Weight Loss In Depth

Sections on this page
  1. What is Healthy Weight Loss?
  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 
  3. Popular Diets and Weight Loss Programs 
  4. Common Weight Loss Supplements 
  5. How to Safely Lose Weight 

People choose to lose weight for all kinds of reasons. Some do so to decrease their risk of more serious health conditions in the future, while others may be looking forward to a special event and want to shed a couple of pounds to feel their best. Whatever the reason, doing so safely and avoiding certain diets which may be harmful for you, can increase your chances of keeping it off long-term. 

What is Healthy Weight Loss?

Healthy weight loss relies on healthy eating and physical activity, but it can sometimes be a daunting task to understand what that means for each person. Though the exact diet you choose may be unique to your needs, there are some guiding principles when ti comes to losing well safely and nutritionally.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), losing weight gradually and steadily (around 1-2 pounds per week) is considered a healthy way to lose weight. Further, those who do so slowly have a much higher chance of keeping it off long-term.

But weight loss isn’t just a one-and-done process. To maintain your fitness goals, learning how to incorporate a well-balanced diet and working toward regular physical activity is essential to keeping you healthy long after the diet ends. 

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans 

Based on scientific evidence on health-promoting diets, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to give citizens parameters on healthy eating habits.

According to the guidelines, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Incorporates a variety of proteins such as lean meats, seafood, poultry, soy products, nuts, seeds, eggs and legumes (beans and peas)
  • Is low in added sugars, sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

Along with these recommendations, when it comes to knowing exactly what and how much to eat, the dietary guidelines break down food groups that are focused on daily food totals measured in cups, ounces, or tablespoons. 

Depending on a person’s health, sex, age, and physical activity, daily calorie limits will vary, but most individuals are encouraged to follow the below chart for daily food goals. 

Food Group Daily Goals Recommendations
Vegetables 2.5 to 3 cups Opt for dark, leafy greens such as kale or spinach; vibrant yellows such as squash; or bright reds like peppers or tomatoes. 
Fruits 1.5 to 2 cups  
Whole grains About 1/2 a cup Look for products that are labeled “whole” grain.
Poultry, fish, or meat 5-6 ounces Of the allotted 42 ounces of poultry, fish, and meats each week, try to make at least 12 ounces seafood.
Dairy 3 cups  
Healthy oils 1-2 tablespoons Choose oils such as olive, avocado, peanut, or canola.

Whether you want to a significant amount of weight or just a few pounds, these guidelines can be helpful in ensuring that you’re doing so while still meeting your body’s vital mineral and vitamin needs.

Popular Diets and Weight Loss Programs 

In the world of dieting, there are hundreds of weight loss programs to choose from. Some offer science-backed research to support their weight loss methods, but many others lack sufficient evidence to prove their effectiveness.

Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to speak with a registered dietician or your healthcare provider before starting a new eating plan.

Below are some of today’s most popular diets and weight loss programs:

weight loss
Example of an intermittent fasting diet.

Common Weight Loss Supplements 

Though eating a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity is the best way to lose weight and keep it off, some individuals may choose additional methods of weight loss such as pills and natural supplements.

Most weight loss supplements claim to help you lose weight or make it easier to do so by either increasing your fat-burning capabilities, reducing appetite, or reducing absorption of nutrients such as fat so that your caloric intake is decreased.

Some of the most common supplements on the market today include: 

  • Caffeine
  • Chitosan
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Garcinia cambogia extract
  • Glucomannan
  • Guar gum
  • Green coffee extract
  • Green tea extract
  • Hydroxycut
  • Meratrim
  • Orlistat (Alli)
  • Raspberry ketones 

Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way that food and drugs are and most aren’t backed by science. Because of this, you should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietician before using supplements. 

How to Safely Lose Weight 

To lose weight safely and keep it off long-term, the best way to do so is by setting small, realistic goals and focusing on 1-2 pounds per week.

One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose weight, you need cut 3,500 calories out of your diet each week.

To do so, you’d start by figuring out your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the minimum number of calories your body needs to sustain life.

Depending on how physically active you are, your caloric intake will go up to support the energy you’re expending while active. From there, you’d eliminate 500 calories daily to establish your calorie deficit while not interrupting your energy levels or affecting hunger.

Example of a Calorie Deficit

If you exercise 3 to 4 times a week for 30-45 minutes a day and your estimated BMR is 1,927 calories, you'd subtract 500 from that number to find your calorie deficit.

So, to lose weight, you'd want to maintain a daily intake of 1,427 calories.

For food, eating 5-6 portioned-control meals throughout the day is considered the best way to lose weight gradually. This could look like:

  • Breakfast: 7 a.m.
  • Snack: 9 a.m.
  • Lunch: 12 noon
  • Snack: 3 p.m.
  • Dinner: 6 p.m.

Lastly, it’s recommended that along with a nutritious diet, individuals should aim for at least 200 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise.

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