How can you lose weight healthily?
The food we eat contains energy, which is measured in calories (Kcal). To lose weight (or fat) you need to burn more calories than you consume. This is known as being in a calorie deficit (CAL IN < CAL OUT).
To lose weight in the long term (not just for a few weeks or months) you need to diet in a safe and sustainable way, which we will explain below.
What should I eat?
To lose fat, you need to eat/drink less calories than you burn. As well as calories, you need to consider the macronutrient breakdown of your food. Exactly what you should eat depends on your weight and health, plus your body goals and lifestyle. However, we recommend the following to have a healthy and sustainable fat loss diet.
The amount of calories and macronutrients in your food (nutritional information) can be found on food labels, or apps (e.g. MyFitnessPal) or websites (e.g.weightlossresources.co.uk) if there is no food label. The number of calories you should eat and the macronutrient breakdown is different for everyone. There are websites where you can work out your recommended daily calorie intake (e.g. Calculator.net), although these are only estimates. You don’t have to count calories, but it is helpful to track approximately how many calories you eat and learn which foods are high and low in calories.
IMPORTANT: if you diet by cutting too many calories too soon, you may lose weight at first, but it will be difficult to sustain and your metabolism will crash. This is why most diets fail. We will explain this more in the next section.
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Why do most diets fail and what diet is right for me?
Most diets fail because they are not realistic and you can’t stick to them.
Some diets are too difficult or need you to make too many changes to your lifestyle. You might feel confident now, but can you follow the diet when you have less willpower or motivation? Before you diet, think: ‘can you follow it for more than a few weeks or months?’ Why do a diet that only lasts for a few weeks or months? You will lose weight now but probably go back to normal (or even weigh more!) after the diet stops.
Research shows that most people who lose weight by dieting will regain the weight or get even fatter within 1 – 3 years – 85% went back to their normal weight or gained weight within 3 years. The internet is full of people who can lose weight in a few weeks or months BUT what about after that? Before and after weight loss photos that are only a few weeks, months or a year do not show the reality of dieting or weight loss.
When you eat less calories, you will lower your metabolism after a few days or weeks. Our metabolism burns off calories, so when you lower your metabolism, you will burn off less calories than before. This is why many people lose weight for a few days but then stop losing weight – their metabolism catches up. Your lower metabolism is your new normal.
Here’s an example. If a person could eat 1800Kcal a day without losing or gaining weight this is known as their maintenance calories. You can think of maintenance calories as the normal daily amount you can eat that keeps you at the same weight. If they go on a diet and cut their calories to 1200Kcal, they will lose weight. However, their metabolism will soon decrease. If they stop their diet and start eating 1800Kcal per day like before, they will now gain weight as their maintenance calories are now less.
If you crash diet (cut calories too much too quickly), you will crash your metabolism. You may lose a lot of weight in the short term, but if you start eating more you will gain weight, probably more than you lose.
The right diet for you is one that fits with your lifestyle. The right diet should be one that you can imagine sticking to in the future. Our diet plan is flexible, realistic and sustainable. We will show you the important things you need to know and help you plan a diet that works for you in the long term – for years, not just for a few weeks or months.
How can I burn calories?
To lose weight you can eat less calories and/or burn off more calories. There are three ways that our bodies burn calories:
- Your Base Metabolism Rate (BMR) – this is the normal rate that your body breaks down and processed the food you eat, and will depend on a variety of factors, including your gender, age, height and weight
- Activity – how active you are throughout the day, which includes exercise and non-exercise activities (which involve moving around as part of your job or lifestyle). Being active burns off calories and will make you feel healthier, happier and more motivated
- Thermic effect of food (TEF)- your body burns calories during the eating and digesting process. Protein and fibre burn the most calories, whereas fat burns the least and requires the most calories to digest. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains) burn more calories than simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar). Learn more about TEF on our diet basics page.
How can I lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?
As fat and protein are different tissue systems, you can burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. Generally, to lose body fat without muscle, you should reduce calories by 10 – 20% and maintain a high protein intake (around 1.5 – 2g per kg of body weight depending on exercise).
If you want to lose body fat but not lean mass (which includes muscle), you should aim to lose no more than 1% of your body weight per week. If you try to lose weight too quickly, you may lose muscle as well as fat. Visit our gain lean muscle page to learn more about gaining muscle whilst losing body fat.
Tips to lose weight
Follow as many of these tips as you can to give you the best chance of losing weight and achieving your body and life goals. Start with the tips that are the quickest, easiest and will make the most significant difference to your weight loss.
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