How to lose 15 pounds: Science-backed tips for weight loss

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know how hard it can be. While fad diets may lead to temporary weight loss, the most effective way to lose weight—and keep it off—is to eat a healthy diet, stay active, and take steps to manage stress. In addition to helping you control your weight, making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your mental health and protect your overall well-being.

How much weight can you lose in a week?

When you’re try to lose weight, you want quick results. However, your body may respond to rapid weight loss by slowing your metabolism, which can cause you to regain the weight you lost and possibly put on additional pounds. Losing weight too quickly can also lead to fatigue, constipation, and hair loss.

You’re more likely to keep the weight off if you shed pounds at a gradual, steady pace—about one to two pounds per week.

9 strategies for weight-loss success

  1. Define your weight-loss motivation. Whether you’re planning a vacation, trying to lower your grocery bills, need to reduce your blood pressure, or simply want to improve your overall health, make a list of the reasons why you want to lose weight. Keep a written record of your commitment to weight loss in a place where it will motivate you to make healthy choices.
  2. Consider posting reassuring notes to yourself on the refrigerator and pantry door.

  3. Keep a food and beverage journal. Tracking everything you eat and drink for a few days can help you become more aware of your dietary habits and avoid mindless consumption. Pay attention to the link between your emotions and your diet. For example, if you tend to overeat when you’re under stress, this is something you can try to change.
  4. You may also find it helpful to use a digital device to track your physical activity.

  5. Identify lifestyle factors that may keep you from achieving your weight-loss goals. List your personal challenges to weight loss and brainstorm steps you can take to overcome each one. If you need help, ask your healthcare provider to recommend resources to support a healthy weight.
  6. Do you feel like you’re too busy to exercise? Discover ways to sneak physical activity into your daily routine.

    Do you find yourself snacking on processed foods, like potato chips and cookies? Take steps to eliminate junk food from your diet.

    Do you have trouble sticking to your diet when you go out to eat? Review 10 tips for making healthy choices at restaurants.

  7. Set specific, realistic goals for weight loss. If your long-term goal is to lose 15 pounds, setting short-term goals can help you make progress along the way. The key is to be specific and realistic. While “get more exercise” is a worthy goal, it’s not specific. However, “I will walk for 15 minutes, three days this week” is specific and realistic.
  8. Other specific goals could include:

    • On two days this week, drink water or tea instead of your regular afternoon sugary beverage
    • Spend 30 minutes exercising in a chair, three days this week
    • Add two cups of chopped spinach to tonight’s pasta sauce

    Being realistic also means you don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to take a day off from time to time.

  9. Focus on good nutrition. Eating more plant-based foods—including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—can help lower the number of calories you consume. Also, remember to eat mindfully, slow down, and enjoy your food. Dietary guidelines for adults recommend that you:
    • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
    • Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
    • Choose low-fat dairy products
    • Eat limited amounts of lean meat and poultry
    • Use modest amounts of healthy fats
    • Cut back on added sugars

    If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. And drink more water. Staying hydrated can help you burn calories more efficiently, feel fuller, and reduce the calories you consume. It also helps your body remove waste efficiently.

  10. Move more and stay active. In addition to helping you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight over the long term, regular exercise can strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and boost your mood—so make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of exercise.
  11. When you’re trying to lose weight, set a goal of walking for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. If you have a busy schedule, take three 10-minute walks over the course of a day. Any move you make burns calories.

    If you don’t like to exercise alone, find a workout buddy or join a fitness class at your local community center or gym.

  12. Build a support network to support your weight-loss journey. Share your goals to lose weight with family members, friends, and coworkers. Exchange healthy snack ideas, plan group physical activities, and ask for help when you need a little extra motivation.
  13. Your doctor or healthcare provider can also recommend fitness and weight-loss programs or put you in touch with a nutrition specialist.

  14. Monitor your progress and adjust your weight-loss goals as needed. Over time, you may begin to identify parts of your plan that are working and parts you need to revise. Everyone is different. What works for a friend may not be right for you.
  15. When you meet a goal, reward yourself for your achievement. Whether that means getting a massage or a haircut, spending a night out with friends, or posting a selfie on social media, be sure to choose healthy rewards that keep you motivated on your journey to better health.

  16. Make a long-term commitment to successful weight management. While choosing healthy foods and getting more exercise for a few weeks or months can help you lose weight, long-term, successful weight management requires permanent changes to your lifestyle. This takes time and effort, but healthy habits can become a way of life for anyone.

Stress management is a key to healthy weight loss

Many factors influence your ability to lose weight and keep it off. Genetics, diet and lifestyle, health conditions, and hormones all play an important role. If you use food as a way to handle stress, ask your doctor about healthy stress management strategies and other types of support that can help you on your weight-loss journey.

Recognize your personal challenges to weight loss, and accept that you’ll probably have occasional setbacks. No one is perfect. Instead of giving up after a stumble, give yourself a break and start fresh the next morning.


Mayo Clinic, Weight loss: 6 strategies for success

CDC, Steps for losing weight: Healthy weight and growth