People who are trying to lose weight often confront the same problem: They lose enough weight to get close to their goals, and then their progress totally stalls. They wind up stonewalled, five pounds short of their ideal body weight. The solution: A strong weight-loss program.
As in many pursuits, it takes a lot of dedication and focus to lose weight. And while weight-loss is often highly personal (more on that in a bit), you can make significant progress by drilling into details, being brutally honest with your daily habits, and figuring out exactly how much you should be (and are) eating every day.
We asked Kim Larson, R.D.N., N.B.C.-H.W.C., the founder of Total Health in Seattle, WA, for her best strategies to finish up your long journey to a leaner body.
5 Rules of Fast Fat Loss
Step 1: Get detailed with your measurements.
First, make sure youâre measuring your progress regularly. Weighing yourself on a scale is a good start, but itâs also smart to find other ways to measure your body composition (fat vs. muscle content). Everyoneâs body responds differently to losing weight. The time it takes you to shed these pounds will vary, but one thingâs for sure: It gets harder as you get closer to the goal.
âThe last five or so pounds are much harder to lose and are much slower to come off,â says Larson. âAdjusting expectations for the rate of weight loss is essential. You should expect about a quarter- to half-pound loss as you get closer to your ideal body weightâwithin a 10-pound range of it.â
Step 2: Self-scout your weight-loss habits with brutal honesty.
Next, take stock of your current calorie intake. âBeing accurate and brutally honest is what will reveal the pitfalls,â Larson says. âSometimes you just donât realize youâre doing something to hamper weight loss, like mindless eating at some point in the day. Identify indulgences and zero in on oversized portionsâespecially those with carbs, because people overeat them on a regular basis.â
Furthermore, examine when you eat and when you work out. If youâre eating balanced and healthy meals during the week, but then binging on the weekends on beer and movie popcorn, you arenât going to reach your goal, says Larson. Likewise, working out during the week, but then relapsing into a couch potato on the weekendâor controlling calories well during the week and then feeling so deprived that you reward yourself with unlimited treats on the weekendsâwonât help those pounds disappear.
Step 3: Self-scout your drinks, too.
Beverages can also rack up excess calories quickly, so make sure you arenât drinking sugar-laden or high-calorie drinksâlattes, fruit juice, or even large smoothies full of calories from fruit and sweeteners like honey, agave syrup, maple syrup.
Moreover, itâs probably best to cut out alcohol altogether to reach your ideal weight. âAlcohol delivers calories that add up quickly,â she says. âDrinking alcohol stimulates your appetite and reduces your resolve to not binge-eat something you wouldnât normally choose to eat,â she says. Take a hard look at how much and how frequently youâre drinking, to assess where extra calories might be coming in.
Step 4: Calibrate the calorie balance you need to lose weight.
Measuring out portion sizes might be time-consuming, but itâs an undeniably effective way to identify exactly how many calories youâre eating at one time. âMany people have no idea what a portion size of carbohydratesâor even proteinâshould be,â says Larson. âGo on a site like myplate.gov for a simple, easy, and free way to check out visual portion sizes of food on a plate or in a bowl to show you what they really look like.â
As part of your weight-loss plan, be sure to examine the amount of fat youâre eating, even in healthy foods like nuts, fish, or avocados. Even small servings of those foods add a lot of calories.
That said, starving yourself wonât work, either. Eating too little food can slow your metabolic rate, rather than speeding weight loss, says Larson.
Whatâs the Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss?
Step 5: Make sure you fuel your weight-loss workouts.
If youâre cutting out meals and then running on empty when hitting the gym, you wonât be able to exercise as hard and get the results you want to see.
Plus, make sure youâre eating enough protein to stave off hunger: âEating adequate protein also prevents the breakdown of muscle in weight loss and helps to preserve lean muscle mass to help keep your metabolic rate up.â
To determine how many calories you should be eating, visit a site like verywell.com, says Larson. Myplate.gov also has a âsupertrackerâ that can help you keep track of food and drink intake, and then calculate the number of calories you need to lose weight. âItâs a great, free and simple tool to use on-line for the average person,â she says. âYou can go to your specific calorie level and then look at meal plans to see what your meals and food portions should look like. It tells you exactly how much food to eat of the different food groupsâhereâs an example for a 1,800 calorie diet for a day.â
Sample Three-day Weight-Loss Program Meal Plan
This plan provides an average of 1,200 calories a day. Adjust amounts as needed to match your gender, activity level, weight, and height to cut enough calories from your current diet to drop the last few pounds. Be sure to drink mostly water throughout the day.
- 1 egg
- 1 orange
- 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 tsp margarine or butter
- 6 oz Greek yogurt
- 2 slices whole wheat bread with 2 oz ham, 1 tsp mayo, mustard, and lettuce and tomato
- Â˝ cup grape tomatoes
- Raw broccoli
- 3 oz chicken breast, with 2/3 cup bowtie pasta, mushrooms, zucchini, and red pepper with minced garlic
- 1 cup green salad with 1 sliced tomato and 2 Tbsp light dressing
- 3 squares graham crackers
- 1 cup milk
- 1 waffle with Â˝ cup peaches
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of milk
- 3 oz. grated cheese, Â˝ cup beans, tomato, onion, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, 2 Tbsp light ranch dressing, salsa
- 1 apple
- 3 oz. roast beef
- Â˝ cup potatoes
- 1 oz. roll
- Carrots and onions
- 1 tsp butter for veggies
- Tossed salad with 2 Tbsp light dressing
- Âź cup Grape Nuts with 6 oz. Greek yogurt
- 1 oz. lean ham
- Â˝ cup steel-cut oats with 1 cup milk
- Â˝ grapefruit
- 2 oz chicken breast, mushrooms, peppers, romaine lettuce, 1 Tbsp Caesar dressing, 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Âž oz pretzels
- 1 tangerine
- 2 oz lean ground beef, 1 slice cheese, 1 hamburger bun, onion, lettuce, tomato, 1 tsp mayo, ketchup
- Green beans
- Âž cup Cheerios and 1 cup milk