Whatever your reason for deciding to take on a weight loss journey, you've already started it off on the right foot by making a realistic goal. Losing 50 pounds in 6 months is a realistic goal -- it's fast enough to see real results and stay motivated, but slow enough to avoid going into "starvation mode" or risking other side effects. While the "eat less and move more" tactics you'll need to lose to shed weight aren't always glamorous, they will help you improve your health almost immediately and reach your weight loss goal as fast as possible.
Calculate (And Re-Calculate) Your Calorie Intake
First things first -- to lose weight, you'll need to reduce your calorie intake. Every extra 3,500 calories burned corresponds to roughly one pound of fat, and you'll need to cut about 1,000 calories a day to lose 2 pounds a week. That will allow you to shed 50 pounds in about 25 weeks -- just under your 6-month goal time frame.
The easiest way to get your daily calorie burn is through an online calculator (since you'll be working out, assume you'll be active for about an hour a day), then subtract 1,000 calories to get your new intake goal. For example, if you're burning about 2,500 calories a day, start eating 1,500 to lose weight in time to reach your goal.
Re-Calculate Regularly to Avoid a Plateau
As you burn fat, you're not just changing your body shape -- you're altering your physiology (for the better!). That means you'll need fewer calories each day as you get lighter. Avoid a plateau: re-calculate your calorie burn every few weeks, so you're not accidentally taking in too many calories because of outdated information.
If subtracting 1,000 calories takes you below a safe intake level -- that’s 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 for men -- you’ll need to get more active to lose the weight. For example, if you're a woman who burns 1,700 calories a day, eat 1,200 calories and burn an extra 500 calories through exercise.
Weight Loss Workouts: Confusion is Key
You already know that losing weight means getting more active -- you'll generally need at least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week, plus two or three weight training sessions each week while you're losing the 50 pounds. That will keep you torching calories, and it'll build metabolism-boosting muscle that will help you keep the weight off -- and help you look fit and toned when you reach your goal.
But you'll also need to create confusion by switching up your workout routine. That's because your body naturally resists losing weight and starts burning fewer calories with your regular workout (lovely, huh) so you'll need to switch it up to keep burning calories.
Confuse with Cardio
Start your weight loss journey picking a form of cardio you love -- whether that's busting a move in aerobic dance class, swimming laps or sweating it out on on the treadmill -- and give yourself a few weeks to build up your cardiovascular base. After a few weeks, introduce confusion by introducing one or two new forms of cardio a week. Trade your regular treadmill session for a half-hour on the step-mill, try a different fitness class or opt for a jog outside instead of in the gym.
As you get more advanced, keep torching calories by adding intervals to your workout. After you've warmed up, up the intensity for a minute -- enough that you're ready for a break at the end of the 1-minute period -- rest with a lower-intensity interval for 1 and 2 minutes, then repeat the intervals for the duration of your workout. You can add variety in the way you structure interval workouts to keep burning calories, too. For example, try a 30-second work interval and 60-second rest interval one day, and a 10-second work interval and 50-second rest interval the next.
Create Muscle Confusion with Strength Workouts
It's even more important to switch up your strength training. Try using a different type of weight for your regular routine -- for example, grab a barbell instead of a set of dumbbells -- or choose a different exercise that works the same muscle groups. You'll need to completely revamp your routine every 6 to 8 weeks -- or 3 to 4 times during your 50-pound weight loss -- to avoid a plateau. It's best to consult a professional for each new routine; they'll be able to assess your fitness level and recommend the exercises that will give you the best results.
Create a Customized Meal Plan
Follow any diet guru and you're likely to find tons of nutrition rules: eat 6 small meals a day; load up on protein; don't eat after 7 P.M.; eat spices for metabolism; and so forth. The truth is, though, that you shouldn't have to change your life, ignore your timetable and personal tastes to lose weight -- in fact, that actually stands in the way of long-term weight loss, since it makes your diet unsustainable.
Instead, find healthy foods and a diet schedule you really like -- whether that's eating 6 small meals throughout the day, three square meals, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb....whatever! A sustainable meal plan will ensure you can actually stick to your diet for the 6 months you'll need to 50 pounds -- and beyond that, to stay lean for life. Challenge yourself to try at least one new healthy recipe each week -- by the time you've lost the 50 pounds, you'll have a few dozen tried-and-true recipes so you can keep eating healthy to maintain your new physique.
Get Inspired with These Healthy Recipes:
Make large portions to freeze single-size servings (perfect as a healthy alternative to packaged frozen foods!) and keep the ingredients on hand so you can always eat healthy -- no major planning required.