Weight Loss

How to lose weight the right way

May 15, 2024

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Key Points

  • Weight loss is determined by diet, physical activity, metabolism, genetics, and more. 
  • The best diet is the one you can sustain long-term.
  • Working with a registered dietitian is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success on your weight loss journey. 

Losing weight is one of the hottest topics in nutrition. Every day, people meet with dietitians to ask: "How can I lose weight?" "Can you help me lose weight fast?" "What is the right way to lose weight?" "How many calories should I eat if obesity is a concern?"

There are so many fad diets and sources of (unqualified) advice out there that it can be difficult to know what's right. Today, we're going to talk about how to lose weight the right way – with direct input from registered dietitians. Let's dig in.

How do we lose weight?

Weight loss boils down to consuming fewer calories than your body is burning in any given day, leading to a caloric deficit, which promotes weight loss. This relates to your metabolic rate, which determines how quickly your body burns through calories and is influenced by your sex, age, body composition, physical activity levels, muscle mass, genetics, and more.

With so many factors at play, what helps one person lose weight won't be the same for another. The scale of weight loss matters, too. Combating obesity is different than losing 10-15% of your body weight.

"I've had so many patients come to me wanting to lose weight, but when asked why, they don't really have a clear reason," says Rita Faycurry, RD. "It's so important to understand your why. It may reveal that you feel compelled to lose weight for no tangible reason, sort of like an obligation. When that happens, I like to dig deeper to get to the heart of the matter."

You should be sure that you're ready for the weight loss process before jumping into any diet. It's a long-term commitment, one that requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to change.

Take time to identify:

  • What's your motivating factor?
  • What support do you need to succeed?
  • Are you ready to learn new ways of eating?
  • Do you have the time to dedicate to this process?
  • Are you willing to be patient and kind to yourself in the process?

With all this in mind, let's dig into how you can achieve a healthy weight with a smart eating plan.

What is the best way to lose weight?

It's normal to look for easy ways to lose weight. With media and magazines promising weight loss plans to "lose weight fast!" or "drop 10 pounds in two weeks!" it's hard to know what is realistic or healthy. Fad diets have always been more popular than real weight loss advice because they make such drastic (and tempting) promises. In reality, weight loss is a slow, intentional process that requires patience and dedication.

Here are some tips for losing weight.

Healthy eating for weight loss

Of course, diet is one of the most important aspects of weight loss. The number of calories you consume is critical to create a deficit that enables weight loss. That said, here are some tips for how you can eat well while losing weight:

  • Prioritize fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Produce adds volume without too many calories, and that combined with fiber helps you feel full.
  • Consume fiber to keep your digestion moving as well.
  • Try eating breakfast and see if it helps keep your hunger at bay throughout the day.
  • Be smart about where your calories are coming from. Sugary drinks, for example, don't really satisfy anything but add a lot of sugar and calories.
  • Prioritize protein to maintain sateity. Meals that are primarily carbohydrates, like a piece of toast, can give you a burst of energy, but that energy will quickly taper off without protein (and fat) as a counterbalance. It also helps prevent the weight loss coming from your muscle mass rather than fat mass.
  • Focus on whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables as a source of carbohydrates.

Following fad diets and food trends can be more confusing than helpful. Get clear on what really works for weight loss by working with a registered dietitian. Get started today.

How much physical activity do you need to lose weight?

Exercise isn't necessary for weight loss per se, but it certainly helps, and it's important to stay active for other health reasons too, including heart health.

When it comes to physical activity, start where it makes sense. Don't start running five miles per day out of nowhere. Not only is not safe to jump into exercise without training, but it will also lead to burnout and might have unintended negative effects.

If you're really sedentary, start by increasing your daily step count. If you're already active, you could consider adding in more cardio or an additional workout session per week (but don't forget that rest days are essential too).

To reach a healthy weight, you need to consider your daily activity level and how many calories it burns. Exercise burn calories, but so does all the walking you naturally do between locations – the same goes for housework, running around with your kids, or even standing at your desk.

Cardio tends to get the most attention in weight loss plans, but it's not the be-all-end-all for weight loss. In fact, muscle is essential for a functional body and actually helps your body burn more calories even when at rest

Everyone benefits from finding ways to add movement through the day. Whether it's a quick break away from your desk or a longer walk after work, every little bit of physical activity adds up! Simply standing instead of sitting while working can make a huge difference.

The best diet for weight loss

"Everyone wants to know what the 'best diet' is, especially when they're concerned about rapid weight loss," says Rita Faycurry, RD. "The truth is, there is no best weight loss plan – the best diet is one you can maintain with your individual lifestyle and preferences."

There are different diets and eating plans that you can try for weight loss:

  • Intermittent fasting restricts your eating window, which can help those who have trouble with continuous grazing. It can also make a caloric deficit feel more manageable by making you feel full within your eating window.
  • Low-glycemic foods are a good option if you're concerned about your blood sugar or have diabetes.
  • Some people find success restricting certain groups of macronutrients, like eating low fat or trying the keto diet, which limits carbohydrates.
  • For those concerned about their cholesterol levels and heart health, the DASH diet is a good option.
  • If you don't want to restrict food but want to be more mindful, intuitive eating can be a powerful way to reconnect with your hunger cues. This approach encourages you eat slowly and really savor your food.
  • Tracking your food can be a great way to watch your calories and be sure you're on track each day.

The problem with rapid weight loss

Weight loss is already stressful for the body. So when you try to speed up the process, it increases the stress even further.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. Gradual weight loss also makes to more likely that you'll be able to keep the weight off longer term.

Rapid weight loss tends to pull from muscle mass and water weight rather than fat, making it easy to regain the weight.

Just how quickly you'll be able to lose weight depends on a plethora of factors, many of which are outside your control. Factors include age, health history, activity levels, medications, sleep, genetics, and more.

"I encourage my clients to focus on the first 5-10% of bodyweight lost rather than picking an ultimate number of pounds to lose," say Rita Faycurry, RD. "This is a much more tangible and realistic goal to have. It's also less intimidating, which helps the whole process feel more manageable."

Because rapid weight loss can also lead to subsequent weight gain, it can create an unhealthy cycle of yo-yo dieting, which can mess with your body's metabolism in the long-term. It's not without risks, either. Losing weight too quickly could lead to gallstones, malnutrition, and electrolyte imbalances

Remember that dieting is working against your body; humans have evolved to protect our bodyweight for survival. While weight loss is possible to achieve and can be done so in a healthy way, it is important to be safe and realistic about the process.

Lose weight the right way with a dietitian

A registered dietitian is the best partner you can have in your weight loss journey. RDs are experts in weight management and can help with everything from creating a custom eating plan to educatig you about blood sugar and food choices.

Additionally, you struggle with overeating, food restriction, or portion control, a dietitian can help with proven tactics and mindfulness exercises to help you cultivate a healthier relationship with food.

Working with an RD means you can take a data-driven, research-backed approach to weight loss rather than doing the guesswork on your own. You can navigate the confusing world of dieting with the guidance of a professional who can tell you fact from fiction (and whether that advice you heard on TikTok is actually a good idea).

Dietitians also offer much-needed accountability and support throughout the dieting process, which can be lengthy and it can be easy to lose motivation. They're there to encourage you to stick to your goals, while also adjusting your eating plan as needed.

With Fay, you can connect with a qualified dietitian covered by your health insurance. This means you can get top-tier nutrition advice from a board-certified RD for as little as $0 per session.

Click here to connect with a Fay dietitian today.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.

  • Cambridge University Press - Effects of gradual weight loss v. rapid weight loss on body composition and RMR: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  • Mayo Clinic - Weight loss: 6 strategies for success
  • Annals of Internal Medicine - Short-Term Medical Benefits and Adverse Effects of Weight Loss

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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.