For successful weight loss, here are 22 tips to help you start losing weight. Plus, you’ll want to check out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Individualize your plan for weight loss.
“Remember that not all weight loss efforts work for everyone, what works for your favorite influencer or friend may not work for you and that’s okay,” says Smith. “Your plan should be something that best fits your lifestyle and will help meet your goals. Work with a registered dietitian to help establish a plan that will best suit you and can be maintained for the long-haul.”
Get in the right weight loss mindset with These 10 Things That Will Help You Lose Weight.
Track your current food intake.
“We need to know where you are starting from before you can figure out where to go,” says Mike Gorski, RD, registered dietitian, fitness coach and owner of MG FitLife. “I recommend getting at least 7 solid days of tracking in, and then make small adjustments from there. It all comes down to calories, and to lose weight you need to be in a deficit. But we won’t know what that deficit has to be until we figure out that starting point. From there, you can target a 300 to 400 calorie deficit each day and that should get things moving.”
Here’s How Many Calories A Week You Should Eat For Weight Loss.
Be mindful of your hunger and fullness.
“Mindful eating can be used as part of your approach to eating healthy and weight loss,” says Mona Cabrera, MS, RDN, nutrition consultant with RSP Nutrition. “You practice being conscious of what you are putting in your body and that is key to choose healthier, more nourishing foods. I encourage you to eliminate distractions such as computers, phones, TV, books during meal times so you can become more in tune with your body. This can help you establish a healthy relationship with food, lose weight, and avoid the deprivation-binge cycle.”
Here are 11 Mindfulness Hacks to Eat Less, According to Experts.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
“One of the first things that can help you lose weight is drinking enough water,” says Tony Castillo, MS, RD, LDN, performance dietitian at Nutrition For Performance. “The goal amount of water should be half your body weight in ounces. The thirst and hunger centers are very close in the brain. So sometimes we can confuse thirst with hunger. So when all we need is a sip of water we may turn to some sweets or chips we have lying around. Also, being chronically dehydrated doesn’t help with weight loss because then we aren’t helping our body run at optimal performance. It’s like driving a car in the rain without wipers. Sure, you can do it, just not safe.”
Don’t be afraid of carbs.
“Carbs do a body good, and, contrary to popular belief, can help you lose weight,” says Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CPT, owner of Shaped by Charlotte. “Be sure to prioritize fiber-rich carbs, like fruit, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber helps fill you up and slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which helps keep you off of the blood sugar rollercoaster.”
You can start with these 28 Carbs That Won’t Make You Fat.
Slowly incorporate some type of physical activity.
“You can’t run before you can walk,” says Gans. “In other words, if a person has basically been inactive simply adding 15 minutes 2 days per week of something they enjoy doing is a start. Once those 15 minutes become a piece of cake, you add another 10 minutes or another day to the cycle. Eventually, it will become part of your healthy lifestyle.”
Did you know Walking at This Time Can Help You Lose More Weight?
“Yes, we know that for weight loss to occur we need to be in a calorie deficit. However, most of the time when we skip breakfast we tend to compensate later in the day,” says Castillo. “Many of my clients were chronic breakfast-skippers and late-night snackers. Once they started having breakfast, they stopped eating that extra handful of nuts after dinner, which they thought were healthy. But 3 handfuls of nuts can add up to over 500 calories. Which if they would have had breakfast that day the body would not be signaling to eat at night to get them through the morning.”
Get started with these 91+ Best Healthy Breakfast Recipes for Weight Loss.
Aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies you like.
“To help keep calories in check and optimize satiety, aim to make fruits and vegetables the main attraction of your meal,” says Smith. “Fruits and vegetables offer few calories and are packed with fiber which takes longer to digest and keeps you feeling full for hours ahead. For a simple way to roast veggies—roast with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. For a bit more flavor add in a few teaspoons of your favorite flavored vinegar (like balsamic).”
Decrease your intake of processed foods.
“There are no good or bad foods, only good and bad portions. However, the ugly truth is Americans eat WAY too much processed, high calorie, high sugar, and high-fat foods,” says Gorski. “You can’t go wrong with eliminating some or all of these foods at least for the start of your journey to really make a significant impact. You can’t go wrong if you are eating things that were grown, walked, or swam.”
Here are 18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes.
Start a small goal, one goal at a time.
“Set a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time- bound goal. This is a SMART goal,” says Cabrera. “Weight loss is best when you work on changing your habits (eating mindlessly in front of the tv, mindlessly going to the drive-thru at lunchtime, binge eating on candy), instead of eating ‘diet’ foods. With each success, celebrate your win and recognize your accomplishment. These mini successes add up over time and can lead to sustainable changes.”
Switch to 100% whole grains.
“Just like fruit and veggies, 100% whole are a good source of fiber,” says Gans. “It is a lot easier to eat less when your meals are satiating. Swapping white flour for one-percent whole grains can be one easy step in the right direction.”
Here are 20 Easy Ways to Add Fiber to Your Diet.
Allow yourself 20-30 minutes to eat without distractions.
“Try practicing mindful eating by turning off all distractions like any type of screen. If you are doing something else while eating your focus may not be on your meal and could lead to mindless eating (which can lead to overeating),” says Smith.
Focus on portion control.
“If you don’t want to track your food, your next best bet is just to focus on eating about 10 to 20% less than you currently eat,” says Gorski. “What I tell clients to do here is look at your current plate, and simply modify it by removing a deck of cards size portion of any of the higher calorie options on it.”
Incorporate healthy foods into ‘unhealthy’ ones.
“Creating a list of foods to avoid (such as pizza, pasta, ice cream, and french fries) only makes you want them more,” says Gans. “Instead try to incorporate these foods into your diet in a healthier way. For example, Have a slice of pizza with veggies on top and a side salad versus 2 slices of pizza with pepperoni. Want French fries with your burger? Try skipping the bun to make room for the fries. Pasta doesn’t need to be a big bowl of fettuccine Alfredo, but rather try spaghetti sautéed with lots of veggie and grilled shrimp.”
Limit added sugars.
“Foods rich in added sugars are often high in calories and devoid of filling and blood-sugar-stabilizing nutrients, like fiber and protein,” says Martin. “Aim to keep daily added sugar intake under the recommended limit (25 grams/day for women and 36 grams/day for men) and try enjoying a snack with fruit (i.e. apple or banana with nut butter, Greek yogurt with berries) to help curb some of your sweet cravings.”
Get in some exercise.
“While it’s well known that nutrition is the biggest driver of fat loss, you can’t ignore exercise,” says Gorski. “If you are just getting started, focus on a step goal, just move more. Take the stairs. Park further away. Being active doesn’t need to mean spending countless hours in the gym. Walking is simple, free, and super healthy for everyone. Eventually, you should consider some strength training as well, because of its metabolism-boosting effects. As you lose weight, your metabolism does slow down a tiny bit. You can counteract this by building muscle mass – and this will also help you get the body shape or look that you might desire.”
Eat more protein.
“Adding a source of protein at each meal and snack which will help keep you full longer so you are less likely to overeat,” says Cabrera. “Try lean meats, bean, and legumes, eggs, Greek yogurt or even a protein drink. A protein supplement is great for those with a busy lifestyle or those that exercise.”
You could also incorporate one of these 13 Great Protein Alternatives If You Can’t Find Meat at the Grocery Store.
Focus on making small changes versus big ones.
“If you focus on small changes they are easier to adapt to,” says Gans. “Then once they become more of a habit you can move on to another. For example, if an individual never eats fruit or veggies I would suggest starting with just one serving a day of each, perhaps a fruit for dessert at lunch and a veggie at dinner. Once they have success with that, I would suggest adding another piece of fruit during the day and a salad for dinner. Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber and can be rather satiating. Building on success is much easier to do than building on failure.”
Make a plan to include your favorite foods at least once a week.
“Depriving yourself of your favorite foods could lead to overindulging and overeating,” says Smith. “When you have a plan to include some of your favorite foods in moderation, your intake is typically more controlled and better enjoyed.”
Make sure your snack includes carbs and a protein.
“Many people either skip an afternoon snack or choose one that will not satisfy them,” says Castillo. “My clients used to get an afternoon crash and mask it with a coffee or energy drink. Then they would go home and eat a big dinner. When we add a snack instead of ignoring our hunger cues we tend to reduce overeating at mealtimes. A great afternoon snack combo could be Greek yogurt and berries, apple and cheese stick, or even beef jerky and popcorn.”
Stock up on healthy snacks
“Have healthy snack options readily available for when hunger strikes,” says Martin. “I recommend snacks that have at least a couple grams fiber and at least five grams protein to help fill you up and keep you full until your next meal. Some healthy snack options include: veggies and hummus, hard-boiled egg and a handful of nuts or berries, sliced fruit and nut butter, Greek yogurt topped with berries, or a DIY snack mix (air-popped popcorn + nuts + unsweetened dried or freeze-dried fruit).”
Be kind to yourself.
“If you don’t eat or exercise one day as you had planned it’s okay,” says Smith. “Making lifestyle changes can be challenging at times, but try to stay positive and focus on your goals.”
For more weight loss assistance, check out our list of 25 Best Weight Loss Tips from Doctors.