The hardest part about losing 50 pounds or more can sometimes be getting started. Weight loss is often just as much of a mental battle as a physical one.
Take some time to think about why you are looking to make this change. What is motivating you to want to shed pounds? It could be to live longer, to have more energy so that you can spend time playing with your kids, it could be the loss of a loved one that has inspired you to take better care of yourself, or it could be to invest more in yourself and to just feel really damn good.
Once you find what really motivates you to get in shape, hold onto it and come back to it often. Write it down, put it on your wallet or post it somewhere to remind yourself of why you got started in the first place.
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How to Lose Weight Quickly
To lose 50 pounds or more, you will want to begin by calculating how many calories you should be eating each day. Regardless of what you’ve been told, a calorie deficit is the most widely accepted method to shed pounds (1). It is also one of the easiest and fastest ways. Weight reduction, at its simplest form, is a balance of energy in vs. energy out. And if you eat less than you burn, your body will use your reserve fuels, oftentimes body fat, and cause you to lose weight.
However, as simple as the energy equation is in theory, it is not a perfect science. And your weight loss journey is often not a straight path. Your total calorie burn can be affected by a number of factors, including your weight, muscle mass, level of fitness, and even the type of foods you choose.
As pounds fall off, your metabolism changes, and weight reduction gets harder. Your body is smart and recognizes when you are not getting what you need to maintain your existing weight. If you continue to lose pounds, your metabolism slows down so that you will survive longer - this is your system preparing for starvation mode.
On top of a slower metabolism, your energy needs will decrease as your weight drops - so you may have to cut intake even lower. This is why many people will plateau after losing 10 to 15 pounds because they don't realize their daily calorie goals need to be readjusted.
When you stop losing weight as quickly, it may be time to take a break. Give yourself a couple weeks to maintain your new normal. And then when you're ready to get back at it, recalculate your needs to continue to lean out.
And just because the numbers on the scale aren't changing, doesn't mean you aren't losing weight. Your fat cells are pretty stubborn - they tend to try and hang around for survival purposes, and to provide you a valuable source of energy. As you lose fat, you might gain water weight. Fat cells will fill with water to maintain their shape and in the hopes of acquiring fat to fill it again (2). But if you continue to cut calories and lose fat, they eventually give up and shrink.
Losing weight takes a lot of patience. The scale will go up and down, but a consistent calorie deficit over time will lead to weight loss.
Looking for more info on how weight loss works? We've created the Ultimate Guide to get you started - How to Lose Weight.
How Long Does It Take to Lose 50 Pounds?
For most people, a weight loss of two to three pounds per week represents a healthy and sustainable approach to losing 50 pounds or more. You will need to cut 3,500 calories from your diet to lose one pound of fat – so cutting back 1,000 calories a day will equal two pounds of weight loss per week. At a weight loss of two pounds per week, you will lose 50 pounds in 25 weeks, or a little less than six months. Remember, as you start losing weight, you will need to readjust your energy needs and move to a lower-calorie level for every 10 to 15 pounds lost to keep losing weight at a consistent rate.
8 Ways to Kick Start Your Weight Loss
1. Keep a Food Log
You can decrease your calorie intake by tracking what you eat every day, cutting down on your portion sizes, or eliminating high-calorie options from your diet. Although it may sound tedious, counting calories is the absolute best thing you can do to stay on track. One medical study suggested that tracking your daily intake may help double the amount of weight you lose (3).
Keeping an eye on how much you’re consuming, seven days a week, will not only ensure you are meeting your goals, but can also teach you a ton about your nutrition. You will learn how to portion better and discover a few things you didn’t realize we're getting in the way of your progress.
Download a macro or calorie tracking app to get started!
2. Eat The Best Weight Loss Foods
Even though controlling how much you are eating is the only proven way to lose weight, what you are consuming can play a major role in the type of weight you lose (i.e. muscle vs. fat). And choosing the right type of grub can make it a little easier by helping to control hunger, improving your mood, boosting energy levels, and much more.
Calorie control is not a perfect science. The methods used to determine the exact calorie amounts in foods can be off by up to 5% (4). The quality of ingredients and level of processing can also affect how quickly it is digested and absorbed by the body. Research suggests less processed options may be absorbed more slowly, and that your body expends twice as much energy digesting these foods compared to highly processed ones (5). Stack your plate with the best foods for weight loss to keep your total intake under control and boost the overall quality of your meals.
Having a hard time sticking to your diet or just not a big fan of traditional diet food? Consider opting for a new approach like a keto diet. While the research on keto for weight loss is still in its early stages, some studies are suggesting that eliminating a majority of carbs from your diet forces your body to burn more fat for energy and may promote more weight loss with better appetite control. A ketogenic meal plan promotes higher fat foods (like bacon, cheese, whole eggs, peanut butter, and plenty of avocados), which is a drastic difference from traditional diets that suggest a more lean approach (like low-fat dairy, lean proteins, steamed veggies, and whole grains). If this style of eating sounds more appealing to you, keto might be worth a shot!
3. Use Smart Goal Setting
Eating healthy may seem like a mystery these days, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. It is possible to lose weight, eat the things you love and still get the nutrients you need into your day. It is all about a healthy balance and finding the right changes that work best for you.
Don’t feel like you must overhaul your entire lifestyle all at once. Start with one or two areas you really need to work on and master those first. Set goals you know you can achieve. Small changes will create the biggest impact over time. If you are adding more nutritious foods to your day, make sure you are also getting rid of some unhealthy options, this will help you make more room for the choices that are going to benefit you most. Here are some proven ways to lose more weight and increase your nutrition, that you may want to consider:
- Eat more veggies - in fact, aim to make half of your plate veggies
- Drink more water, or only water
- Drink less alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Eat more protein, especially lean proteins like fish, chicken, beans, and lentils.
- Eat less processed foods - anything with ingredients you cannot pronounce
- Eat less sugar and options with added sugar.
- Eat less high-fat items like fried/breaded meats, heavy sauces, and use fewer dressings, oils, and butter.
4. Burn More Calories
The more you move, the more you burn each day. Exercise is also a great way to build more lean muscle mass to increase your metabolism and allow you to burn more body fat.
If it has been a while since you’ve seen a gym, you are going to want to ease into any workout routine. Even if you are mentally ready to go balls to the wall and get shredded fast, your body may not be ready. Be realistic with yourself and your current level of fitness. For some, simply moving more today than you did the day before is a great place to start. If you are looking for some great workout ideas for beginners, try some of these:
- Walking or jogging
- Exercises using your body weight
- Light weight lifting
As your level of fitness increases, you can start to incorporate more high intensity training and weight lifting to increase results.
5. Reduce Hunger
Having more than 50 pounds of excess weight can sometimes make weight reduction more difficult, especially if your hunger-fullness cues are out of whack.
Your body has two key hormones it uses to regulate hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is produced by the stomach, and signals to the brain to increase your appetite when the stomach is empty and energy is needed. Leptin is produced by your fat cells and does the opposite, working to increase metabolism for digestion and signaling to the brain that you are full, and no more food is needed.
Ideally, when you are gaining weight, leptin works to naturally decrease appetite and promote weight loss. However, in some cases of excess weight gain, you can become leptin resistant. In other words, your leptin signals are no longer working properly, and your body may constantly feel hungry. In addition, any weight loss achieved may trigger ghrelin to increase, which can increase your appetite further (6,7).
But have no fear, leptin and ghrelin are not the only factors that control your appetite. And understanding you may be hungrier when dieting is half the battle, so hang in there. Here are few lifestyle changes you can try to keep your growling stomach at ease:
- Drink more water. Often appetite can spike when you are slightly dehydrated.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber pulls more water into the gut, making you feel fuller.
- Eat more fish. Omega 3 fatty acids are linked to decreased hunger. (8)
- Get Some rest. Lack of sleep can cause you to store more belly fat and may also cause ghrelin to increase and leptin to decrease. (9,10)
6. Know Your Strengths
Take note of the obstacles you are facing when it comes to losing weight and be honest with yourself. Is your job, friends, time, money, stress, etc. holding you back from being successful? Being aware of your weaknesses and making a list of the hurdles you will need to jump, will help prepare you for these challenges as they arise.
Now take note of your strengths. What are the things you have going for you to achieve your goals? Do you have a strong support system, access to tools you need, the time to dedicate to yourself? Make a list of your strengths and continue to seek new ones. You can use these to overcome some of your obstacles and propel yourself forward.
7. Give Yourself a Break
Remember you are not alone. We all have our own battles with healthy eating, it just looks a little different for each of us. Give yourself permission to fail. Failure is a part of the journey, and it only helps you grow stronger and wiser. If you have a bad day or a bad week, don’t throw out all your good intentions. Go back to your why and remember your motivation for starting. Then pick yourself up and get back on track. It is more important to be consistent than it is to be perfect.
8. Have Cheat Meals not Cheat Days
Contrary to popular belief, dieting and deprivation do not need to go hand in hand. It is possible to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and still splurge from time to time. Follow the 80/20 rule and strive to keep 80% of your intake on track, while giving yourself 20% of wiggle room.
This is also commonly referred to as “cheat days”. But remember, it takes 3500 calories to lose one pound. This also means it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound – and it is a LOT easier to eat 3,500 calories than to cut the same amount. Having a full-blown cheat day can unravel all your hard work for the week if you’re not careful. Instead, have cheat “events” or cheat meals. Choose one or two meals a week to enjoy yourself instead of a whole day. And make sure you spread them out, so your cheat events aren’t back to back. Also, try to wait at least one month before adding in any cheats.
More Weight Loss Tips
Consistency is key when it comes to transformation. Recent research suggests that it takes 66 days to form a habit, so give yourself time to be successful (11). And ultimately, the best diet for you is one that you can stick to.
- Don’t weigh yourself every day at first. Your weight may fluctuate if you are losing water weight and gaining muscle. Weigh yourself once a week and don’t let minor fluctuations derail you. As long as you are tracking your intake and staying on track, you will get there.
- Check menus in advance when dining out. Most restaurants will have their menus online or available for review before you even make a reservation. Take a look at the selections before going out to eat and choose a place that has options that meet your needs. And don’t forget to keep your portions in check – cut your meal in half and take the rest home.
- Learn how to meal prep. Having a plan for weekly meals can be a lifesaver when it comes to controlling your intake and having an effective diet. Pick one or two days a week to prep out lunches and snacks for the week and plan your dinner menus one week at a time. Or you can try a weight loss meal delivery program, like Trifecta, that delivers pre-cooked, organic meal options straight to your door.
- Celebrate little victories. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back every now and then. This can be as simple as posting about how awesome you are on Facebook, sharing your progress with others, or treating yourself to a reward like a trip away somewhere, a day at the spa, or a new pair of shoes. Whatever floats your boat. Giving yourself props not only feels good but can keep you motivated and moving forward.
- Get inspired by other people's personal stories. Meet Curtis, a Trifecta customer who lost over 50 pounds, while juggling a busy career and gym ownership. Hear what made him successful and what tips he has for others looking to lose a lot of weight. Or check out even more before and after stories to get motivated and see what worked for others.
Ready to get started? Here's everything you need to start building your weight loss meal plan. This RD-written toolkit is complete with calorie and macro goals tailored to you, food lists, and menu planning tools.
Calories do count. Kinsell, Laurance W. et al. Metabolism - Clinical and Experimental , Volume 13 , Issue 3 , 195 - 204
Jumpertz R, Venti CA, Le DS, et al. Food Label Accuracy of Common Snack Foods. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md). 2013;21(1):164-169. doi:10.1002/oby.20185.
- Barr SB, Wright JC. Postprandial energy expenditure in whole-food and processed-food meals: implications for daily energy expenditure. Food & Nutrition Research. 2010;54:10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5144. doi:10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5144.
- Woods SC. The control of food intake: behavioral versus molecular perspectives. Cell Metab. 2009 Jun;9(6):489-98. Review.
- Klok MD, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34. Review.
- Ramel A, Martinéz A, Kiely M, Morais G, Bandarra NM, Thorsdottir I. Beneficial effects of long-chain n-3 fatty acids included in an energy-restricted diet on insulin resistance in overweight and obese European young adults. Diabetologia. 2008 Jul;51(7):1261-8. Epub 2008 May 20.
- Pejovic S, Vgontzas AN, Basta M, Tsaoussoglou M, Zoumakis E, Vgontzas A, Bixler EO, Chrousos GP. Leptin and hunger levels in young healthy adults after one night of sleep loss. J Sleep Res. 2010 Dec;19(4):552-8
- Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. 2004. PLoS Med 1(3):e62
- Lally, Phillippa, van Jaarsveld, Cornelia H. M., Potts, Henry W. W., Wardle, Jane. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. Volume 40. Issue 6. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1099-0992. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674