How to Lose Weight: Weight Loss for Beginners

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Coach and trainee working out with a kettle bell

Table of Contents

According to Google search trends, weight loss inquiries are one of the most searched topics on the Internet today. In fact, the generic inquiry “how to lose weight” garners more than four hundred million results alone. What does that mean for you? It means there’s no shortage of information to be found. Unfortunately, it also means that much of the information is conflicting, unreliable and potentially dangerous.

If you’re new to the weight loss journey, the good news is that weight loss for beginners is not much different than those who have been trying to lose weight for much longer. Of course, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss either and what works for one person may not deliver the same results for the next person. While some people may be able to simply adjust their eating habits and drop pounds, others will need to try several approaches—or perhaps a combination of methods—before finding the one that’s right for them. Regardless of which approach you take; the general consensus is that regular exercise and a balanced diet are two necessary components to weight loss.

Before we dive into the different ways to lose weight, let’s begin by defining what successful weight loss looks like. Regardless of your number-on-the-scale goal, you not only want to lose pounds, but also keep the pounds off. This is where many dieters struggle and begin a cycle of yo-yo dieting. We’ll discuss some of the best ways to lose and maintain weight, as well as some of the techniques to steer clear of, like fad diets, over-exercising and skipping meals. We also want you to remember that while weight loss may be a goal in your health journey, it shouldn’t be the sole determinant in your success.

How to Get Started Losing Weight

Deciding to start your weight loss journey can be one of two things: exciting or daunting. You may feel the initial excitement that comes with starting something new or making a change, but you may soon begin to experience feelings of overwhelm and intimidation. Setting measurable goals and celebrating small milestones can help to mitigate these feelings.

The important thing is to give yourself time! You didn’t gain weight overnight and you won’t lose weight overnight. Regardless of how many pounds you’d like to lose, a general guideline—one that’s safe and recommended—is to lose one to two pounds per week. Studies have proven that losing weight slowly and steadily is more effective to keeping the weight off rather than to lose it quickly.

To start, let’s review some numbers. The FDA recommends that women consume around 2,000 calories per day and men consume about 2,500 per day. This is a general guideline and will vary drastically depending on lifestyle, body type, genetics and a few other factors. In order to lose weight, your body will need to burn more calories than it takes in. It seems simple in explanation but to lose a pound per week, your calorie intake will need to be reduced by 3,500 calories since one pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. That means you will need to reduce your caloric intake by about 500 calories each day, by either eating less calories or burning the calories through physical activity. Ideally, you’d add both of these weight loss approaches to your daily routine.

Weight Loss Diet

Many types weight loss diets that you can try. Don’t be discouraged if you have to try a few different types before you find one that produces the results you want. The best diet for you is the one that is realistic and sustainable for your lifestyle, safe for your body and obviously helps reach your desired weight. Contrary to popular belief, your diet shouldn’t make you completely miserable! If a diet sounds too extreme to you, it’s probably too extreme for you. Balance, portion control and a focus on whole foods are the fundamentals to dieting so make sure that the one you choose emphasizes those things.

The number one rule to changing your diet is that you should still get the proper amount of nutrients your body needs. The diet you choose should include healthy weight loss foods like vegetables, protein and fruit. Whole grains, legumes, and lean meats also offer important nutrients, though certain lifestyle choices, food allergies and elimination diets will require people to look for alternative sources to get those same nutrients. For some people, it can be helpful to focus more on intentionally making healthier choices rather than focusing on restrictions and eliminations. For others, rule-based diets that dictate what you can and can’t eat can offer clear guidelines that help people stay accountable.

Types of Diets

It’s no secret that dieting is one of the hottest, most controversial topics on the Internet. With the guarantees, success stories and supporting evidence comes a flood of objections, horror stories and refuting scientific evidence. For that reason and more, you should talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about weight loss for beginners. They can help you identify the type of diet that will not only help you reach your weight goal but will also keep you safe and healthy while doing it.

If you’ve been doing some research already about which diet to try, you’ve likely seen a few recurring names that have popped up. Among the most popular are low-carb diets, intermittent fasting, elimination diets, detoxes and cleanses.

The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular low-carb diets out there in the world and shares many similarities with the Atkins diet; both plans suggest that replacing carbohydrates with high-fat, protein-filled foods leads to weight loss. Think peanut butter and avocados over whole grains and potatoes. The South Beach diet also proposes a careful carb approach, but rather than eliminating them altogether, it suggests that there are good and bad carbs and the key to weight loss is to choose “good” carbs over “bad.” While we don’t believe there are good foods or bad foods, many diets prescribe qualifiers to food to help you make choices that will yield results. Sugar, a type of carb, has earned itself a bad rap with many processed foods and beverages containing artificial sugars like sucralose and fructose. Not only does this sweet-tasting carb settle into fat eventually, but it also triggers hunger and cravings causing people to eat more than they would normally.

Carbs and sugar aren’t the only targeted culprit either. Other diets insist that the elimination of dairy or gluten can lead to weight loss, though that’s more likely if you have a food sensitivity.

And then there are diets that are more geared toward lifestyle choices like the paleo diet, vegan or vegetarian diets. While not specifically designed for weight loss, these diets do require intention and careful thought to what the body consumes. Weight loss is often consequential partly due to intentional eating and partly because specific food groups are eliminated with these diets.

One of the more controversial categories of diets include detoxes and cleanses. From the liquid diet to the juice cleanse, these plans are designed to drop weight quickly. A detox is designed to cleanse the blood stream and flush out toxins from your body using a period of fasting. The fasting process is followed up food restriction, usually limiting meals to fruits, vegetables and liquids. A cleanse is a short-term elimination diet that removes certain foods and replaces them with whole foods. Common eliminations include sugar, alcohol, gluten and processed foods. While you may see more immediate route with these diets, the results aren’t sustainable in the long run and may actually make your healthy journey more difficult.

Last but not least, intermittent fasting for weight loss has seen a recent resurgence with dieters. There are several variations of this type of fasting, but the general approach is that there are designated periods of time for fasting and for eating. During the fasting phase, dieters restrict their calories and during the eating phase, they can eat what they want. Some argue that intermittent fasting is not an actual diet as it doesn’t restrict what you eat, but rather, when you eat.

As you well know, this is not a comprehensive list of all the different methods to dieting for weight loss. There is an argument to be made for all of them, but there are also concerns and precautions to consider with each one. If you’re unsure of where to start, start with the basics of eliminating soda, fast food and processed food. Replace those things with whole foods that you actually enjoy like fruits, healthy fats, proteins and vegetables. Even if you don’t notice a drop in pounds right away, you will begin to notice a change in how you feel which will likely give you the motivation you need and ultimately set you up for success on your health journey.

Weight Loss Exercise

As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Balanced eating is a non-negotiable for losing weight, but physical activity is equally as important. Regardless of your specific goals, there are all kinds of workouts that are designed to help you lose weight. Whichever one you choose, experts from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend you fit in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity.

Running is one of the first activities that comes to mind when people think about exercise. Not only does it improve cardiovascular strength, but it’s also an effective calorie burner burning an estimated 100 calories per mile. It doesn’t require equipment or special skills making it an excellent choice for beginners. But for those not quite ready to hit the ground running, walking for weight loss is also extremely effective. On average, people burn about 100 to 200 calories per half hour when walking briskly. While both of these exercises are calorie burners, the actual number of calories will depend on terrain, speed and your current weight. Aim for 30 minutes to start with, but if you extend your time beyond the recommended 30 minutes, walking can turn into a fat-burning workout.

If you’re short on time or not ready to join a gym or hire a personal trainer yet, there are plenty of home exercises you can do to lose weight, too. All it requires is some basic equipment and creativity. While you can work out without equipment too, having the basics around like dumbbells, a jump rope, resistance bands, a medicine ball, and a balance ball will offer you endless options for your workout routine. If you’re lacking on the creativity, start here by reading our guide to working out for beginners. There are also many YouTube channels, workout DVDs and Internet resources from personal trainers that will guide you in your workout at home.

If you’re ready to join a gym or perhaps dust off your gym membership, there are even more options available to you. Many gyms offer group fitness classes where members can be led by an instructor. Cycling, yoga, high-intensity-interval-training, and kickboxing all offer numerous benefits from building muscle to burning calories. You can also choose to work with a personal trainer who will create an individual workout plan that’s customized to fit your goals. Your personal trainer will create a plan just for you that includes both cardio exercise and strength training.

Speaking of strength training, it is often overlooked for weight loss, but experts suggest that you should do some form of weightlifting or resistance exercise at least two times a week. Not only does it build the necessary strength to perform cardio exercise more efficiently and safely, but it’s also a significant contributor to weight loss. That’s because lifting weights increases muscle mass and muscle mass burns calories around the clock, even when you’re not working out. So even though you may not burn as many calories during a weight training session as you would a cardio workout, you will continue to burn calories after the workout due to the muscle mass you are building.

The ideal exercise plan to lose weight is a dynamic approach that includes both cardio and strength training. Whether you choose to run, to take a cycling class or to break out the old-school jump rope, adding strength training to the mix helps build muscle that will not only improve your cardio workouts, but will also turn fat into muscle.

Male vs. Female Weight Loss

There are several factors that play a role in how you lose weight beyond eating habits and your overall lifestyle. From genetics to sex, these factors may very well change your approach to weight loss. Hormones make a difference in how your body metabolizes calories, particularly for women. Studies show that when hormones are off balance, women can experience difficulty and frustration losing weight regardless of calories in and calories out. If hormones are a factor, dieters will have to address the imbalance alongside balanced eating and exercise. On the other hand, men tend to lose weight quicker than women because their levels of estrogen are lower, and their levels of testosterone are higher. Their body composition tends to have leaner muscle mass which breaks down fat quicker.

Because of the differences in hormones and body composition, it sometimes makes sense to approach weight loss differently, but at the end of the day, each individual should approach weight loss differently anyway.

Weight Loss Calculator

How much weight should you lose? That’s a personal decision or one that should be discussed with your doctor and/or nutritionist. The general rule is that you should lose one to two pounds per week in order to do it safely. Studies have proven that losing weight consistently over a period of time is more effective in keeping the weight off than to lose it rapidly.

More important than the number on the scale (which doesn’t tell a holistic story of your body type, sex, muscle mass etc.), is your body fat percentage and your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a number that will categorize your body size and determine whether or not your weight falls in the normal range. Use your BMI as a starting point to figure out how much weight you should lose to fall into the healthy weight range. BMI is calculated using your height and weight. You can use this calculator from the CDC to figure out what yours is. A healthy or normal weight range is 18.5 to 24.9 on the BMI chart.

Once you know what your BMI score is, you can figure out what your body fat percentage is. This will tell you how much of your body composition is made up of fat, essential fat and lean muscle. Talk to a personal trainer at your gym and using a tool or something as simple as a tape measure, they will be able to tell you your body fat percentage as well as what category you fall into.

How to Monitor Your Progress

Monitoring your weight loss progress is not only helpful to determine what’s working and what’s not working, but it can also be the encouragement and motivation you need to keep going. There are a couple of ways to check in on your progression. If you work with a personal trainer, they will track your results and workouts for you, adjusting your plan as necessary.

If you are not working with a personal trainer, keeping a weight loss journal is the best way to track what you’re eating every day, how many calories you’re consuming, and your exercise performance. You can do it the old-fashioned way with a notebook, but these days, there are several smartphone apps that make it super simple to track your weight loss journey. From the Anytime Fitness app to a FitBit, there are all kinds of advanced ways to hold yourself accountable thanks to technology.

To see how much weight you’re losing, step on a scale or use a tape measure once a week to oversee your progress; if your method is working, you should lose one to two pounds each week. Don’t worry if you don’t see immediate results. Your body may go through a period of resistance which is why consistency and longevity is so important to weight loss. This is also the reason you should only weigh yourself once a week; if you weigh yourself every day, you may get discouraged as your weight fluctuates between one or two pounds. It may be best to use a couple of methods to track your weight loss since scales are not always accurate, nor do they factor in your height, body mass or sex. Other tools like a tape measure or body fat calculator can help give a more in-depth look at your weight.

There isn’t a singular approach or a quick-fix method to losing weight. For some, it will be a short endeavor and for others, it will be a longer process of trial and error. Trust the process; it’s worth it. Your body will thank you for it. Being at a healthy weight is better for your heart, your joints and your mental health.

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