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Weight Loss

Successful approaches to weight loss include setting goals and making lifestyle changes, such as eating fewer calories and being more physically active.

Weight loss medications and weight loss surgery are options in a minority of people who are obese. These are generally only recommended when other lifestyle changes have failed to work, and the medical risks of remaining overweight are high.

Set Realistic (“Do-able”) Goals

Setting the right weight loss goals is an important first step to losing and maintaining weight.

For Adults

For Children and Teens

Healthy lifestyle changes

To help you aim for and maintain a healthy weight, your doctor may recommend that you adopt lifelong healthy lifestyle changes.

Making lifelong healthy lifestyle changes, such as heart-healthy eating and physical activity, can help you modify your energy balance to help you aim for and maintain a healthy weight. For example:

Behavioral Changes

Changing your behaviors or habits around food and physical activity is important for losing weight. The first step is to understand the things that lead you to overeat or have an inactive lifestyle. The next step is to change these habits.

The list below gives you some simple tips to help build healthier habits.

Change your surroundings. You may be more likely to overeat when watching TV, when treats are available in the office break room, or when you're with a certain friend. You also may not be motivated to take the exercise class you signed up for. But you can change these habits.

Keep a record. A record of your food intake and the amount of physical activity that you do each day will help to inspire you. You also can keep track of your weight. For example, when the record shows that you've been meeting your goal to be more active, you'll want to keep it up. A record is also an easy way to track how you're doing, especially if you're working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

Seek support. Ask for help or encouragement from your friends, family, and health care provider. You can get support in person, through e-mail, or by talking on the phone. You also can join a support group.

Reward success. Reward your success for meeting your weight loss goals or other achievements with something you would like to do, not with food. Choose rewards that you'll enjoy, such as a movie, music CD, an afternoon off from work, a massage, or personal time.

Weight Loss Maintenance

Maintaining your weight loss over time can be a challenge. For adults, weight loss is a success if you lose at least 10 percent of your initial weight and you don't regain more than 6 or 7 pounds in 2 years. You also must keep a lower waist circumference—at least 2 inches lower than your waist circumference before you lost weight.

After 6 months of keeping off the weight, you can think about losing more if:

The key to further weight loss or to maintain your weight loss is to continue with lifestyle changes. Adopt these changes as a new way of life. However, if you want to lose more weight, you may need to eat fewer calories and increase your activity level. For example, if you eat 1,600 calories a day but don't lose weight, you may want to cut back to 1,200 calories.

Reference: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute 

Last updated May 2017