Looking to lose weight? Working from home, limiting the amount of steps we take each day, comfort eating and daily drinking – all things that have likely taken a toll on our waistbands during lockdown.
If you're keen to shift a few pounds this summer and beyond, here's an expert-led, practical guide on how much weight you can safely lose in 6 weeks.
Short-term dieting and compulsive exercising may get you results in one way or another, but they're not sustainable for long-term weight loss, and aren't recommended as a healthy way to lose weight.
'Avoid fad or quick-fix diets,' says registered dietician and nutrition researcher Tai Ibitoye. 'Healthy eating should provide freedom not restriction,' she adds, explaining that people who set themselves 'safe, achievable and sustainable' goals will become more confident in their ability to lose weight safely. They'll also set realistic targets for themselves to keep the weight off long-term.
How to lose weight: What's a safe weekly weight loss target?
Between 1 to 2 pounds (approximately 0.5-1kg) a week is a healthy and realistic target for weight loss, according to Ibitoye.
'The amount of weight you lose is unique to the individual and depends on many different factors,' says Gina, a qualified personal trainer and founder of inspirational online fitness platform Just Geen, who believes losing weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise.
How to lose weight: What should you eat to lose weight safely in six weeks?
Ibitoye says a common sense approach to eating is vital for safe and sustainable weight loss. She doesn't advise cutting out whole food groups (without any medical reason to do so), taking special food products, supplements or pills to lose weight without any guidance from a registered health professional.
Many people looking to lose weight often go wrong by limiting their choices by sticking to one particular type of food, or meal, for a set amount of days or weeks. 'Sticking to these types of diets in the long-term can be very challenging,' she explains. Not only are they 'no fun at all' but 'these types of diets are nutritionally incomplete and don't provide you with the right amount of nutrients your body needs.'
How to lose weight: How many times should you eat per day to lose weight in six weeks?
'Do not skip meals,' says Ibitoye, 'have 3 regular and balanced meals throughout the day and include snacks between if you are physically hungry.'
She also recommends reducing the amount of food and drink that are usually higher in fat, salt or added sugars, like fried foods, cakes, biscuits, desserts and sugar-sweetened drinks, and instead opting for no-added sugar alternatives instead.
She notes that 'these can be eaten occasionally, but in small quantities and less often.'
How to lose weight: Ibitoye's top healthy eating tips
Stock up on healthy snacks
Slices of apple with nut butter spread are great healthy alternatives, or try unsalted rice cakes, lightly salted plantain crisps, and lightly salted or plain popcorn.
Small handfuls of unsalted nuts or raisins, low-fat hummus or salsa with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, and oat cakes are also great snacks.
Aim to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables because most of us are not eating enough of them. Include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day; one portion is 80g which is about a handful.
An example of 1 portion includes: 2 medium plums, 1 medium banana or apple, 16 okra, 1 handful of vegetable sticks, 3 heaped tablespoons of peas, kidney beans or sweetcorn, 1 handful of grapes or 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad.
Fruit and vegetables are generally low in calories, fat and high in fibre (which can help you feel fuller for longer). They also contain important vitamins and minerals essential for your general health and wellbeing.
Be mindful of portion sizes
Consider having a small portion first to tune in and feel for when you're full. If you're still hungry, you can go back for seconds. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full, so eat slowly and stop before you feel uncomfortable.
Read nutritional information on food labels
Studying labels will help you choose healthier options when it comes to food and drinks. The traffic light colours on product packaging shows whether the product has a high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) amount of saturated fats, salt and sugars. Also use the calorie information to work out how a food or drink fits into your daily calorie allowance.
Serve up a smaller plate
When it comes to eating during meal times, one healthy eating tip to incorporate is filling half the plate with vegetables and salad. Then divide the other half between protein sources (such as chicken, fish, meat, egg, beans or other plant-based protein sources) and starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta or bread. Where possible, opt for wholegrain varieties - like brown rice, brown pasta, wholemeal bread and wholemeal chapati - and eat potatoes, with their skin on, as these are good sources of fibre.
Be mindful of alcohol consumption
If you drink alcohol, be mindful of how much you are consuming. Alcohol is high in calories and can lead to weight gain in some people. For example, 1g of alcohol provides about 7 calories (kcal) compared with 4kcal per gram for carbohydrates and protein. Alcohol has been shown to stimulate appetite, too, and encourage some people to eat more.
Having said this, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have advised that it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, as too much alcohol can lead to long-term health problems. Cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink by having non-alcoholic drinks, low-alcohol and low-calorie drinks instead. Schedule in at least 3 drink-free days each week.
How to lose weight: What types of exercise should you do to lose weight in six weeks? And how often should you workout?
'I’m a firm believer that you cannot out-train a bad diet so by getting your nutrition in line, it should make the exercise side of things easier,' Gina says.
She developed her online platform after finding fitness to be a huge stress relief after a particularly turbulent time in her life and thinks mixing weight training and HIIT is the best combination for great results in six weeks.
'Both training methods are good for you but in short, weight training is best for fat loss and building lean muscle. Whilst cardio will help with weight loss, improving cardiovascular health and 'uncovering' the muscle you've sculpted.'
Ibitoye agrees: 'Being more physically active can certainly help you lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight. The NHS recommends doing some type of physical activity every day. Any activity is good, the more done, the better.'
She adds: 'Find a physical activity that you find fun and enjoyable, as the more you enjoy it, the more you are likely to do it and be consistent. Try and make it part of your everyday routine, like walking or cycling to work, taking the dog for a walk, taking the stairs instead of the escalators or lift, getting off a few stops before your destination and walking there.'
Weight training is important in the weight loss process. This is because lifting weights can increase your lean body mass, which increases the number of overall calories you burn during the day. Your muscle mass largely determines your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn by just living and breathing). Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more energy your body uses up.
HIIT or LISS
HIIT (High Intensity Training) is a convenient form of cardio which is short and intense with minimal rest periods in between. This type of training will encourage your body to burn calories even after you are done exercising.
LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State)
is low-intensity exercise, anywhere from 40 minutes onwards. It has been proven to trim excess body fat without affecting muscle growth by using fat stores as energy rather than carbs or glucose. Also, by it not being as taxing on the body, you’re able to do it frequently without the need for recovery.
Gina says she'd recommend 'two to four strength sessions and one to two cardio-based sessions a week for six weeks. For beginners, I would start at three overall sessions a week and build up from there.'
EXAMPLE WORKOUT WEEK
Monday: Upper Body
Lower Body, Abs & LISS
Lower Body & Abs
How to lose weight: What to know before you get started
'Weight loss is different for everyone,' Gina says, 'but the basic idea is simple - eat (around 10%) less than you normally would, drink lots of water and move regularly.'
Ibitoye agrees, and advises the best way to lose weight safely in six weeks is to get the right support and seek professional advice. 'Some people need that extra support to reach their goals,' she says. 'Decide who can help you through your journey and the best way that they can support you. This could be asking a friend to help you keep accountable. It is also worth seeking dietary advice from a registered dietitian to ensure you achieve safe, healthy and long-lasting results.'
Important things to be mindful of when losing weight:
Women who are pregnant are not advised to lose weight. Gaining weight during pregnancy is natural. However, if they are concerned about weight gain, they should seek advice from their Doctor or Registered Dietitian
People with an existing medical condition such as type 2 diabetes, who are considering to lose weight, should always seek advice from their GP and Registered Dietitian for tailored medical and dietary advice.
Different approaches to weight loss will be successful for different people. One size does not fit all. However, a Registered Dietitian can help provide individualised dietary advice and plans to meet your health and nutrition goals.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like