Losing weight fast, though possible, is almost always unhealthy. That’s because aiming to lose five or even 10 pounds in a week can set you up for binge-eating and fluctuations that interfere with long-lasting results. And that basically defeats the whole point, right?
Not to mention, it’s also super hard!
For most people, it’s very, very difficult to lose more than one to two pounds of body fat in a week.
Instead, you’re more likely to shed water weight before actual fat. And while a decrease in water weight translates to pounds lost, the change is temporary
Even if you do meet your goal by next Friday, it’s nearly impossible to keep the weight off over the long term. The intense calorie restriction required to lose that much fat would make you so hungry that you’d want to eat everything in sight…because of your survival instinct kicking in.
And since calorie restriction can slow your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you (inevitably) binge ons. That could mean gaining more than you lost in the first place.
Having said all that, however, there are still some effective and healthy ways to kick off your weight loss.
Yes, it may take longer than a week but you won’t have to starve yourself, waste money on sketchy supplements, or punish your body with exercise. Best yet, the weight you lose will stay off your body for life!
So, try a few of the below safe, proven tips to help you jumpstart your weight loss.
And remember: You’ll get the best, longest-lasting results from changes that don’t leave you exhausted and dreaming of pizza.
1. Emphasize quality over quantity
If you expend more calories than you take in, you should lose weight. But you don’t want to be so hyper focused on calories that you skip out on a wholesome diet.
If you focus on the quality of food, there’s a good chance you’ll eat more nutrient-dense options that leave you satiated.
2. Keep a food journal
First, remember that no food is inherently good or bad, And if the idea of jotting down everything you eat in a day makes you feel guilty or anxious, just skip this entirely.
That said, people who track what they eat tend to be more successful in losing weight because it raises awareness about what they’re noshing on.
In fact, a series of studies published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine suggest that those using apps to monitor their diet and activity were more likely to experience an increase in weight loss.
Obviously, these apps (you know the ones) aren’t going to work if you don’t input everything you eat. You’ve gotta be consistent and honest about what you consume.
3. Make small food swaps
The best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits, according to The European Journal of Obesity. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on an English muffin.
Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative.
When we commit to small food swaps, we actually adapt new behaviors. Whatever you choose, just make sure your focus is on “small manageable changes,” that way you’re more likely to follow through for an extended period of time, rather than just a few days or weeks.
4. Don’t skip meals
Eating at regular intervals during the day optimizes your blood sugar control, meaning you avoid the spike and crash that comes with eating a big meal on an empty stomach.
When you avoid eating when you’re hungry, you’re welcoming hunger pains, food cravings and drowsiness—all of which can lead to snacking on foods high in fat and sugar.
Plus, when you run out of calories before going out to dinner with friends or satisfying a bedtime craving, you’re more likely to fall victim to the “just forget it” effect—when you break one “rule” and give up for the rest of the night.
5. Get Your Protein From Lean Sources
Dietary protein is one of the most important tools in your weight-loss arsenal, partly because you expend more energy digesting protein versus carbs and fat. But it’s often packaged with naturally-occurring fats that amp up the calories of each serving.
It’s why, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, leaner protein sources like chicken breast, white fish, and low-fat dairy have fewer calories than alternatives like bacon and burgers. Greek yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese also make smart choices.
6. Eat High Fiber Carbs
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss.
That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
7. Drink More Water
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale.
While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
8. Manage stress
Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food.
That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
It’s why no weight-loss journey is complete without a stress-management tactic: Maybe it’s meditation, calling your mom after work (no, not really, huh?), or chilling out with music.
Just make sure it’s hunger, not stress, that leads you to the kitchen.
9. Exercise More
Although it’s way more fun to take up a tolerable activity (i.e., watching Netflix on the elliptical) than it is to drop tasty foods from your diet, exercise won’t help you lose weight in one week.
After all, resistance training might initially contribute a pound or two due to the body’s inflammatory response, and people who do low-intensity exercise might burn calories, but they often end up eating more or subconsciously moving less throughout the day to conserve energy.
It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain.
Do what you like because it’s good for you. Exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress has to be seen on the scale.