How to Lose Weight and Actually Keep it Off

Why I’m Qualified to Tell you about Weight Loss

I’ve read hundreds of articles on weight loss, completed dozens of training programs, tried more diet fads than I can count, and tested several weight loss apps. None of them have allowed me to effectively lose weight and keep it off for good…until now.

Over the holidays of 2021, I indulged, to say the least. I shoveled burgers, pizza, sweets, and mediocre beer into my face for about three straight weeks.

At the start of 2022, unsurprisingly, I had put on some pounds. This was just another chapter in my ultra-fluctuating weight journey.

Then, from January through March 2022, I lost 10 pounds. That’s not very impressive though. The more important thing is that I’ve kept the weight off and I felt great.

I’ve finally found a weight loss strategy that works for both the slimming phase (dropping weight)  and the maintenance phase (maintaining weight), and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so other people can repeat it!

Weight Loss on a Plate
Image credit: Total Shape

You Need to be in a Calorie Deficit

This is the most important factor in weight loss. Being in a calorie deficit means that you are burning more calories than you are consuming. For noticeable weight loss, you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit over the course of several weeks to months to years, depending on your goal.

First, you’ll need to calculate your basal metabolic rate, or BMR for short. This value is the number of calories that your body burns without you taking any additional actions like moving around your house or exercising.

I won’t get into the science of this, but it’s important that you get a ballpark idea of your BMR. There are plenty of online calculators out there – I like this one from calculator.net, which also goes through the science behind the number.

Remember that all of these calculators are estimates. If you want a more precise value, you’ll need to shell out some cash for advanced technology. I did a DEXA scan about 6 years ago for $45 which provided me with all the details related to my BMR, fat %, and other interesting health stats.

However, the free calculators are more than enough to give you a directionally accurate view of your BMR. I typically round down to the nearest hundred to err on the side of caution.

Assuming you aren’t actually lying in bed all day for months at a time, you burn some extra calories just doing daily activities. Fitness trackers are good for giving you an idea of how many “active” calories you burn in a day. You can also look at free calculators like this one to get an estimate.

Lastly, to return to the topic of calorie deficits, a path to healthy weight loss usually starts with a deficit of 200-500 calories below your total calories burned per day. This will depend on your starting weight, weight loss goal, and levels of activity.

Weight loss trackers

Use a Weight Loss Tracker

I’ve found that the best way to track my calorie deficit is by using an app that encourages tracking key metrics. Your weight is a lagging indicator, which means it will be the end result of many actions from the past. Your calorie deficit acts as a leading indicator, which gives you an idea of whether you’re on track to hit your weight loss goal.

My favorite app for tracking is MyFitnessPal. It has a clean interface, features a huge library of foods with detailed macro + micronutrient data, and connects to fitness trackers like Fitbit to pull in exercise information. The free version is more than enough to track your calorie intake, estimate calories burned, and keep track of your weight.

Remember that most of the numbers in these types of apps are estimates based on specific serving sizes. It’s unlikely that you will get a perfect picture of exactly how many more calories you burned than you consumed. Instead, try to be within about 100 calories of your goal and you are sure to see results over time.

Separately, I’ve heard fantastic things about Noom, but I haven’t tried it out myself.

Healthy snack bowl

Find Some Alternatives to Cravings

Cravings are bound to happen while you are trying to lose weight. For me, it’s sugary sweets that cry out to me in the middle of the day. Avoiding this temptation is tough, but doable, especially when you have some go-to alternatives.

First, try to assess if you are actually hungry. If you are, think about whether you are hungry enough for a meal. If the answer is yes, have a healthy meal! Otherwise, look for a healthy snack option to satisfy your hunger until your next proper dish.

If you aren’t hungry, have some tasks that you can do to get your mind off the craving. Some of my favorites are doing some house cleaning and reading a short article.

The key here is to recognize when you are craving something unhealthy and start to build behaviors around making healthy choices. These small daily decisions make a major impact over time.

Marathon runners

Accept that this is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Any article title with some variant of “How to lose XYZ pounds in ABC days” is unlikely to be a sustainable weight loss program. While many of these strategies will help you lose weight fast, they usually won’t result in losing much fat (think water weight loss or clearing out your intestine). Additionally, these tactics don’t build long-term behavior around healthy lifestyle choices.

Instead, accept that a healthy weight loss journey is a process that occurs over an extended period of time. Success comes from having a plan, staying consistent, and being okay with setbacks along the way.

Understand that most professionals recommend losing 1-2 pounds per week as a ‘healthy’ threshold. Take the total number of pounds you’d like to lose and that will realistically be the total number of weeks you need to lose the weight.

Additionally, accept that there will be setbacks and that’s okay! There will be vacations, weddings, and even times of low motivation. Remind yourself that you are human and don’t be too hard on yourself when there’s a period that you aren’t losing weight.

Grilled chicken and vegetables

Figure Out Healthy Foods that you Enjoy

This was one of the biggest revelations during my weight loss journey. I had convinced myself that most healthy foods taste bad for a long time. After experimenting with many recipes and being more adventurous when I went out to eat, I discovered a whole new world of healthy foods that my taste buds actually appreciated.

Here are some healthy foods to consider as you expand your realm of nutrition:

  • Lean proteins – chicken breast, deli turkey 
  • Leafy greens – kale, spinach
  • Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, brussel sprouts
  • Eggs, even though these have a good bit of fat as well
  • Fish – salmon, tilapia, cod, tuna
  • Nutrient-dense Carbs – sweet potato, steel-cut oatmeal

I’ve learned that my level of enjoyment increased as I learned about the four elements of good cooking: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Google some healthy recipes and you’ll find that the top results combine these elements beautifully to create nutritional meals that will keep you fueled and full.

Eat When You’re Hungry

Humans have been conditioned for decades to eat three square meals a day. Each meal is tied to a general period of time in the day. Interestingly, it makes a whole lot more sense to just eat when you’re hungry.

In some cases, this may mean having your first meal of the day at noon. Other times, you may eat 4-5 smaller meals in a day while consuming food every few hours. Listen to your stomach instead of watching the clock to know when to eat.

Separately, I found that sometimes I thought I was hungry but I was actually just thirsty. Drink a glass of water and see if your hunger signals stop tingling.

Drink more water to boost your weight loss

Drink More Water

Speaking of drinking water, increasing your intake of H20 is a fantastic way to help with weight loss. Not only does it help make you full, it also means you are replacing any potential sugary liquids with a drink that is great for your health.

Get a bottle that you can refill throughout the day and try to aim for 10-16 cups of water per day. In addition to helping you feel full, drinking water lubricates your joints, regulates body temperatures, and helps you think more clearly.

Enjoy Junk Food in Moderation

I love cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, to be exact. My issue with most diets is that they tell me to cut out chocolate chip cookies. No thank you.

In my weight loss journey, I found that I’m able to still enjoy all the foods I love while continuing to lose weight. Some people call this a cheat meal, but I like to think of it as “everything in moderation, even in moderation”.

If you can commit to eating clean in 90%+ of your meals, you should absolutely treat yourself to some goodies. This will help you keep your sanity and also acts as a reset on your metabolism when you mix up your meals.

For me, this meant having one or two cookies a couple of days a week. Other weeks, I would eat clean throughout the week and then binge on a meat love pizza on Friday night.

Whatever your junk food desires, you can still eat these foods as long as you reduce the volume and frequency. If you can delay the gratification until the weekend, you’ll even start to see these treats as a reward for your hard work!

Resistance training

Some Bonus Weight Loss Tips

Weight loss is straightforward but requires significant dedication and effort. If you follow the above tips, you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle!

Check out these bonus tips to kick things into overdrive:

  • Low-intensity cardio like walking has been proven to put your body in “fat-burning mode”. By slightly elevating your heart rate and putting your body in constant motion, you can supercharge your weight loss.
  • Resistance training is great for burning calories, increasing cardiovascular health, and helping to build muscle mass.
  • Eat more protein – it’s a necessary component for building muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be. The higher your BMR, the more likely you are to hit your calorie deficit goal.
  • Do meal prep – by reducing the number of decisions you have to make during the week, you are more likely to eat a healthy meal that’s waiting for you in the fridge.
  • Brush your teeth several hours before bed. You’re less likely to grab a late-night snack after you’ve already made your mouth all minty.

What are your best tips to lose weight and actually keep it off? Do you have any recommendations that I missed? Join the conversation in the comments section!

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Avery Webster
Avery Webster
1 year ago

This is unlike your normal stuff but a great read and super helpful for individuals that may be trying to lose weight! I applaud you for telling us a little about your journey and ways to get people on track!

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