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Healthy weight

Main navigation

  • NHS weight loss guide
    • Start the NHS weight loss plan
    • Sign up for email support
    • How much weight do you need to lose?
    • 12 tips to help you lose weight
    • Non-food rewards for losing weight
  • How to lose weight
    • How to diet
    • Start losing weight
    • Top diets review
    • 10 weight loss myths
    • Keep weight off
    • Should you lose weight fast?
    • How your GP can help you lose weight
    • How to lose weight in a wheelchair
    • Managing weight with a learning disability
  • Overweight children
    • The National Child Measurement Programme
    • Overweight children aged 2 to 5
    • What can I do if my child is overweight?
    • What if my child is very overweight?

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Start the NHS weight loss plan

Download the NHS weight loss guide – our free 12-week diet and exercise plan.

The plan, which has been downloaded more than 4 million times, is designed to help you lose weight safely – and keep it off.

Weight loss plan features

  • promotes safe and sustainable weight loss
  • learn to make healthier food choices
  • get support from our online community
  • a weekly progress chart (view sample PDF, 545kb)
  • exercise plans to help you lose weight
  • learn skills to prevent weight regain

The plan is designed to help you lose weight at a safe rate of 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance.

For most men, this means sticking to a calorie limit of no more than 1,900kcal a day, and 1,400kcal for most women.

If you find it hard sticking to the calorie limit, use our BMI calculator to get your own personal weight loss calorie allowance.

If you go over your limit one day, don’t worry: it simply means you’ll have to reduce your calorie intake on the following days.

For example, if you’re a woman and you have 1,700kcal on Tuesday, that’s 300kcal more than your daily calorie allowance of 1,400kcal.

To stay on track, you’d need to cut out an extra 300kcal from your remaining calorie intake over the rest of the week.

The calorie allowance is based on NICE guidance, which states that to lose weight, the average person should reduce their daily calorie intake by 600kcal.

Weekly packs

The guide is delivered through 12 weekly information packs full of diet, healthy eating and physical activity advice, including weekly challenges.

Each information guide contains a food and activity chart (view sample PDF, 545kb) to help you record your calories, exercise and weight loss so you can see how well you’re doing at a glance.

Print the chart out and stick it somewhere you can see it, such as the fridge or a kitchen cupboard, and update it at the end of each day.

In addition to a healthier diet, regular physical activity is an important component of your weight loss journey.

Not only will it help you burn extra calories, but it will also keep you motivated and improve your general health and wellbeing.

As you work through the weeks, you’ll get lots of ideas and structured programmes to help you get active, from easy ways to gradually build activity into your day, to the popular Couch to 5K, 5K+ and Strength and Flex podcasts.

Getting started

The links below provide the tools and knowledge you’ll need from day one on the plan. Before you download Week 1, it’s worth taking a look so you can:

Is this plan for me?

This guide is intended for use by healthy adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and over. Find out if you need to lose weight using the BMI healthy weight calculator.

It is not suitable for children and young people or pregnant women. If you have a medical condition, you should consult your GP before starting.

It’s a good idea to seek the advice of a health professional before starting on any weight loss programme.

The NHS Choices weight loss guide has been developed under the supervision and advice of specialist dietitians from the British Dietetic Association, which represents registered dietitians in the UK. Thanks to dietitians at DOM UK (Dietitians in Obesity Management), a specialist group of the British Dietetic Association.

Page last reviewed: 05/12/2016
Next review due: 05/12/2019

Best Weight-Loss Diets

The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.

Refine Your Matches

40 matches

Weight Watchers Diet

#1 in Best Weight-Loss Diets

Weight Watchers scored the highest for overall weight loss and fast weight loss, and experts said it’s a smart, effective diet. more

Weight Watchers scored the highest for overall weight loss and fast weight loss, and experts said it’s a smart, effective diet. more

Volumetrics Diet

#2 in Best Weight-Loss Diets

Volumetrics earned high marks for being safe and nutritious, and experts said it could have a positive effect on heart health and diabetes. more

Volumetrics earned high marks for being safe and nutritious, and experts said it could have a positive effect on heart health and diabetes. more

Jenny Craig Diet

#3 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

Jenny Craig drew praise for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete and safe, but experts were lukewarm about its potential to bolster heart health or help diabetics. more

Jenny Craig drew praise for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete and safe, but experts were lukewarm about its potential to bolster heart health or help diabetics. more

Vegan Diet

#3 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

Overall, veganism is good for diabetes and heart disease, but it’s extremely restrictive, doesn’t offer built-in social support and may not provide enough of some nutrients. more

Overall, veganism is good for diabetes and heart disease, but it’s extremely restrictive, doesn’t offer built-in social support and may not provide enough of some nutrients. more

The Flexitarian Diet

#5 in Best Weight-Loss Diets

The Flexitarian Diet, which emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based protein, is a smart and healthy choice. One panelist noted that this diet is “a nice approach that could work for the whole family.” more

The Flexitarian Diet, which emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based protein, is a smart and healthy choice. One panelist noted that this diet is “a nice approach that could work for the whole family.” more

#6 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

DASH fights high blood pressure and was praised for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. more

DASH fights high blood pressure and was praised for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. more

The Engine 2 Diet

#6 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

Though experts liked the heart health and diabetes benefits, they faulted Engine 2 for being unnecessarily restrictive and “gimmicky,” and called for more research into some of its claims. more

Though experts liked the heart health and diabetes benefits, they faulted Engine 2 for being unnecessarily restrictive and “gimmicky,” and called for more research into some of its claims. more

Ornish Diet

#6 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

The Ornish diet is nutritionally sound, safe and heart-healthy, but it’s not easy to adhere to the severe fat restriction the diet demands. more

The Ornish diet is nutritionally sound, safe and heart-healthy, but it’s not easy to adhere to the severe fat restriction the diet demands. more

Raw Food Diet

#6 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

The raw food diet is considered all but impossible to follow, and its nutritional completeness and safety were concerns among the experts. “Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge and sacrifice,” one expert said. more

The raw food diet is considered all but impossible to follow, and its nutritional completeness and safety were concerns among the experts. “Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge and sacrifice,” one expert said. more

SlimFast Diet

#6 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (tie)

SlimFast scored low for healthy eating, diabetes and heart disease However, it did receive high marks for overall weight loss and fast weight loss. more

SlimFast scored low for healthy eating, diabetes and heart disease However, it did receive high marks for overall weight loss and fast weight loss. more

16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

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Tweak your lifestyle

It’s a familiar story: You pledge to honor a daily elliptical routine and count every last calorie. But soon, you’re eating cupcakes at the office and grabbing happy hour mojitos, thinking, Oops, diet over.

There is a better way: Swap the all-or-nothing approach for one or two healthy switch-ups in your daily routine. “Doing this can lead to more weight loss than you ever imagined,” says Marissa Lippert, RD, author of The Cheater’s Diet.

In fact, we talked to readers who knocked off 10, 25, even 60 pounds with some easy tweaks. Borrow their slim-down secrets to transform your body the real-world way.

Best Weight Loss Advice You’ve Never Heard

9 “Oh, wow!” strategies to help you shed those pounds.

WebMD archives content after 2 years to ensure our readers can easily find the most timely content.

To find the most current information, please enter your topic of interest into our search box.

“>From the WebMD Archives

You’re ready to lose some weight. But you’re tired of listening to all that stale, tried-and-true weight loss advice, like eating more vegetables, limiting portions, and exercising more.

Maybe what you need is a fresh idea or two. So WebMD asked diet experts to come up with some lesser-known diet tips that could make the most jaded dieter drop that cookie and vow, “Oh wow! I’ll try that today.”

Here are nine diet tips you may not have not heard yet. Some involve different ways to eat, or adding certain foods to your diet. Others involve learning new behaviors or strategies to help you stay on track.

Weight Loss Tip No. 1: Variety Is Overrated

Who hasn’t heard the advice to “just take a bite of everything” if you’re at a buffet?

But as it turns out, variety doesn’t deserve its good reputation, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a Chicago dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet.

“We know that variety makes you eat more,” she says, citing several published studies and her own experience in counseling weight loss patients.

For example, researchers in France found that study participants ate more french fries when they were offered catsup and mayonnaise along with them. And when they were given the option of having cream or whipped cream with their brownies, they ate more than when the brownies were offered plain.

Other researchers have found that people who have been able to maintain weight loss tend to eat diets with limited variety.

Weight Loss Tip No. 2: Have Barley for Breakfast

“Barley is the new oatmeal,” says Jackson Blatner.

Barley got its hunger-fighting reputation after Swedish researchers found that eating barley or rye kernels for breakfast kept blood sugar on an even keel. That’s because the carbs in barley and rye kernels are “low glycemic index,” meaning they raise blood sugar more slowly than some other carbohydrate foods. This helps you avoid a spike, and then a drop, in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling famished.

One caveat: “Buy hulled barely, not pearl barley,” Jackson Blatner says. The Swedish researchers used minimally processed hull barley, and they can’t vouch for the same effects for more processed forms, such as pearl barley.

Weight Loss Tip No. 3: Beef Up Your Lunch Salad

One of the most common mistakes dieters make is to eat a vegetable salad with little or no dressing for lunch, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, professor of nutrition at Boston University and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Then they are starving by mid-afternoon,” she says.

A salad is a great choice, she says, if you add some protein and a little fat to help keep you feeling full longer.

Top your greens with a 3 oz piece of chicken breast, and you’ve added about 26 grams of protein but just 140 calories. Add about two tablespoons of light salad dressing, and your salad may be filling enough to get you through the 3 p.m. hunger slump without hitting the vending machine.

Weight Loss Tip No. 4: Stock Up on Frozen Vegetables

Sure, fresh vegetables are delicious and nutritious. But faced with the need to scrape a carrot, wash and slice a zucchini, or cut broccoli into florets, many of us say, “Too much trouble!” and reach for chips instead.

To make things easier, stock your freezer with frozen vegetables, Blake tells dieters.

“They are already clean, chopped and ready to cook in the microwave,” she says. “It’s like having Rachael Ray in the freezer.”

An even better way to be sure you eat more vegetables: Cook the frozen veggies ahead of time. Microwave the whole bag of green beans, for instance. Then keep them in the refrigerator, ready to dump into canned soups, add to a salad, or just eat by the handful.

Weight Loss Tip No. 5: Make Yourself a Party Tray

The type of party tray Jackson Blatner is talking about is a big vegetable platter, maybe with some low-fat dip on the site — the kind you put on the buffet for weight-conscious guests.

But this one is just for you and any interested family members. Keep it in the fridge at eye level, encouraging you to snack healthy and avoid the higher-calorie contents of your refrigerator.

Several studies have found that we tend to eat more when food is within easy reach. Secretaries who placed candy on their desks ate about 48% more than when the candy was 6 feet away, according to research by Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

Weight Loss Tip No. 6: Turn Down the Thermostat

Spending time in a chilly house — about 61 degrees Fahrenheit — may boost the fat-burning power of the “brown fat” in your body.

Brown fat is considered “good” fat, as opposed to regular or white fat, which stores calories and tends to accumulate. Researchers believe that lean people have more of the brown type of fat, and that the amount of brown fat a person has declines with age.

Scandinavian researchers found that exposure to these chilly temperatures boosted the metabolic rate of brown fat 15-fold, helping burn more calories.

But Jackson Blatner cautions not to expect too much: “It’s not going to be any kind of a miracle,” she says. And beware if you’re the type who eats more when you feel cold.

Weight Loss Tip No. 7: Downsize Your Dinnerware

Experts say they’ve seen it again and again: The larger your plate, the more you’re likely to put on it. So serving your meals on smaller plates can help you eat less.

But don’t throw out those dinner plates, Blake suggests. Use the smaller, lunch-size plates to serve dinner, and use the dinner plates for salads.

Weight Loss Tip No. 8: Go Out for Treats

If you’re the type who overdoes it on sweets and snacks, Jackson Blatner suggests, make yourself work a little for your favorite indulgences. Don’t keep them in the house, but give yourself permission to go out and get them when you really need to.

Want a brownie? You have to go to the bakery. Craving a frozen yogurt? You must find the nearest frozen yogurt shop.

“The more hassle tasty treats are, the less likely you are to eat them,” says Jackson Blatner, who does this herself and finds her sweets consumption has declined without making her feel deprived.

Weight Loss Tip No. 9: Try on Your Skinny Jeans Every Friday

Find a pair of pants that is tight, but not impossible to zip, Blake suggests to her weight loss patients. “Every Friday morning, try them on,” she says.

Why Friday? Weekends are typically a tougher time to stay on diets, she says. And the Friday morning try-on will motivate you to watch your eating during the weekend.

“If they are loose, you will say to yourself ‘I am making progress, I am staying on track during the weekend,”’ she says.

And if they’re snug? That will provide motivation to stick to your diet so they’ll fit better next week, she says.

Joan Salge Blake, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; professor of nutrition, Boston University.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author, The Flexitarian Diet.

Brondel, L. Physiology & Behavior, April 2009, vol 97: pp 44-51.

Raynor, H. Obesity, May 2005; vol 13: pp 883-890.

Nilsson, A. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; vol 87: pp 645-654.

Painter, J. Appetite, June 2002; vol 38: pp 237-238.

Cypess, A. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 9, 2009; vol 360: pp 1509-1517.

Virtanen, K. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 9, 2009; vol 360: pp 1518-1525.

Lichtenbelt, W. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 9, 2009; vol 360: pp 1500-1508.

Wansink, B. Journal of the American Medical Association, April 2005; vol 203: pp 1727-1728.

You Asked: What’s the Best Way to Lose Weight?

If you’re hoping to drop a few pounds for an upcoming vacation, the old “calories in, calories out” method can be effective. Combine a meager diet with lots of exercise, and in the short term your body will plunder its fat stores in search of energy. You’ll lose weight—maybe even a lot of weight, depending on how much you were eating and exercising before you got going.

But veteran dieters know, and lots of research shows, that nearly all calorie-restriction plans ultimately fail. Most people gain their old weight back, and then some.

“The long-term success rate of obesity treatment is abysmal, which is why every year we have new diets and weight-loss treatments, along with a billion-dollar weight-loss industry,” says Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist and professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

In his new book Always Hungry?, Ludwig attacks the conventional wisdom that assumes eating less is the key to losing weight.

When you cut back calories, your body fights back in a number of ways, he says. First and foremost, you get hungry. “Hunger is very powerful and very primal,” he says (as anyone who’s ever felt “hangry” knows). “You can ignore it for a few days or weeks or months, or trick it by drinking lots of water or going for a walk, but it’s very hard to ignore it permanently.”

While you’re feeling famished, your metabolic rate also drops as your body attempts to conserve energy. This means you’ll naturally burn fewer calories, so you’ll have to cut even more of them from your diet in order to keep the scale on a downward trajectory, Ludwig explains.

Do this long enough, and eventually your brain will assume you’re starving (because to some extent, you are). At that point, it will trigger biological responses that tell your fat cells to start storing whatever calories they can get their hands on, which is exactly what you’re trying to prevent in the first place.

“In all these ways, traditional diets work against your body and your biology,” Ludwig says. “You need to work with your body for sustained weight loss.”

How do you do that? You need to eat more of the right types of foods, Ludwig says. In particular, he says healthy sources of dietary fat—like avocados, olive oil, full-fat dairy, nuts and nut butters, full-fat salad dressings and real dark chocolate—are your greatest weight-loss allies.

For two weeks, try to load up your diet with these foods while cutting refined carbs, including chips, pretzels, cookies, breads and other processed snacks, as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes. Hunger will subside, while your body will lose its motivation to store fat, Ludwig says. Non-starchy vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, beans, and other whole foods are all on the menu. “You can eat until you feel full,” Ludwig says.

Other experts agree the right sources of fat help promote weight loss. By increasing fullness and quelling hunger, “healthy fats make weight loss comfortable,” says Dr. Lydia Bazzano, a professor of nutrition at Tulane University. Her research into various diets shows the weight-loss benefits of replacing unhealthy carbohydrates with healthy fats.

After two weeks, you can add back in small amounts of starchy vegetables and whole grains—stuff like steel-cut oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and all those “old-world” whole grains, Ludwig says.

A pilot study based on this diet shows people lost up to 2 pounds a week—without the hunger or across-the-board restriction favored by conventional diets. Eventually, once your weight reaches a new, lower “set point,” you can add back in small amounts of processed carbs,” Ludwig says. Your diet should more or less resemble a Mediterranean-style eating plan—the kind linked to so many brain and body benefits.

It’s not radical or extreme. But if your goal is healthy, sustainable weight loss, this is the kind of diet the latest science supports.

You’re probably wondering, “What about exercise?!” For so many different reasons, regular exercise is essential for a healthy body and mind. But absent major diet changes, most research shows exercise alone won’t lead to more than a couple pounds of dropped weight.

Still, if you’re wondering which workouts will best support your diet-driven weight-loss goals, research suggests high-intensity physical activity is best. Think short bursts of all-out sprinting or cycling, rather than extended runs or rides. All exercise is good for you. But these bouts of super-intense activity have been linked to blood-sugar changes that support lower body weights.

What’s the Best Exercise to Lose Weight: Cardio or Lifting Weights?

Science says that minute per minute, you’ll burn more calories doing cardio—but that doesn’t mean you should skip strength.

For decades, conventional wisdom (and Jane Fonda) said cardio was the best exercise for weight loss. Then strength training muscled its way into the spotlight as the must-do move for revving your metabolism and losing weight in your sleep, prompting many exercise enthusiasts to join #TeamNoCardio. So a few years ago, Duke University researchers took to the lab and conducted the largest study of its kind to compare the two and get an answer once and for all.

After 8 months of tracking 119 overweight and previously sedentary volunteers while they performed resistance training, aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two, the clear winner was…aerobic exercise. By a lot. The cardio group lost about 4 pounds while their resistance training peers gained two. Yes, the weight gain was attributed to added lean mass. However, that muscle mass didn’t lead to any meaningful fat loss over the course of the study. In fact, the aerobics only group shed more than 3 ½ pounds of fat while the lifters didn’t lose a single pound despite the fact that they actually exercised 47 more minutes each week than the cardio group. Not surprisingly, the cardio-plus-resistance group improved their body composition best—losing the most fat while adding some lean mass. But they also spent twice as much time in the gym.

Related: 3 Cardio Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

It’s simple math, says study co-author Cris Slentz, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University. “Minute per minute, cardio burns more calories, so it works best for reducing fat mass and body mass.” That’s not to say that you shouldn’t lift weights, especially as you get older and start losing muscle mass, he notes. “Resistance training is important for maintaining lean body mass, strength and function, and being functionally fit is important for daily living no matter what your size.”

For the biggest fitness gain/weight loss bang for your exercise buck, combine the two, doing your strength training first and finishing off with your cardio. An American Council on Exercise study on exercise sequencing found that your heart rate is higher—by about 12 beats per minute—during your cardio bout when you’ve lifted weights beforehand. That means more calories burned.

It’s also important to remember one essential fact about exercise and weight loss, says Slentz. “Exercise by itself will not lead to big weight loss. What and how much you eat has a far greater impact on how much weight you lose,” he says. That’s because it’s far easier to take in less energy (calories) than it is to burn significant amounts and it’s very easy to cancel out the few hundred calories you’ve burned working out with just one snack.

Where exercise appears to matter most is for preventing weight gain, or for keeping off pounds once you’ve lost weight, says Slentz. “Exercise seems to work best for body weight control,” he says. The National Weight Control Registry, which since 1994 has tracked more than 10,000 people who shed an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for at least five years, would agree. Ninety percent of successful weight loss maintainers exercise for about an hour a day and their activity of choice is cardio, simply walking.

Healthy weight

Main navigation

  • NHS weight loss guide
    • Start the NHS weight loss plan
    • Sign up for email support
    • How much weight do you need to lose?
    • 12 tips to help you lose weight
    • Non-food rewards for losing weight
  • How to lose weight quickly free
  • How to lose weight
    • How to diet
    • Start losing weight
    • Top diets review
    • 10 weight loss myths
    • Keep weight off
    • Should you lose weight fast?
    • How your GP can help you lose weight
    • How to lose weight in a wheelchair
    • Managing weight with a learning disability
  • Overweight children
    • The National Child Measurement Programme
    • Overweight children aged 2 to 5
    • What can I do if my child is overweight?
    • What if my child is very overweight?

12 tips to help you lose weight on the 12-week plan

Get off to the best possible start on the NHS 12-week weight loss plan with these 12 diet and exercise tips.

1. Don’t skip breakfast

Skipping breakfast won’t help you lose weight. You could miss out on essential nutrients and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you feel hungry. Check out five healthy breakfasts.

2. Eat regular meals

Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar. Find out more about eating heathily.

3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg

Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – 3 essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Read up on getting your 5 A Day.

4. Get more active

Being active is key to losing weight and keeping it off. As well as providing numerous health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can’t cut through diet alone. Find an activity you enjoy and are able to fit into your routine.

5. Drink plenty of water

People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need.

6. Eat high-fibre foods

Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you to feel full, which is perfect for losing weight. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, and beans, peas and lentils.

7. Read food labels

Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options. Use the calorie information to work out how a particular food fits into your daily calorie allowance on the weight loss plan. Find out more about reading food labels.

8. Use a smaller plate

Using smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions. By using smaller plates and bowls, you may be able to gradually get used to eating smaller portions without going hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.

9. Don’t ban foods

Don’t ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the occasional treat as long as you stay within your daily calorie allowance.

10. Don’t stock junk food

To avoid temptation, try to not stock junk food – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks – at home. Instead, opt for healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn, and fruit juice.

11. Cut down on alcohol

A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate. Over time, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain. Find out more about the calories in alcohol.

12. Plan your meals

Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list.

Page last reviewed: 05/12/2016
Next review due: 05/12/2019

Guide to Behavior Change

Your Weight Is Important

Over the past few years it has become clear that weight is an important health issue. Some people who need to lose weight for their health don’t recognize it, while others who don’t need to lose weight want to get thinner for cosmetic reasons. We understand that in some ways your weight is different from, for example, your cholesterol level or your blood pressure, because you can’t see what these are by looking at someone. Many patients have had health care providers who approached their weight in a less-than-sensitive or helpful manner. Some patients may have had health care encounters in which they felt blamed, but not helped. Successful weight management is a long-term challenge.

Weight can affect a person’s self-esteem. Excess weight is highly visible and evokes some powerful reactions, however unfairly, from other people and from the people who carry the excess weight. The amount of weight loss needed to improve your health may be much less than you wish to lose, when you consider how you evaluate your weight. Research has shown that your health can be greatly improved by a loss of 5–10 percent of your starting weight. That doesn’t mean you have to stop there, but it does mean that an initial goal of losing 5–10 percent of your starting weight is both realistic and valuable.

Behaviors That Will Help You Lose Weight and Maintain It

Set the Right Goals
Setting the right goals is an important first step. Most people trying to lose weight focus on just that one goal: weight loss. However, the most productive areas to focus on are the dietary and physical activity changes that will lead to long-term weight change. Successful weight managers are those who select two or three goals at a time that are manageable.

Useful goals should be (1) specific; (2) attainable (doable); and (3) forgiving (less than perfect). “Exercise more” is a great goal, but it’s not specific. “Walk 5 miles every day” is specific and measurable, but is it doable if you’re just starting out? “Walk 30 minutes every day” is more attainable, but what happens if you’re held up at work one day and there’s a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? “Walk 30 minutes, 5 days each week” is specific, doable, and forgiving. In short, a great goal!

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

Shaping is a behavioral technique in which you select a series of short-term goals that get closer and closer to the ultimate goal (e.g., an initial reduction of fat intake from 40 percent of calories to 35 percent of calories, and later to 30 percent). It is based on the concept that “nothing succeeds like success.” Shaping uses two important behavioral principles: (1) consecutive goals that move you ahead in small steps are the best way to reach a distant point; and (2) consecutive rewards keep the overall effort invigorated.

Reward Success (But Not With Food)

An effective reward is something that is desirable, timely, and dependent on meeting your goal. The rewards you choose may be material (e.g., a movie or music CD, or a payment toward buying a more costly item) or an act of self-kindness (e.g., an afternoon off from work or just an hour of quiet time away from family). Frequent small rewards, earned for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards that require a long, difficult effort.

Balance Your Food Checkbook

“Self-monitoring” refers to observing and recording some aspect of your behavior, such as calorie intake, servings of fruits and vegetables, amount of physical activity, etc., or an outcome of these behaviors, such as weight. Self-monitoring of a behavior can be used at times when you’re not sure how you’re doing, and at times when you want the behavior to improve. Self-monitoring of a behavior usually moves you closer to the desired direction and can produce “real-time” records for review by you and your health care provider. For example, keeping a record of your physical activity can let you and your provider know quickly how you’re doing. When the record shows that your activity is increasing, you’ll be encouraged to keep it up. Some patients find that specific self-monitoring forms make it easier, while others prefer to use their own recording system.

While you may or may not wish to weigh yourself frequently while losing weight, regular monitoring of your weight will be essential to help you maintain your lower weight. When keeping a record of your weight, a graph may be more informative than a list of your weights. When weighing yourself and keeping a weight graph or table, however, remember that one day’s diet and exercise patterns won’t have a measurable effect on your weight the next day. Today’s weight is not a true measure of how well you followed your program yesterday, because your body’s water weight will change from day to day, and water changes are often the result of things that have nothing to do with your weight-management efforts.

Avoid a Chain Reaction

Stimulus (cue) control involves learning what social or environmental cues seem to encourage undesired eating, and then changing those cues. For example, you may learn from reflection or from self-monitoring records that you’re more likely to overeat while watching television, or whenever treats are on display by the office coffee pot, or when around a certain friend. You might then try to change the situation, such as by separating the association of eating from the cue (don’t eat while watching television), avoiding or eliminating the cue (leave the coffee room immediately after pouring coffee), or changing the circumstances surrounding the cue (plan to meet your friend in a nonfood setting). In general, visible and reachable food items are often cues for unplanned eating.

Get the Fullness Message

Changing the way you go about eating can make it easier to eat less without feeling deprived. It takes 15 or more minutes for your brain to get the message that you’ve been fed. Eating slowly will help you feel satisfied. Eating lots of vegetables and fruits can make you feel fuller. Another trick is to use smaller plates so that moderate portions do not appear too small. Changing your eating schedule, or setting one, can be helpful, especially if you tend to skip, or delay, meals and overeat later.

Healthy Weight Tip

Changing the way you approach weight loss can help you be successful. Set goals and focus on lifestyle changes like being physically active instead of focusing on just weight loss itself.

Set the Right Goals

“Walk 30 minutes, 5 days each week” is a goal that is specific, doable, and forgiving.

10 Best Ways To Lose Weight Faster

Has your fat loss stalled? Burn more calories and lose more weight by trying one of these 10 techniques!

I’m sure everyone has that one friend who is so genetically blessed that he can blink an eye and magically drop to sub-10-percent body fat. Everyone else has to dial in their diet and tweak their training.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, fat doesn’t evacuate from your body as quickly as you’d like. The first instinct might be to dramatically increase calorie deficitВ andВ caloric expenditure, but that can bring about detrimental long-term effects on your body.

Instead, try weaving in one or more of these techniques to tell that final layer of fat to take a hike. Not all techniques are meant to work for everyone, but finding one that works for you should help you see the changes and progress you desire.

1.В Utilize Intermittent Fasting

Many folks, particularly men, have seen great success with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting allows only a small feeding window—typically, eight hours— before and after which you don’t eat anything. The idea is that the practice would force your body to subsist on body fat storage for fuel during the fasting window, improve insulin sensitivity, and allow you to eat more diverse foods during your feeding window.

I make sure to eat my last meal of the day at 6:30 pm. Then I wake up in the morning and do my cardio in a semi-fasted state, after thirteen and a half hours have taken place.

BPIВ co-founder,В James Grage, reveals this to be one of his top strategies when he’s preparing for a show. “I make sure to eat my last meal of the day at 6:30 pm. Then I wake up in the morning and do my cardio in a semi-fasted state, after thirteen and a half hours have taken place. Only after that do I eat my breakfast—the first meal I’ll have consumed since the night before.”

You may not want to do this all the time since its long-term effects on hormones, especially in women, are somewhat dubious at this point. However, for a period of one or two weeks, it can speed things along.

2. Carb Cycle

Carb cyclingВ means you’ll eat your target carbs on training days and approximately 50 percent of your normal carb intake on non-training or light cardio days. This strategy helps blunt fat storage on resting days and restores muscle glycogen in a supercompensated fashion. It also combats the metabolic crash associated with conventional low-calorie diets and keeps a strong satiety signal throughout the body.

If you find yourself at a loss for what to eat on training days, whey protein is a great way to keep up with your protein macros. The fiber will also keep you full, decreasing the likelihood you’ll binge on empty carb-loaded calories when a craving hits. Choose a whey that’s low in carbs on your training days, and reserve the mass-gainer protein for days when you want to carb load.

3.В Do Dropsets

DropsetsВ can also be an effective way to turn up your metabolic furnace. To perform a dropset, you simply perform an exercise at a heavy weight until failure, then immediately drop the weight and bang out more reps until failure.

Continue this pattern until your muscles scream in agony. When incorporated correctly, dropsets will tear into your muscle glycogen, which will then create a greater post-exercise metabolic response from the intensity and will need to restore your body’s sapped glycogen.

Just be wary thatВ tooВ many dropsets can make Timmy a dull boy, too. This is especially true if you don’t get enough carbs throughout the day; use this technique wisely.

4.В Make Your Meal Plan Mindless

You need to ditch your habits of weighing your food to the gram at your desk and crunching numbers throughout the day. The less you stress about eating, the better are your chances to stick with your eating plan and avoid making decisions that could set you back. After all, it just takes one giant binge to completely erase a week’s worth of effort, so make every bite count.

Just take one day of the week—say, Sunday—and spend all day in the kitchen, preparing and portioning out all your food among towers of Tupperware. While your friends and family may snort at the sight, you know a week’s worth of muscle-fueling, fat-bashing food will be within arm’s reach.

5.В Supplement With L-Carnitine

L-carnitineВ might just be one of the hottest fat loss supplements around. I don’t recommend you put all your eggs in this fat-loss basket, but supplementing with carnitine if you practice vegetarianism, veganism, or otherwise have a low dietary carnitine intake from meats might help you with fat loss.

When paired with exercise, carnitine supplementation can boost activity of the beta-oxidation pathway when paired with exercise. Basically, you could be increasing the body’s fat-burning potential.

James likes to pair 1.5 grams of carnitine with a capsule of the fat burner,В B4, which helps further stimulate fat loss while increasing energy levels and focus.

6.В Perform Compound Supersets

Many people default to a full-body workout program to include intense compound exercises and make workouts more efficient. Why not add compound supersets?

By pairing two major exercises back-to-back like this—the squat and bench press, for example—you end up recruiting many more muscle fibers over a shorter period of time. You’ll not only burn more calories during your workout, but you’ll continue to burn more once it’s over.

7.В Master The Energy Balance Equation

Fat loss responds best to the most reductive nature of this calorie balance equation: Calories consumed must be less than calories burned. In order to hit that deficit, James Grage uses cardio to achieve proper balance in his routine.

“My steady-state cardio in the morning is the first layer of the foundation, and I’ll do anywhere from 25-35 minutes on the elliptical, five days a week,” he explains. It doesn’t stop there.

James doubles up his workout with a resistance training session later and squeezes in 90 seconds of high intensity cardio between his sets. He prefers the jump rope; he can carry it around from exercise to exercise. If he does 18-20 sets in a session, this adds up to an additional 30 minutes of cardio training. Cardio does not need to be performed continuously on a machine for it to be “cardio.”

8.В Get Your Omegas In Order

UsingВ fish oil supplementsВ isn’t unique toВ weight loss. Studies have shown the benefits of omega fatty acid supplementation regardless of your physique goal. A good omega 3/6/9 blend containingВ CLAВ is part of James Grage’s not-so-secret arsenal, as part of his daily supplement stack. He pairs 1000 mg of CLA with the omegas for maximum results.

“CLA is not only helpful for reducing body fat,” he explains, “but omega fats are also crucial for enhancing your overall health.”

Remember, even though fat loss may be your primary short-term goal, health optimization should never take a back seat.

9.В Dial-In Form

As you move closer and closer toward your ideal body fat count, your energy levels may start to waver from the accumulated energy deficit. You might not be able to sustain as much volume in the gym as you’re used to since you’re not eating as much and your muscle glycogen is never fully saturated. Overall, you’ve just seen better days.

This isn’t permission to allow some slack. Rather than cheating every rep, concentrate harder on perfecting your form. By focusing on each muscle contraction and isolating the working muscle group, you can maximize the training benefits you get from each working set. This makes a lower volume workout that much more effective.

10.В Skip A Day

While you definitely don’t want to get into the habit of regularly skipping workout sessions, you might benefit greatly great from taking a full rest day. Listen to your body. If it’s bludgeoning you over the head with various aches and discomfort, let your body rest, for crying out loud.

Listen to your body. If it’s bludgeoning you over the head with various aches and discomfort, let your body rest, for crying out loud.

No matter if you’re trying to get lean or strong, an adequate rest is an integral part of the process for results.

If your gym session isn’t going to be productive because you’re not feeling great, you’ll only do more harm than good by unnecessarily pushing yourself. Rest up and go harder the next day!

About the Author

Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark is a freelance health and fitness writer located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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