There’s no shortage of advice on how to lose weight. The thing is that a lot of it is about “dieting” — which often means eliminating certain foods or food groups, restricting calories, and working out to “make up for” what you ate.
But there are plenty of people who have a goal to lose weight and want to know how to do it in a way that doesn’t feel too extreme or punishing.
That’s why BuzzFeed Health asked health and fitness experts — registered dietitians, nutritionists, and personal trainers — for their best advice on doable, sustainable, weight loss effort that won’t make you feel sad and hangry.
1. Whatever you do, don’t do a detox or cleanse.
“They can potentially wreak havoc on your body and be very unhealthy. Be wary of products that promote weight loss after a ‘7-day detoxification’ or a ‘30-day colon cleanse.’ Marketers strategically construct these products and sell people on the notion that they’ll somehow become healthier, thinner, happier, and more attractive after using such products.
My overarching mantra: A consistently healthy, well-balanced diet is the best ‘cleanse.’”
—Nita Sharda, RD, owner of Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting
Learn more about what juice cleanses can do to your body here.
2. Don’t make any food off-limits.
“When a food is off-limits it becomes MUCH more appealing. And if guilt is involved and you do end up eating that food, the screw-it-I’ve-already-had-a-bite-and-ruined-everything-so-I’m-going-to-eat-the-entire-batch mentality appears.
Instead, give yourself permission to get pleasure from food. Just make sure you’re enjoying treats mindfully because you really want them, rather than just because they are there.”
—Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, dietitian blogger at fANNEtasticfood.com and co-author of the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life program.
3. Commit to making just one meal a bit healthier.
“I often work with clients who want to do everything all at once. That works for some people, but most people need to start with just one thing. Ask yourself: ‘What’s the meal that will have the biggest impact if I change it?’ And start there.
Breakfast is usually the easiest to change because most people are skipping it or grabbing something that’s not super healthy out of convenience. The simplest way to change it is to make sure you’re getting a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. A couple whole eggs will give you your protein and fat. Add a piece of fruit or a half cup of roasted potatoes to give you some healthy carbs.”
—Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, Head Coach and Nutritionist, Brick Los Angeles
Here are some healthy breakfasts that will fill you up.
4. When it comes to starting (or returning to) exercise, less is more.
“This means: 1. Don’t go right into doing extreme workouts and 2. Set yourself up for success by making sure you can hit the gym twice per week regularly for three to four weeks before you say you’re going to go four to five times per week.
Once you prove to yourself that you can go twice per week, then go to a three-day per week schedule, and again make sure you can do that regularly for about a month before going for four days per week. This way, you’re doing things more gradually and setting yourself up for success.”
—Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University International in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss
5. Make eating out a thing you do for special (and special-ish) occasions.
“Cooking at home means more fresh food that, generally speaking, will be more nutritious and far lower in calories than what you’re ordering when you go out. If you master batch meal prep and one-pan meals, you can easily put together delicious, healthy meals you’ll look forward to eating. When you have something to celebrate (like that it’s finally the weekend), go out and enjoy your special meal.”
—Danielle Omar, MS, RD, nutrition consultant and founder of foodconfidence.com
Here’s a step-by-step guide with recipes for a week’s worth of dinners you can batch prepare and here are some one-pan and one-pot recipes to try out.
6. Keep a to-do list where your workouts are top priority, unmissable items.
“To-do lists tend to have a combo of ‘must-do’ and ‘hope-to-do’ items. I find the most effective way to ensure I get my workout in is to list what I intend to do (i.e. 4:30 p.m. SLT class, 30 minutes run/walk on the treadmill in my building, etc.) at the top of the daily list as a priority, must-do, the-day-isn’t-over-till-this-happens item.
I’ve found that making the small mental adjustment of thinking of your workout as something you plan to do vs. something you hope to do is the difference between doing it and bailing.”
—Amanda Freeman, Founder/CEO, SLT
7. Try not to make all your work breaks snack-based.
“Lots of people like to take a break from work by getting up to grab a snack, not necessarily because they feel hungry but just because they need to step away from their desk for a bit. Instead of eating when you’re not hungry, get up, have some water, and say hello to a co-worker on the way back. You’ll de-stress and forget about the snack you didn’t really want in the first place.”
—Albert Matheny, MS, RD, CSCSC co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and advisor to Promix Nutrition.
8. And work on being more mindful in general about your snacking.
“Start by examining what benefit snacking offers you: Is it a distraction? A hit of excitement or pleasure? Are you afraid of feeling hungry? If you’re snacking for reasons other than being hungry and/or snacking on processed foods that add lots of calories with little nutrition, consider rethinking what you’re munching on. More mindful snacking will not only eliminate extra calories but will help your body get back into the habit of eating because you feel hungry and stopping because you feel full.
Start by tweaking one snack per day — preferably that one you have because you’re bored or because you can’t believe there are four more hours left in the work day. You can try skipping it altogether, but if that sounds like torture, just try to make it a bit more healthful by swapping out your usual processed snack or sugar-packed energy bar for fruit and nuts or some other whole foods option.”
—Jessi Kneeland, Health and Empowerment Coach
Get started with these great snacks.
9. Aim to make water your go-to beverage.
“Try swapping out at least one sugary drink (soda, juice, sweetened coffee drinks, etc.) per day with water (or fruit-infused water or unsweetened flavored seltzer to keep things more interesting). As you get used to having more water and fewer sugary drinks, keep making the swap until water is your primary go-to drink throughout the day. Bonus: It’ll help digestion and make you feel great.”
—Anowa Adjah, owner and CEO of Powerhouse Physiques
10. Get into strength training.
“Cardio tends to get all of the praise, but strength training helps you build lean muscle, which in turn increases your metabolism and ability to burn calories. If you really want to see results, be sure to include a few days of strength training into your weekly mix!”
—Tracy Carlinsky, founder of Brooklyn Bodyburn
Start with BuzzFeed’s Get Fit Challenge!
11. Spend time around people who are seriously hell-bent on achieving their goals.
“Be courageous and join a community of people who have similar goals and then crush them together! When you don’t have people holding you accountable, It’s easy to ghost — to set a goal and keep it a secret, so when you don’t accomplish it, no one really knows and it’s like you never set it in the first place.
But having a team of people who want what you want will inspire you to keep SHOWING UP when the going gets tough.”
—Braxton Rose, instructor at Lyons Den Power Yoga
12. Learn about serving sizes and figure out how much you’re actually eating.
“Because most people don’t really know how much they eat throughout the day and where that puts them calorie-wise, we generally end up eating more than we want or expect. It’s helpful to measure your food so you can have a better appreciation for how much food you’re actually eating. This doesn’t have to be a forever kind of thing; measuring food can be tedious. Just do it for a day or two to get a sense of how much you’re actually eating.
As an example, what people think is a tablespoon of peanut butter (by eye-balling) ends up being two (if not) more tablespoons. When you start to measure your food and begin to understand what a 1/2 cup of oatmeal or four ounces of beef actually looks like, it becomes readily apparent how much you’ve been OVERestimating your food intake.”
—Tony Gentilcore, Boston-based personal trainer and fitness coach
13. Invest in some fly AF workout gear.
“Buy a new pair of running shoes or workout gear. It may seem trivial, but as the Hollywood saying goes, ‘if you dress the part, you’ll feel the part.’ It’ll be just the motivation you need to hit the pavement.”
—Toni Carey, RRCA-certified running coach and co-founder of Black Girls RUN!
14. Create a morning routine that will set you up for a day of healthy choices.
“How you start your day plays a critical role in your healthy eating and fitness efforts. My advice is to invest some time into creating a healthy morning routine that will set you up to make thoughtful, healthy choices all day long. Always set healthy intentions in the a.m., reminding yourself that eating well and exercise are forms of self-love.
Give yourself an extra 15 minutes in the morning to cultivate a practice that makes you feel good and ready to tackle the day. It could be as simple as drinking a warm cup of ginger tea and doing five minutes of stretches or deep breathing. Or, if you want to focus more on mindfulness, consider spending a few minutes meditating or reading a passage from an inspirational book (I love Everyday Osho: 365 Meditations for the Here and Now).”
—Jessica Jones, MS, RD, CDE, of Food Heaven Made Easy and the author of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot
15. Eat a serving of green vegetables three times a day.
“They are low in calories and high in fiber and other nutrients. They’ll add bulk to your meal, helping you feel full, while giving your cells the nutrients needed to function at your best.”
—Jeanette Jenkins, The Hollywood Trainer
16. Add minimally processed plant-based foods to your diet.
“It’s pretty clear, nearly everyone in America isn’t eating enough vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. These foods offer the most nutrition, help us feel satisfied, and displace some of the other less nutritious options. Plus, eating more plants is a positive step for the environment and animals. And when we make behavioral decisions that influence the greater good, we’re more likely to feel motivation to continue them long-term.”
—Ryan Andrews, RD, Coach at Precision Nutrition
Here are a bunch of ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet. And also try out these tips and hacks for making more healthy, whole foods meals.
17. Make it so that if you want sugary stuff or packaged snacks, you have to really go out of your way to get them.
“The truth is, we’ll eat whatever we make convenient. If we make junk food convenient, we’ll eat junk food. If we make delicious, natural, minimally processed foods convenient, we’ll eat those instead. We don’t have to be disciplined all the time, we only have to be disciplined the one hour per week we go food shopping.”
—Rob Sulaver, Founder & CEO of Bandana Training and Founding Trainer of Rumble Boxing
Here are some better-for-you snacks to keep around the house.
18. Instead of setting goals for how you want to look, set goals for how strong, fast, or fit you want to feel.
“It has always been a lot easier for me to stick to a fitness program when I base my goals on strength or conditioning rather than physical goals. I keep a workout journal to track the metrics so that I know exactly what progress I’ve made. This kind of progress tracking keeps me motivated!”
—Noelle Nieva, CrossFit coach and licensed massage therapist, Brooklyn Body Shop
19. Eat more fat!
“This may sound counterintuitive but when trying to lose weight, many people make the mistake of cutting fat from their diet, which can leave them feeling super hungry, cranky, and less likely to stick to the plan long-term (which is key!). Adding in healthy fats boosts satiation and keeps you from noshing on simple carbs and sugar, or giving up too soon.
Try to incorporate healthy fat throughout the day. I like to start my day with an avocado-filled green smoothie, throw nuts on my salad for lunch, and
sip on a mid-afternoon turmeric latte.”
—Liz Moody, healthy food blogger and founder of Sprouted Routes
20. Get some coaching.
“Find a qualified, experienced, caring, empathic professional and let them help you find your next steps; habits and practices that’ll work within the context of your real, probably complicated, probably overcommitted life.
The truth is, there’s no one simple trick that will work for every person, in every culture, in every life situation. So run away, fast, from someone who tells you otherwise. While you’re at it, run towards people that can provide guidance, support, and accountability. They’ll save you years of false starts, frustration, and disappointment.”
—John Berardi, PhD, CSCS, co-founder, Precision Nutrition
21. Bring healthier but delicious stuff to get-togethers.
“Trying to lose weight or eat more healthily shouldn’t have to mean skipping potlucks, dinner parties, game nights, and other fun food-based socializing. One ridiculously simple thing you can do to be a little healthier and still be social? Bring the vegetables. Pretty basic, right? Instead of focusing on what you “shouldn’t eat,” focus on all the delicious, fresh, and healthy food that you can eat, and do everyone a favor by bringing it to the table. Here are some of my favorite festive recipes that are easy to make, share, and tasty AF.”
—Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, of Food Heaven Made Easy and author of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot
22. Say buh-bye to the whole idea of perfection.
“Think of ‘fail’ as ‘F.A.I.L.,’ an acronym that stands for ‘first attempt in learning.’ The quickest way to torpedo your efforts to be healthier is to expect perfection and then be crushed when that (inevitably) doesn’t happen. Try to tweak your approach to lifestyle changes from ‘winning’ to ‘learning,’ where missteps are just an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and do something different next time. If you take what you learned and use it to readjust your goal, you’ll be working with realistic goals you can actually achieve.”
—Ben Sit, RD, president of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
23. Finally, check in with yourself about whether this new eating plan will make you happier.
“If the answer is no, look for something else that does sound doable and enjoyable for you personally. If you’re unhappy on a diet, you won’t stick with it, but if a healthy eating lifestyle feels natural and comfortable with your preferred habits and routines, you’ll be more able to maintain it in the long run, which is the only way to lose weight and keep it off.”
—Amelia Winslow, MS, MPH, nutritionist and founder of Eating Made Easy