Weight loss

How to lose weight quickly and safely?

You want to drop pounds, now. And you want to do it safely. But how?

Many experts say it’s best to lose weight gradually. It’s more likely to stay off. If you shed pounds too fast, you’ll lose muscle, bone, and water instead of fat, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The academy’s advice: Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week, and avoid fad diets or products that make promises that sound too good to be true. It’s best to base your weight loss on changes you can stick with over time.

For faster results, you’ll need to work with a doctor to make sure that you stay healthy and get the nutrients that you need.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “calories in, calories out” — as in, you just need to burn more calories than you eat and drink. 

But it’s not that simple, as many people can tell you from their own experience.

Nutrition and exercise are both important when trying to lose weight. Eating fewer calories has a bigger immediate impact, but staying active will help you keep the pounds off. And, of course, exercise has major benefits for your body and mind whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.

Your metabolism — how well your body turns calories into fuel — matters, too.  If you cut too many calories, you not only skimp on nutrients, you slow down your metabolism, making weight loss even harder in the long run.

There are many ways you can safely start losing weight without cutting calories too much. You could:

  • Cut back on portions.
  • Figure out how many calories you get in a usual day, and trim back a bit.
  • Read food labels to know how many calories are in each serving.
  • Drink more water, so you’re not so hungry.

Whatever method you use, you’ll need to favor good-for-you foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. But there’s no one-size-fits all plan for healthy eating. Working with a dietitian is a good idea so you make a plan that covers your specific needs. And when you make a healthy weight loss plan, it’s important to stick with it. To get healthy and stay that way, the trend has to continue — not just for a week or a month, but for the long term.

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Many apps can help you track your eating. Since you probably have your smartphone with you all the time, you can use it to keep up with your plan. Or keep a pen-and-paper food journal of what you ate and when.

You’ll also want to have people on your side to help you stay motivated and to cheer you on. So ask your family and friends to support your efforts to lose weight.

You might also want to join a weight loss group where you can talk about how it’s going with people who can relate. Or talk with someone you know who’s lost weight in a healthy way. Their encouragement is contagious, in a good way.

At the most basic level, food is fuel. It gives you energy to do things. But very few people eat just for that reason. Food is at every social gathering. And it’s where a lot of us turn when we have a rough day.

You’ll need to know what makes you want to eat when you’re not hungry and have a plan for those moments. You’ll also want to develop some of the other habits proven to help weight loss.

Find out what drives you to eat

What are your triggers? Do stress, anger, anxiety, or depression make you want to eat? Or is food your main reward when something good happens?

Try to notice when those feelings come up, and have a plan ready to do something other than eating. Could you take a walk? Text a friend?

Reward yourself for making better choices

Get yourself a bouquet of flowers or indulge in a weeknight movie. Just don’t use food as the reward.

Eat more often

This might seem backwards, but if you eat 5-6 times a day, it could keep hunger at bay. You could split your calories equally across all of those mini-meals, or make some bigger than others. You will need to plan portions so that you don’t end up eating more than you bargained for.

Eat more mindfully

Savor your food. Notice how it smells and tastes and feels in your mouth. Notice when you start to feel full. Just being aware of your food in this way may help you lose weight — and make eating more pleasurable to boot.

Use smaller plates

One way to make small portions look bigger is to serve them on smaller plates. Some, but not all, studies suggest this is a helpful weight loss strategy.

Eat more slowly

Research shows slow eaters consume fewer calories and are less likely than fast eaters to have obesity.

Avoid eating late at night

People who regularly eat late at night are more prone to obesity. Some research suggests that eating at night can slow calorie burn, increase fat storage, and make you feel hungrier all day.

Limit portion sizes

If you eat a lot of restaurant meals or are used to heaping plates of food at home, you might be surprised to learn what’s considered a portion size by dietitians. For example, a portion of protein, like a hamburger patty or chicken breast, should be the size of a deck of cards. A serving of cooked pasta is half a cup. Sticking to modest portions like these can help you lose weight. 

Take setbacks in stride

Weight loss setbacks are normal and expected. Even people steadily losing weight often hit a plateau after a few months, and just about everyone falls off their eating or exercise plans from time to time. If that happens, try to take a small step back toward your goals. Call on your support network for encouragement. And try not to get bogged down in negative thoughts. 

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You don’t have to go vegan, gluten-free, or quit any particular food group to lose weight. In fact, you’re more likely to keep the pounds off for good if it’s something you can live with for the long term. Despite the desire for fast weight loss, fad diets and plans that promise quick results aren’t the answer. You are unlikely to stick with them and they may rob you of needed nutrients.

But it does make sense to cut way down on, or totally cut out, empty calories.

Foods to limit for weight loss:

Foods with added sugars. These are the sugars in cookies, cakes, sugar-sweetened drinks, and other items — not the sugars that are naturally in fruits, for instance. Sugary foods often have a lot of calories but few nutrients. Aim to spend less than 10% of your daily calories on added sugars.

Carbs with less nutritional value. You don’t have to eliminate carbs, but you can be picky about your choices. For example, whole grains are better choices than highly processed items because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins — though some may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread. Also, look for choices that are low on the glycemic index, meaning they are digested more slowly and are less likely to raise your blood sugar.  Low-glycemic foods include green vegetables and most fruits; high glycemic foods include potatoes and white rice. 


High-calorie drinks. One easy way to lose weight quickly is to cut out liquid calories, such as soda, juice, and alcohol. Replace them with zero-calorie drinks like lemon water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee.

Diet drinks will save you calories compared with sugary beverages. But if you then reach for a cookie or other treat because you’re still hungry or you think you saved enough calories for it, that plan backfires.

What to eat for weight loss:

Protein. It’s satisfying and will help keep up your muscles. There are vegetarian and vegan sources ( Plant based protein powder, nuts, beans, and soy are a few), as well as whey protein, lean meat, poultry, fish, and dairy.

Most Americans get enough protein but could get it from leaner sources. You may already have plenty in your diet. Your exact protein needs depend on your age, gender, and how active you are.

Good fats. Small amounts of fat can help you feel full and less like you’re on a diet. The better choices are those in fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. Those have unsaturated fats — polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, specifically.

Fiber. You can get that from vegetables, whole grains, fruits — any plant food will have fiber. Some have more than others. Top sources include artichokes, green peas, broccoli, lentils, and lima beans. Among fruits, raspberries lead the list.

Meal replacements. These shakes, bars, and other products will control your calories while you use them, if you don’t make up the calories elsewhere. They’re convenient and take the guesswork out of dieting. Still, you’ll need to change your eating habits to keep the weight off once you stop eating meal replacements.

While fasting might seem like a quick weight loss solution, prolonged fasts can be dangerous and don’t promote healthy eating habits. Intermittent fasting, choosing specific times or days to eat less, is gaining popularity. Some studies suggest it aids weight loss, but long-term effects remain unclear. Regular fasting isn’t safe for those with diabetes, eating disorders, or during pregnancy. Potential side effects include headaches and low energy. If you choose to fast, stay hydrated, take a multivitamin, and consult your doctor, especially if on medication.

Regardless of the method you use to initiate weight loss, sustaining it is most effective through enduring lifestyle adjustments such as adopting a nutritious eating regimen and engaging in regular physical activity. If you find yourself uncertain about where to begin, the number of calories to reduce, or how to proceed safely, seeking guidance from a registered dietitian can provide valuable assistance.