You can shed weight quickly, depending on how much you have to lose and how focused you remain.
Oftentimes, simple, easy changes can help you see results right away. That said, patience is an important part of the successful weight-loss formula. The pounds didn't get packed on overnight; it's going to take some time to establish healthy eating and exercise habits, and shed the not-so-healthy habits you may have developed.
1. Do Some Detective Work
Take some time to identify the most likely culprits of the unwanted weight. Are fried or sugary foods too tough to resist? Is it hard to avoid noshing whenever free food is within arm's reach? Are you too tired and busy to shop and cook healthy meals? (Maybe you're falling for these 6 Biggest Weight Loss Myths.) Or do emotions—like boredom, anxiety, nervousness, depression, and joy—send you straight to the fridge?
For most people, a wide variety of factors lead them to pack on unwanted pounds. The answers can lead you to your best first steps. If intense emotions are driving you to eat, identify alternate routes that will offer relief without derailing your weight-loss goals. You might reach out to a friend, get more sleep, or sink into the distraction of a good book or movie.
2. Get Moving
It's difficult to lose weight by just cutting calories. Research shows that reducing calorie intake through diet and exercise is the most effective way to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off. It's ideal to develop a regular exercise routine of 3 to 4 times a week (our Start Walking plan can help you get into the habit of regular exercise and stick with it.) But also try to incorporate more activity whenever you can.
Take the long way to the restroom, take the stairs rather than the elevator, park your car as far as you can from the front door. Set a timer to chime every hour so that you get up from your seat. Even standing rather than sitting at your desk will help. Studies have shown that standing at your desk during an eight-hour workday will burn 163 more calories than if you were sitting.
3. Plan Ahead
Everyone has their weak moments—situations where they find it tough to make healthy choices. Make a list of those occasions and settings where your diet tends to take a detour. No healthy lunch options at work? Pack your own. Do you devour everything in the fridge in the 10 anxious minutes after you walk in from work? Snack on the way home, and have a pre-cooked dinner that you can reheat right when you get home.
If you go off the rails late at night, once the kids are in bed and you have a chance to decompress, think of another activity far from the kitchen that helps you relax. Try a book, a shower, a call to a friend, a hot bath or a fun movie. Hate to cook or don't have time for it? Order pre-made convenient, healthy foods.
More: 8 Easy Ways to Relax
4. Fill Up on Fruits and Veggies
You can eat large portions without loading up on calories—as long as you're eating fruits and vegetables. Compared with other foods, produce is low in calories and high in nutrients, fiber, and water, all of which will help you lose weight without being hungry. Fill half your plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables. Fill the other half with whole grains and lean protein—lean cuts of meat, beans, tofu or low-fat dairy—to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
5. Don't Drink Your Calories
Stick to calorie-free beverages like water or hot tea. A 20-ounce soda can pack 240 calories and 65 grams of sugar. Even a grande hot chocolate with fat-free milk has 360 calories. Add whipped cream, and you have an entire meal's worth of calories before you've taken your first bite. If you love specialty drinks, choose a smaller size with fat-free or low-fat milk and skip the whipped cream and syrups.