How to Lose Weight in 6 Weeks
By the wlr team
You can make a big impression on your weight in six weeks.
Up to a stone is possible in a safe and healthy way. Especially for those at quite a high start weight, or others who burn upwards of around 2500 calories a day - including most men.
How Much Weight Can You Lose in 6 Weeks?
Weight loss will vary from person to person, depending on how many calories they need a day to maintain their current weight. This is because you need to make your body burn energy from your fat stores, which is what it does if you don't feed it enough calories.
There are two main factors that affect your six-week weight loss potential:
- High initial weight loss can be an added bonus for peple who are not currently restricting what they eat. Over the first week or so, readily available energy stores (glycogen) are quickly depleted along with a lot of water. This can easily account for 2lbs or more of weight loss over and above what you'd expect just from a calorie deficit
- The calorie deficit reasonable for you. For every 1lb a week you want to lose, you'll need to eat 500 calories less, per day, than you need to maintain your current weight. Therefore it's going to be easier for someone whose needs are 2400 cals a day compared to another who only needs 1900
6 Week Weight Loss Table
|Daily Deficit:||Weight Loss:|
|1000 cals||2lbs||12lbs||1 stone|
|500 cals||1lb||6lbs||½ a stone|
Our calories needed to lose weight article and tables will help you work out how this looks for you, or use the wlr tools (free trial) to get personalised numbers and timescale.
Of course how much exercise you do has a direct effect on how many calories you burn. While not strictly essential, exercise will help you lose weight more quickly. Even a 30 minute brisk walk 5 days a week will make a difference.
Does it make a difference what diet you do?
Very likely not over 6 weeks. Low carb and some fad diets may plump up your initial glycogen bonus, but research shows that this effect balances out. The message seems to be any diet that reduces calories will do - just do it!
Of course you don't need to go on a 'diet' to create a calorie deficit. You can do it just as easily by adapating what, and how much, you eat and drink to be lower in calories - and very likely healthier.
In the next phase of our guide, dietitian Juliette Kellow shows you how to lose weight with tips and advice for each of the six weeks.
The first week of a weight loss campaign is both the easiest and the hardest. The easiest because you're highly motivated, the hardest because you're going to have to make some real changes to what you normally eat.
A little planning goes a long way, so make sure you have thought through your tactics before you start. The following ideas will get you on the right track.
Fit food around your lifestyle
Trying to change the way you live to accommodate a new way of eating makes losing weight more difficult than it needs to be.
For example, trying to turn yourself into a Nigella goddess (or even a more mortal Jamie) isn't going to work if cooking's not your main way of earning bread. Instead, start from where you are now. Some ideas:
- Replace most of your sugary snacks with fruit
- Put a lot more vegetables on your plate, or in your lunchbox, and a little less of everything else
- Reduce your portion sizes, especially of fried, sugary, and high fat foods
Keep a food diary
Get into the habit of recording what you eat and drink. You won't be able to create a reliable calorie deficit unless you know how many calories you're consuming.
Or/And use a diet plan
Plans are helpful for giving you a good idea of the amounts and/or types of food you should be eating to lose weight. Good diet plans can also be very motivating when they provide tasty, satisfying meals and are great source of ideas if you're stuck.
Taking a hybrid approach can be helpful. Basing most of your meals around a plan to keep it simple and adding your own meals and snacks to make it flexible.
Avoid 'all or nothing' thinking
One overindulgence, or even a whole day of them, doesn't mean you've 'blown your diet'. You'll only fail if you don't get back on track at the first opportunity. Simply put the indulgence behind you and move on and away from the fridge!
Eat more and less
Focus on eating more of the 'good' things and it should automatically help you eat less of the 'bad' things. For example, boosting your intake of fruit and veg will help you eat less fatty and sugary foods because they'll help you feel fuller for longer.
But portion size still matters
Even healthy foods contain calories so you may need to limit your portion sizes. Especially for calorie dense foods like pasta and rice, meat, dairy products, cereals, high fat foods and fruit juices. It is possible to reduce your portions without leaving yourself feeling deprived.
When you first start out, it's a good idea to weigh portions of higher calorie foods until you get a good idea of what a certain weight of different foods looks like.
If you stuck to your plan and lost weight in week one, you'll very likely be noticing hunger creep in from time to time. Here's how to not let hunger stop you from reaching your goal:
Get comfortable with feeling a little hungry
After months or years of rarely or never allowing yourself to be really hungry, it's easy to forget what that empty sensation in our stomach feels like. It's no wonder then that when we change our eating habits, hunger pangs can make us feel uneasy and uncomfortable. While many diets claim you'll never feel hungry, this is often an unrealistic promise.
Experiencing hunger, especially when you first start a new way of eating, is quite normal. So try to allow yourself to feel a bit hungry, without worrying about it or taking immediate action such as eating the nearest available junk food.
Having said that, there are ways to ensure that what you eat while you're losing weight keeps you fuller for longer, as the rest of our week 2 tips show.
Fill up on fibre
When it comes to kicking hunger, swap all things white for all things brown. This means ditching bagels, white spaghetti, cornflakes and white rice and instead opting for wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain cereals and brown rice.
There are two main reasons why high-fibre foods help to combat hunger:
- Fibre acts like a sponge and absorbs and holds on to water. This means fibre-rich foods swell up in your stomach, helping to fill you up
- Fibre is harder to digest so it stays in your stomach for longer, leaving more time before you start getting those 'feed me' signals
Go for low GI foods
Foods with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) slowly release sugar into the blood, providing you with a steady supply of energy. This leaves you feeling satisfied for longer so that you're less likely to snack.
In contrast, foods with a high GI cause a rapid - but short-lived - rise in blood sugar, leaving you lacking in energy and feeling hungry within a short time.
Bottom line: eating foods with a low GI prevents swings in blood sugar, helping you to have better control over your appetite because you feel fuller for longer.
Get enough protein
Research shows that protein-rich foods help to improve satiety - the feeling of fullness you get at end of a meal.
Eating a serving of protein with each meal can also help to keep you fuller for longer, and snacking on a small handful of nuts will satisfy you for much longer than a muffin.
After a couple of weeks you may find your mind and body rebelling against your self-imposed food and drink restrictions. Cravings for snacks high in fat and sugar, or other 'comfort' food can plague your thoughts.
Research1 shows the best thing might be to 'just say no', the craving will pass. But there are things you can do to protect yourself against cravings and comfort eating.
Don't skip meals
You're less likely to crave comfort foods if your blood sugar levels are kept fairly stable.
Skipping meals will send blood sugar levels crashing with the result that you'll soon be reaching for something quickly and easily accessible: often poor quality high calorie snacks that won't satisfy you for long anyway.
What About Breakfast?
Having spent years spreading the message that eating breakfast helps with weight loss, health advisors should be rethinking their advice based on recent research2.
If breakfast is a normal part of your routine, then go ahead and keep eating it - just make sure it fits within your calorie allowance and will fill you up till lunchtime. Good breakfasts for achieving this are eggs and oatmeal/porridge.
However, if you didn't eat breakfast before you started on your plan to lose weight, now is probably not a good time to start. You'll be consuming unecessary calories at a time when you wouldn't normally want to eat anything.
Get out for a walk at lunchtime
A quick 15-minute walk during your lunch hour may help to control the urge to fill up on comfort food. (And burn you some extra calories.)
That's because daylight triggers the brain to produce a mood-boosting chemical called serotonin, which promotes feelings of relaxation and happiness. A lack of natural light - as is the case when you're cooped up inside - lowers levels of serotonin with the result that feeling low, tiredness and an increased appetite are far more common.
Eat protein for more serotonin
Eating plenty of foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan may help to curb cravings for comfort foods. This is because tryptophan (a building block for protein) is used to make serotonin.
Bottom line: the more tryptophan in our diets, the more serotonin we make, the happier we feel and the less likely we are to constantly feel hungry and crave comfort food.
Rich sources of tryptophan include red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds.
At the start of this week you've reached the half-way point, and some of your initial enthusiasm may be waning. This is a good time to have a refeed of your motivation.
Resurface your reasons for wanting to lose weight
If your motivation is flagging then it's a good idea to remind yourself why you wanted to lose weight in the first place.
Was it to look amazing at an important event? Holiday? Was it to improve your health and fitness? Was it simply to make clothes shopping a more pleasant experience?
Whatever your original motivation was, your internal argument still stands, it just needs bringing back to the surface. Plus, by now, you probably have the advantage of more knowledge about how losing weight could improve your life.
Break the routine
Quite often, our motivation starts to flag when we get bored with our diet. So think about what you've been eating and drinking over the past few weeks. Have you been eating the same foods, day in and day out? Have meals become uninteresting? If so, it's time to start experimenting with different ingredients and recipes.
For example, if you've been sticking to a lunchtime salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber why not make one using red cabbage, grated carrot and sliced red onion instead? Even doing something as simple as adding a handful of fresh herbs to a pasta dish can stimulate your tastebuds.
There are plenty of ways to find new lower calorie recipes and it's a good idea to try and adapt some of yur own favourites too. It's surprising what removing some fat and and adding more veg can do to a recipe's calorie count. (You can try this out in wlr.)
Beat the dieting blues
Remember that everyone has the odd down day when losing weight seems like hard work.
The easiest way to beat these dieting doldrums is to stop thinking about food and focus your attention elsewhere. Maybe a little browse around the clothes stores for some ideas for your soon-to-be new look.
Going for a brisk walk or cycle may also help as exercise releases endorphins, the body's own happy chemicals that give you a natural high.
Don't beat yourself up
Don't call yourself names if you have a bad diet day, you wouldn't do that to your best friend. Lapses in your new routine don't mean failure - they're a normal part of life and one you need to learn to accommodate. Simply get back on track with your next meal or snack.
Measure your success
Try on a favourite item of clothing that was feeling too tight to wear before you started your six week campaign. By now you'll certainly notice the difference, you only have to lose 2lb of fat in order to lose 1cm from your waist.
Having got this far, you've probably lost a good 5-10lbs - go you! You're unlikely to sabotage your own efforts at this stage, but people around you will be noticing changes.
While you're very likely to get a few compliments, not everyone will be comfortable with your weight loss and may feel the need to try and 'feed you up'. Here's some tips to bolster your resistance:
Understand fear of change
One of the main reasons people may try to sabotage your diet is a fear of change.
The problem is, that while losing weight will create big changes in your life that you welcome, not all your friends, family and colleagues will embrace change in the same way and may feel threatened by it. They may go out of their way to offer you biscuits, bring chocolates, or give you a huge serving of pasta.
The key is to constantly remind yourself why you wanted to change in the first place - and don't allow other people's fear to put you off.
Choose what's best for You
You've made sacrifices and a big effort to get this far.
You wouldn't expect to have an alcoholic drink pushed on you if you were driving, would you? So you shouldn't expect to be forced into having high-calorie food, either. Quite simply, just say no!
There's no need to offer an explanation or feel guilty, you are simply taking control of what you eat and when. If you do find yourself in the situation where food has been foisted on you, simply leave it. It might seem wasteful, but you didn't ask for it and it's just as wasted on your waist as it is in the bin.
Get them onside
Get your friends and family on your side and ask them to help you rather than hinder you. If someone doesn't seem to want to help, then don't feel bad about avoiding for him or her for the time being.
As the pounds fall off and you feel more confident, you'll feel stronger and be better equipped to cope with unsupportive people.
Bottom line: while others may tempt you, ultimately you're in charge of your own life. After all, you're losing weight for yourself - not someone else!
Once you've got to week six, there's probably not much more you need to know about how to lose weight successfully - you've done it! If you want to continue and lose more weight, keep on doing what you're doing until you reach your ultimate goal.
The tips below will help you to transition to your new 'normal' and maintain your new weight.
Adjust Your calorie intake
We recommend increasing your calorie intake in steps once you have reached your goal weight:
If the calorie deficit you used to lose your weight was 700 to 1000, add 500 calories a day to your existing daily calorie intake. This means if you've been having 1,250 calories each day, you should now have 1,750 calories a day.
If you've been cutting calories by less than 700 a day, increase your intake by 250. From a daily allowance of 1250 to 1500, for example.
Add back calories to your daily intake in 100-250 increments each week, depending on what your scales are telling you, until your weight stabilises at a level you're happy with.
Weigh yourself regularly - at least once a week. Just this simple tactic can stop you from straying too far from where you want to be.
There's no need to panic about short term weight fluctuations, they happen to everyone. But if you start to notice a trend on your scales, you probaby need to take some action. (You know what to do!)
Some people find it helpful to set an upper limit. If they go past that weight, they know they need to do something about it.
Resist falling into old (bad) habits
Slipping back into old ways such as always having biscuits with coffee, nibbling on cheese while you cook or grabbing a chocolate bar every night on your way home from work, will soon start to show on your scales. Be careful about anything you eat 'habitually'.
But enjoy a little of what you fancy
Food is part of the enjoyment of life. You don't have to feel that any foods, including indulgent puddings and deep fried chips, are forever off your menu. These kinds of foods can be included as part of what you eat without compromising your weight, or your health. Just include them occasionally rather than every day.
Keep your activity level up
If you've been exercising as part of your weight loss regime - keep it up. Not only is exercise great for your health but it will help you maintain your weight loss.
Be attentive to what's happening to your weight any time you have a change in your normal level of activity, not just deliberate exercise. For example, if you change jobs and now drive instead of walking to work. Even seemingly subtle changes like moving to a house with no stairs can add up to pounds gradually gained over time.
Enjoy and appreciate being your new weight
No one wants to be on a diet for their whole life. But you do have to make choices about what you eat and when that fit with the person you want to be.
You don't need to say 'I cant eat that'. You just need to include whatever 'that' is to suit the balance of energy in vs energy out that maintaining your new weight needs.
The tools in wlr can help you make the advice in this article work for you in a practical way. Try it free!
1. ‘Say no’: a feasibility trial of a brief intervention to reduce instances of indulgent energy‐intake episodes. https://doi.org/10.1111/cob.12261
2. Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l42