Treatment for obesity will be most successful if you create a long-term plan with your doctor. A reasonable goal might be to begin making lifestyle changes by increasing physical activity and eating healthy foods. Your initial goal should be to improve your health, not to achieve an ideal weight.
Guidelines suggest a goal of losing 10% of your body weight in 6 months.1 Doctors often recommend that people make lifestyle changes for at least 6 months before trying medicines or surgery. For more information, see the Medications and Surgery sections of this topic.
Your doctor may also suggest counseling. If you use food to cope with depression, loneliness, anxiety, or boredom, you need to learn new skills to deal with those feelings.
Eating fewer calories while increasing activity is the best way to lose weight. For most adults, eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for men is recommended for weight loss.
People often convince themselves that they don’t overeat. Keeping a food journal can help you find out how many calories you consume in a day. Then you can set a goal to cut out 500 to 1,000 calories a day. This will help you lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.1
Limiting your calories to very low levels might seem like the way to quick weight loss, but it can have serious negative effects on your body and your ability to keep the weight off.
Research shows that limiting calories-not the types of foods you eat-causes more weight loss over the long term. For example, cutting only carbohydrate or fat will not cause any more weight loss than a healthful and balanced low-calorie diet.3
Eat healthier foods-don’t diet
Rather than focusing on a particular type of diet, try to eat healthier foods. Don’t try to restrict the foods you love. Eat less of them. Eat smaller portions.
Physical activity helps you burn more calories. Overall, experts recommend doing moderate or vigorous activity to get and stay healthy.5
One of the best ways to increase your activity is by walking.
Keep track of your steps with a step counter or pedometer. If you have a desk job, you may be surprised to see how little you move in a typical day. Start with a goal of increasing your steps by 2,000 steps a day and work up to 10,000 to 12,000.
See your doctor after 6 months to check your progress. Some people stop losing weight around this time, because their bodies adjust to fewer calories and their motivation starts to slip.
At this point your doctor may want you to increase your activity and revisit the dietitian to make further changes to your eating habits. Your goals may switch from losing more weight to keeping the weight off. Staying active is very important.
If you have lost weight but gained it back, don’t be discouraged. It is not uncommon to try several times before weight comes off and stays off. Talk to your doctor about starting again. It may be helpful to work with others who are trying to lose weight by following a structured program.
When to consider medicines or surgery
If you do not lose weight, continue to gain weight, or have lost weight several times only to regain it, or if your doctor is concerned about a related health problem, you might need to try medicines or surgery.