In today’s article, I cover some of the habits and mindsets it takes to answer the question, “how to lose 25 pounds in 6 months and keep it off forever.”
Weight loss is a very simple process. Science has shown us how to do this.
It’s the application of that simple process that is difficult because life likes to do life things.
- Some of us have past trauma that makes exercise and diet more difficult
- Various health conditions can make the process harder
- Social and economic status can make it more challenging
- Lack of support is a real bitch
This list goes on and on. Please keep that in mind as you read the article today.
Long-term weight loss often comes down 5 key factors
In an interview with Jeff Nippard, Lyne Norton, Ph.D. discusses 5 important elements for long-term weight loss.
Cognitive restraint refers to the conscious effort an individual makes to control their food intake in order to achieve or maintain a certain body weight or shape. It involves a range of strategies aimed at limiting the amount of food consumed, such as avoiding high-calorie foods, reducing portion sizes, and monitoring food intake.
Cognitive restraint can be adaptive when used in moderation and in combination with other healthy behaviors such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet. However, it can also become maladaptive when it leads to an excessive focus on food and weight, rigid eating habits, and a distorted body image, which can increase the risk of disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating, purging, or overly restrictive eating.
It is important to note that cognitive restraint is just one of many factors that can influence an individual’s eating behaviors and should be considered within the context of other psychological, environmental, and social factors that may impact food choices and eating habits.
Regular self-monitoring is a process of regularly observing and recording one’s own behaviors, emotions, thoughts, or physiological responses. It involves tracking and evaluating one’s progress toward a goal, identifying areas of improvement, and making adjustments as needed.
In the context of health and wellness, regular self-monitoring can refer to tracking and recording various aspects of one’s health behaviors such as food intake, physical activity, sleep, medication adherence, and symptoms of illness or chronic conditions. This can help individuals better understand how their behaviors impact their health outcomes and identify areas for improvement.
Regular self-monitoring can be done using a variety of tools such as journals, diaries, apps, or wearable devices that track and provide feedback on various health-related metrics. It can also be done with the support of a healthcare provider or a coach who can provide guidance and accountability.
Regular self-monitoring can be a powerful tool for behavior change, as it helps individuals become more aware of their habits and provides them with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health.
Regular exercise can take many forms, including walking, running, cycling, swimming, strength training, yoga, Pilates, and team sports. The key is to find an activity that is enjoyable and sustainable over the long term.
A structured strength training program
The goal of a structured strength training program is to progressively overload the muscles to promote hypertrophy (muscle growth) and improve strength and endurance.
Without progressive overload, it’s virtually impossible to get stronger or build muscle. In order to get stronger, build, or maintain muscle – The stimulus has to be more than it is used to. If you do the same thing over and over again nothing will change.
There are multiple ways you can do this.
- Intensity: Lifting more weight in your next training session.
- Volume: Doing more reps, sets, or exercises.
- Frequency: Doing more training sessions than the week before.
- Tension: Increasing the duration of each repetition within an exercise. For example, taking 5 seconds to lower yourself in a push-up.
- There are just a few
✅ Recommended reading: Getting started with strength training
Low recency (long-term goal > short-term feeling)
This is the ability to prioritize long-term goals over short-term feelings.
Prioritizing long-term goals over short-term feelings can be challenging, as our emotions and desires in the present moment can often feel more immediate and pressing than the potential benefits of our long-term goals. However, there are several strategies that can help you prioritize your long-term goals and achieve greater success in the future:
- Develop a clear vision of your long-term goals: Before you can prioritize your long-term goals over short-term feelings, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what those goals are and why they are important to you. Write down your long-term goals and the reasons why they matter to you, and keep them in a visible place as a reminder.
- Break down your long-term goals into manageable steps: Large, long-term goals can feel overwhelming and daunting, making it difficult to stay motivated over the long haul. To make your goals more achievable, break them down into smaller, more manageable steps that you can take on a daily or weekly basis.
- Develop a routine: Developing a routine or habit that aligns with your long-term goals can help you stay focused and motivated, even when short-term feelings or distractions arise. This could include setting aside a specific time each day for exercise or making a habit of prioritizing healthy eating habits.
- Use visualization techniques: Visualization techniques can be a powerful way to help you stay focused on your long-term goals. Visualize yourself successfully achieving your long-term goals, and imagine how that will make you feel in the future.
- Seek support: Finally, seek support from friends, family members, or a mentor who can help keep you accountable and motivated as you work towards your long-term goals. Having a support system can help you stay on track, even when short-term feelings threaten to derail your progress.
Find the method of restriction that feels the least restrictive for you (but don’t project that onto someone else)
If weight loss is your goal it’s important to recognize that some level of restriction is involved. You literally, have to restrict calories to lose weight. The key is to find the method that is least restrictive for you. There are a number of ways to approach this and I have written about some of them below.
✅ Recommended reading: Getting started with nutrition guide
How to set yourself up for success (and sustain it)
Self-awareness is important because it allows individuals to have a deeper understanding of themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When someone is self-aware, they are better able to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own biases and assumptions.
My favorite way to practice personal awareness to through a daily reflective exercise. Each day ask yourself these 3 questions.
- What went well today
- What didn’t go as well as I would have liked
- What is one small adjustment I can make tomorrow to improve on that thing that did not go well?
This gives you an opportunity to celebrate the bright spots, be real with the challenges, and make adjustments quickly.
Let the people you spend the most time with know about the changes you’re thinking of making.
- Be clear and specific about your intentions: Clearly state what changes you plan to make and why you believe they are necessary. Try to avoid making generalizations or speaking in vague terms that could be interpreted in different ways.
- Emphasize the positive outcomes that your changes will bring, both for yourself and for your relationship with the other person. For example, you might say “I think these changes will help me be a better partner/friend/family member to you in the long run.”
- Use “I” statements: Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements to avoid sounding accusatory or confrontational. For example, say “I feel like I need to make some changes in my life” instead of “You’re not supportive enough, and I need to make changes because of that.”
- Encourage the other person to express their thoughts and feelings about your plans. Make sure to actively listen to their perspective, and acknowledge their concerns or fears.
A good support system is underrated.
The environment will trump motivation every time. If there’s something you want to do more set up the environment to help make it easier to do it. If you want to do less of something, make that thing harder to do.
- Keeping water bottles at your desk or on your countertop to make them easier to see and get to
- Buying frozen veggies instead of fresh ones to make prep easier
- Unplugging the television is a way to create friction in watching it
Remove distractions from your life and watch your motivation skyrocket.
Every change we make is going to require some sort of sacrifice. Unfortunately, most of us either overestimate what those tradeoffs will be (i.e. giving up sugar) or fail to acknowledge what those tradeoffs may be (i.e. I want to workout more which may mean less time dedicated to something else.).
Identify any potential tradeoffs you may have to make and ask yourself if those are things you’re ok with. On the flip side, ask yourself what you definitely want to keep (i.e. Pizza night with the family) and make sure to build around that.
What matters for weight loss (according to science)
To lose body fat and maintain lean muscle mass the following things must happen.
Be in an appropriate calorie deficit.
This means taking in less energy (calories) than your body needs to maintain its weight, using more energy (calories), or a combination of the two. For most people, this will be about 10 to 20% of their maintenance calories.
- 2,000 calories to maintain your weight.
- A 10 to 20% deficit equals 200 to 400 calories
- 1,600 to 1,800 calories would be your caloric intake for sustainable weight loss.
Resistance training with progressive overload.
This is important when trying to lose weight for several reasons:
- It helps to preserve muscle mass: When you are in a calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than you burn), your body may turn to muscle tissue for energy. Resistance training can help prevent muscle loss, which is important because muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories at rest than fat.
- It increases your metabolism: Resistance training can increase your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body burns at rest. This means that you will burn more calories throughout the day, even when you are not exercising.
- It can help you burn more calories during exercise: Resistance training can be a high-intensity workout that burns a lot of calories during the exercise itself. This can help you create a larger calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
- It can improve insulin sensitivity: Resistance training can improve insulin sensitivity, which means that your body is better able to use the carbohydrates you eat for energy rather than storing them as fat. This can help you lose weight and also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- It can help you feel better: Resistance training can improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase your energy levels. This can help you stay motivated and stick to your weight loss plan.
Eat adequate protein
Eating enough protein is important when trying to lose weight and body fat for a number of reasons.
- Protein helps to preserve muscle mass: When you are in a calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than you burn), your body may turn to muscle tissue for energy. Eating enough protein can help prevent muscle loss, which is important because muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories at rest than fat.
- Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fat: Protein can help you feel full and satisfied, which can reduce your overall calorie intake and help you stick to your diet.
- Protein has a high thermic effect: The thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to the number of calories your body burns digesting and processing the food you eat. Protein has a higher TEF than carbohydrates or fat, which means that your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digest other types of food.
- Protein can help you avoid overeating: When you eat enough protein, you may be less likely to overeat or snack between meals, which can help you create a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Get in your steps and do appropriate amounts of cardio
A general rule is 30 minutes of low-impact cardio per day (i.e. walking). And 1-2 high-impact cardio per week. However, for some both of these may be too much.
It’s important to start with where you’re at and work up from there. If all you can do is walk to the mailbox and back do that. The most important thing is to take action and get started.
- More movement burns calories: Any type of physical activity burns calories, which can help you create a calorie deficit and lose weight. The more active you are, the more calories you will burn.
- Movement improves overall health: Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, improved mood, and reduced stress. These benefits can help you feel better and stay motivated to continue your weight loss journey.
- Most importantly movement is a great way to cope with stress. Ask any good therapist and they’ll tell you regular exercise, sleep, and a good diet are the foundations for mental health and self-care.
How long should it take to lose 25 pounds?
There is no specific time it should take you and I think this is where a lot of people make a big mistakes.
The amount of time it takes to lose 25 pounds depends on several factors, including your starting weight, body composition, age, gender, activity level, adherence to the plan, and dietary habits. In general, a safe and sustainable rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. Using this guideline, it could take approximately 12-25 weeks (or 3-6 months) to lose 25 pounds.
However, it’s important to note that the rate of weight loss may vary and can be influenced by individual factors such as genetics, hormonal imbalances, sleep quality, stress levels, and medical conditions. It’s also important to prioritize making healthy lifestyle changes that you can maintain in the long term rather than focusing solely on a short-term weight loss goal.
Generally speaking, reasonable and safe rates of weight loss per week according to experts, research, and governing bodies suggest the following.
Extreme (per week)
- 1-1.5% of body weight
- Men: 2-3 lbs
- Women: 1.65-2.5 lbs
Reasonable (per week)
- .5-1% of body weight
- Men: 1-2 lbs
- Women: .8-1.65 lbs
Comfortable (per week)
- 5% of body weight
- Men: <1 lbs
- Women: <.8 lbs
People like to freak out when they’re not losing weight as fast as their friend, brother, sister, significant other, or random person on the Internet that is talking about their hashtag fitness journey. You may not lose weight at the rates described above and that is ok. Progress is progress and as you’ll read later in the article, the scale doesn’t always tell the tale.
✅ Recommended reading: How fast can you expect to lose weight?
How much weight can I realistically lose in 6-months?
Given the examples above, a realistic rate of weight loss in a month could be between, 3.2 and 10 pounds for some women. And between, 4.0 and 12 pounds for some men.
Not losing weight within these ranges does not mean you’re a failure or doing something wrong. There could be some other things going on.
- You’re not actually in a calorie deficit
- Making great progress but comparing it to others
- Inconsistent measurements
- Metabolic adaptation
- Water retention
- Health issues (menopause, PCOS, etc..)
- Your plan is dumb
I discuss each a bit more in the video below.
The difference between weight loss and fat loss
Weight loss and fat loss are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
When most people say they want to lose weight, what they are referring to is fat loss. A major challenge is that fat loss isn’t always reflected by the number on the scale. This is why understanding the differences between the two and measuring your progress in ways other than the scale are important.
Weight loss is the result of losing weight from muscle, water, fat, glycogen, waste, and other things. Fat loss is weight loss only from the fat you have lost.
When you weigh yourself on a bathroom scale you are measuring weight loss and NOT fat loss alone. Measuring fat loss can be done by a number of methods.
- Dual-energy X-ray absorption (DEXA)
- Hydrostatic weighing
- Skinfold calipers
- Digital scales (bioelectrical impedance and electric impedance)
- Bod pod
- 3-D body scanners
- Multi-compartment models (the most accurate but often unavailable to the public)
Each has its own set of advantages, disadvantages, accuracies, and inaccuracies.
Unless you are getting ready for a specific event that requires you to achieve certain levels of body fat you may not need to bother with these tests. Using the scale, girth measurements, photos, and non-scale measures of progress will be sufficient.
What are some safe ways to lose 25 pounds in 6 months?
Weight loss depends on a number of factors.
- are you in a consistent calorie deficit?
- does the approach you’re taking make sense for your goals
- are you enjoying the process (or at least not hating it to the max)
- your current starting point (a lot of weight to lose or a little)
- adherence to the plan
When working with clients I often find that it’s not a lack of progress for them that’s frustrating. It’s that they started with unrealistic expectations, don’t understand why they can’t sustain the results they got when they started, or a combination of the two.
Losing 25 pounds in 6 months can be a realistic goal if you approach it in a safe and healthy way. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Focus on a balanced diet: Consume a diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Focus on what you can add versus what you can subtract.
- Control portion sizes: Pay attention to the portions of food you’re consuming and make sure they are appropriate for your goals. You can use measuring cups, or food scales, or just be mindful of the size of your portions by using your hands to estimate.
- Incorporate physical activity: Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This can include anything from structured exercise like going to the gym, to more leisurely activities like walking or cycling.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and limit your intake of sugary drinks, such as soda and juice.
- Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Lack of sleep can lead to increased hunger and cravings, which can make it more difficult to stick to your diet.
- Keep track of your progress: Keeping track of your weight and other relevant measurements, such as body fat percentage, can help you stay motivated and on track.
Not to beat a dead horse but…
- Eat at a moderate calorie deficit
- Get adequate protein
- Resistance training (structured program)
- Move (get in your steps)
- Go to sleep (do your best parents)
- Have some sort of regular de-stressing practice
- Self-monitor what you’re doing and the results you’re getting
What should I eat to lose 25 pounds in 6 months?
You have to be in a calorie deficit but that’s not very helpful is it?
We waste a lot of time chasing some novel, new, or the best way to do something. When most of us just need to get better at the basics.
You don’t need to stop eating carbs, past a certain time of day, quit sugar, detox, or be keto.
- Eat slowly and until 80% full
- Include a serving of protein, veggies, and water with the majority of your meals
- Cook meals at home as often as you can
- Use your favorite method to measure serving sizes (track calories, use a food scale, or use hand servings sizes)
- Adjust meals based on the feedback you get (weight, girth measurements, body fat). If you’re not losing, you’re most likely eating too much. Even if you think you’re not.
It’s easy to get drowned in the undertow of health advice on the internet. We could argue back and forth until our faces turn blue about what diet is best and what training methods are ideal.
Over the years I’ve experimented with different diets, training methods, and other weird fitness shit.
What I’ve found that’s worked best for me and coaching clients, has little to do with a specific diet and exercise program. It’s more about the mindset, attitude, and identity we create around our health, fitness, and body.
Like most things in life. Fitness is about getting really really…. like REALLY good at fundamental behaviors. Then, practice those fundamental behaviors over and over and over again.
How should I exercise to lose 25 pounds in 6-months
Step 1: Start by moving more.
Whatever that looks like for you. Start with where you’re at.
- Orange Theory
- Wandering around and taking pictures
- Beat saber
- Jump on a trampoline
- Park further away from places
- Explore various forms of exercise
- Play more
- Find sneaky ways to move more
Be careful not to create rules here. Don’t worry about getting 10,000 steps. Walk to the fucking mailbox and back if that’s all you can do. Forget about working out for 60-minutes 5 days per week. If all you can do is a 15-minute workout at home, do that. Just do something, anything, to get you moving a little more than you are today.
Step 2: Structured resistance training
We’ve already talked about the importance of resistance training with progressive overload so I’m going to spare you from it again.
✅ Recommended reading: Getting started with resistance training
Make it about behaviors instead of outcomes
Why focus on the process when the world is outcome driven? Don’t results matter?
Yes, results do matter.
But the process matters more.
James Clear has a quote I love.
If you optimize for the outcome, you win one time. If you optimize for a process that leads to great outcomes, you can win again and again.
It’s a better investment of your time and energy to focus to build better habits and skills then to pursue specific outcomes.
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash