10 top tips to help you lose weight
Doing all the right things but not losing weight? Try following our top tips for weight loss.
Are you eating healthily and working out but not losing weight? It might be time to tweak your strategy.
We share common reasons weight loss strategies fail and give you actionable tips on how to break through the plateau.
In this article, we cover:
Why am I not losing weight?
It can be frustrating if you are putting in the effort and feel like you’re making the right changes, but the scales are saying otherwise.
Losing weight should be a gradual process, but if you’re not getting anywhere after a few weeks to months, it’s time to start asking yourself a few questions.
1. Could an underlying medical condition be hindering my weight loss?
This isn’t an excuse to go looking for a medical condition, but it should be a consideration if your progress doesn’t seem to reflect the changes you’ve made. Some conditions can make it more difficult to lose weight.
Medical conditions that can make weight loss more challenging include:
- Depression and other mental health problems
- Hormonal changes, like menopause
- An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cushing’s disease
- Sleep conditions, such as sleep apnoea and insomnia
2. Are hidden calories creeping into my diet?
Picture 500kcal. It sounds like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of two big handfuls of nuts. Or a chicken Caesar salad. Or a large caramel Frappuccino. Some foods and drinks are unexpectedly calorie-dense, and it can be easy to go over your daily calorie limit without realising it. Calories aren’t the be-all and end-all of weight loss, but they do play a key part.
Some high-calorie foods are a great source of protein and other important nutrients, so incorporate these into your diet, but try not to go overboard. If your overall calorie intake exceeds the number of calories you burn, you’ll struggle to lose weight.
High-calorie foods and drinks include:
- Hot chocolate and coffee with syrups/cream
- Red meats and meats with skin on
- Homemade granola
- Chickpeas and hummus
- Whole milk and milkshakes
- Coconut milk
- Alcohol, especially cocktails and craft beers
- Butters and oil
3. Has my body composition changed?
If you’ve just started a functional fitness course or started a weightlifting programme, it may be that you’re getting stronger. As our muscles adapt and get bigger, they weigh more. This can make it appear as though you’re not losing weight, or that progress is slower than you’d like.
Instead, you might notice that the shape of your body is changing. Or, if you have scales that measure body fat, you may notice your numbers have dropped (though these scales often aren’t very accurate).
This is one reason you shouldn’t rely solely on the scales to measure your progress. Monitor how you feel in yourself, as well as your cardiovascular fitness. You might find you’re able to lift heavier weights or run for longer without stopping.
4. Am I taking medications that can cause weight gain?
Unfortunately, some of the treatments for the above conditions may cause weight gain as a side effect. They can affect your metabolism and appetite, as well as your body’s salt balance.
But don’t stop taking any medications without first consulting your doctor — this can be dangerous. Sometimes there are alternative treatments, or your doctor may be able to lower your dose. If not, it’s still possible to lose weight, it might just take a bit of extra work.
Drugs that may cause weight gain include:
- Diabetes medications, like gliclazide and insulin
- Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications
- Blood pressure medications, like beta-blockers
- Anti-epilepsy medications
5. Is my diet or weight loss plan unsustainable?
Dieting can be an effective way to lose weight, but if you’re setting unrealistic goals like avoiding all sweet treats, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure.
The trick is creating a plan that you can stick to. After all, it is consistency that will take you to your end goal and allow you to maintain it.
Common unrealistic weight loss goals include:
- “Drop a dress or trouser size in a week” — the rate at which you can safely lose weight will be unique to you. According to many experts, losing 0.5–1 kg per week is a safe and healthy rate. You may find you’re able to lose weight at a faster rate, especially at first, but losing weight too quickly can be harder to maintain.
- “Eat perfectly” – if you have the willpower to eat like a hunter-gatherer for the rest of your life, that’s great. But for most of us, we’re going to want the occasional treat, and that’s not just allowed but encouraged. Obsessing over your diet or taking an all-or-nothing approach can lead to overeating, weight gain, and an unhealthy relationship with food.
- “Go to the gym every day” — life gets in the way sometimes. Allowing yourself to be flexible with your routine can make you feel less guilty if you need to miss a session.
10 top tips for weight loss
Losing weight can be challenging, especially if it feels like life is working against you. Perhaps you have a sit-down job, are a busy parent, or just really enjoy food.
Carrying additional weight can make weight loss harder since it takes more effort to move around. Being overweight can also affect your hormone levels; for example, leptin levels increase, and your body becomes more resistant to it, thinking you need food when you don’t.
But, while it may not be easy, almost everyone can lose weight with the right strategy. Here are our top tips.
1. Ease yourself in
Words like bootcamp, CrossFit, and HIIT can make the idea of exercise feel daunting.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel fit enough to do exercise. It’s common to feel this way. Start small and gradually build on your progress.
If you’re nervous about joining the gym, ask the staff if they can give you an induction and show you how the equipment works, or book a personal training session. Some gyms might include a free trial or class.
If you want to start running, Couch to 5k is perfect for people who have never run before. The plan gradually increases in intensity, so by nine weeks, you’re able to run 5k.
Generally, a structured plan is easier to get into, especially if you’re not sure how to start.
2. Try tracking your calories — even just for one week
Calories aren’t as important as the type of food you’re eating, but they’re still important when it comes to weight loss. You can lose weight without tracking calories, but monitoring your calorie intake has been proven to be beneficial for weight loss.
It’s very difficult to accurately guess how many calories you’re consuming — you might just be surprised when you total it up. Your version of a bowl of cereal may be very different to the serving suggestion on the side of the box. Often, serving sizes are very restrained.
Use a calorie tracker app, like MyFitnessPal, to track your meals. Don’t forget drinks too. You don’t need to continue this for long. A week will give you an appreciation of roughly how many calories you’re having a day.
Not sure how many calories you should be aiming for? Try a calorie calculator, which takes into account your age, gender, height, weight, and activity levels. But bear in mind, the results of these calculations are estimates only.
3. Choose an exercise you look forward to
Weight loss works best with a two-pronged approach: eating healthily and keeping active.
If the gym works for you, that’s great. But it’s not for everyone. Finding an exercise you enjoy might require you to think outside the box a little. If you’re struggling to think of something, sometimes exercising with someone can make it more enjoyable (and they can hold you accountable!).
Ask a friend to do an activity with you, such as:
- Joining a weekend hiking or walking group
- Team sports, like football, rugby, netball, or hockey
- Cycling or sign up for a spin class
- Catch up with a friend on a walk
- Joining a dance class
- Hot yoga
If your friends aren’t up for the challenge, a personal trainer is another option if it’s within your budget. Many trainers also post free workout videos online which you can do at home.
4. Eat plenty of protein
Eating more protein can benefit weight loss in several ways.
Firstly, protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, which may lead you to eat less. One study showed that increasing dietary protein from 15% to 30% was associated with greater satiety and decreased calorie intake, resulting in greater weight loss (1).
Protein also increases your metabolic rate, which can help you burn more calories at rest after eating, due to an effect known as diet-induced thermogenesis (2).
Regardless of whether you’re training, protein is an important macronutrient for repair. It helps to rebuild muscle when it’s damaged and helps prevent muscle loss. This is especially important in older age.
How much protein should you eat?
Most adults need at the very least around 0.75g/kg/day (for the average woman, this is 45g, or 55g for men), but you’ll likely benefit from much more than this if you’re training and trying to lose weight. There’s no official guidance on optimal protein intake, but some studies have suggested 25–30% of your total calorie intake might be beneficial, whilst also safe (2).
If you have kidney problems, it’s best to discuss a high-protein diet with your doctor first.
5. Get enough sleep
If you snooze, you lose…weight that is!
Evidence shows that disturbed sleeping patterns can lead to snacking, especially foods rich in fats and carbs. It’s also likely to affect the body’s appetite control system and metabolic rate, which can make it more difficult to lose weight (3). So, try to get plenty of good-quality sleep.
6. Get creative with time
Life has a habit of getting in the way, especially when it comes to exercise. Having no time is one of the most common reasons for not exercising. So, you might have to get creative. Planning for the week ahead can help — but be prepared to be flexible.
If you’re juggling childcare, try:
- Looking for facilities that offer a creche
- Getting active with your kids by going for a bike ride or going to the park
- Going for a jog with the pram
- Doing a home workout while your baby is napping
If you’re working around the clock, try:
- Going for a walk on your lunch break
- Walking or cycling to work
- Asking about flexi-lunch policies
- Having a walking meeting
- Taking the stairs over the lift
Small victories count. Don’t be afraid to say no to things and prioritise your fitness.
7. Prep your meals
After a long day, it can be easy to reach for something quick and convenient. But many of these foods are high in saturated fat, like crisps, pizza, ready meals, and takeaways.
Meals made from scratch are linked to higher intakes of fruit and vegetable and lower intakes of fat. They also make it easier for people to stick to a diet plan. So why do people not cook at home more often? Lack of time is one reason. Cooking skills is another (4).
This is where meal prepping can help. If you batch cook and store the portions in the fridge or freezer, you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. And, when you don’t have time or don’t feel like cooking, you’re less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack.
8. Reduce liquid calories
This one can make a real difference, especially if you’re a heavy drinker. A large glass of wine or pint of beer is over 200 calories, which can lead to weight gain if you’re drinking too much. It’s not just about calories. Alcohol can also make you feel hungrier and lead you to crave foods high in fat, salt, and sugar.
Sugary drinks, like fruit juices, soda, shakes, and hot chocolate, are also high in calories.
That’s not to say you need to give these up altogether — moderation is key.
9. Invest in a standing desk
We burn anywhere from 40 to 70 more calories an hour standing than sitting. It doesn’t sound like much, but it soon adds up. You don’t have to invest in an expensive desk either – you could place your laptop on a taller piece of furniture to take your meetings.
Use this calorie calculator to work out how many extra calories you could burn standing up at work.
Want to go a few steps further? Try an under-desk treadmill.
10. Join a weight loss programme
It can feel daunting joining a weight loss programme, but remember, everyone is there for the same reason – to lose weight. And there is benefit in working towards a goal with others. External accountability means you’re more likely to stick to your plan.
Examples of weight loss programmes:
If you’re overweight and have high blood pressure or diabetes, you may be eligible to join the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme, a free 12-week online plan to help you lose weight.
How can I maintain my weight loss progress?
Just as important as weight loss itself, is your ability to maintain it. If you think of a diet as a quick fix, rather than a long-term way of improving your health, you’re more likely to give up and put the weight back on.
It’s completely normal for your motivation to dip every now and then. We can’t feel like a champion every day, and that’s OK. Focus on your wins, no matter how small. Lots of little achievable goals are a lot more motivating than one seemingly distant end goal.
Try not to compare yourself to others — we’re all unique, so go at your own pace and recognise that everyone’s journey is different. Focus on small but consistent improvements over time and enjoy the process!
- Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41–8.
- Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166–73.
- Papatriantafyllou E, Efthymiou D, Zoumbaneas E, Popescu CA, Vassilopoulou E. Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients. 2022 Apr 8;14(8):1549.
- Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, Ibanez G, Allès B, Kesse-Guyot E, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14:12.