Doctors Outline the Safe and Proven Strategies That Lead to Significant Weight Loss
Take action and start feeling better.
The desire to lose weight isn't usually an urge to wait and see. Most of us who realize we need to shed a few pounds would prefer the process to occur yesterday. Although most experts say a slow-and-steady approach is key to achieving sustainable weight loss, it is possible to lose weight more quickly—as long as you're willing to swallow some caveats. These are nine safe and proven strategies for rapid weight loss, according to experts in the field.
"Intermittent fasting (IF) has emerged as a popular and potentially effective method for achieving rapid weight loss when done correctly," says Dr. Suzanne Manzi, a Texas-based physician who's board-certified in obesity medicine. "This approach cycles between periods of eating and fasting, which can lead to a natural reduction in calorie intake and promote fat loss."
To practice intermittent fasting safely, Mazni recommends starting with a less restrictive fasting window, such as 12 hours of fasting including sleep hours, and gradually increasing that. "It's important to maintain a balanced diet during eating periods, focusing on nutrient-dense foods to ensure your body receives essential vitamins and minerals," says Manzi. "Hydration is key, so drink plenty of water throughout the day." And it's always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new regimen.
"Achieving rapid weight loss can be a challenging task. However, the first and foremost step is always to remind yourself of your 'why'," says Cameron Segura, RDN, a Denver-based registered dietitian who specializes in men's health and weight loss. "Knowing the reason behind your weight loss goal can help you stay motivated and focused on your goal." Is it to walk without getting winded? The desire to be there for your grandchildren in the coming years? Segura recommends writing down that "why" and keeping it close at hand. "There will be times when your willpower and motivation will decline, and during those times, you can always remind yourself of the deeper meaning behind your goal," he says. "When you know your "why," this will always lead to your how."
Experts say most people underestimate the number of calories they consume daily by 20% to 50%. Keeping a food journal can help you realize how much you're truly eating and, perhaps just as importantly, why you're eating—it might have nothing to do with hunger. "Keeping track of your dietary habits and patterns is crucial for identifying your unhealthy eating triggers," says Segura. "Keeping a food journal can help you be more mindful of what you're eating and pinpoint any unhealthy eating behaviors." According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, keeping a food journal for just two days a week can lead to significant weight loss.
"Processed foods are usually high in sugar and sodium, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity," says Reda Elmardi, RD, CPT, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in New York City. "Whole foods contain other nutrients that your body needs, like fiber and antioxidants, which can help promote weight loss. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources in your diet."
"Eating late at night is a common habit that is associated with obesity and other health problems," says Elmardi. "Eating late at night results in increased levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite. Ghrelin levels increase throughout the day as well, so eat plenty of fueling food earlier in the morning before breaking the fast later in the evening."
"To lose weight quickly, it's crucial to engage in physical activity that includes a mix of cardio and strength training," says Dr. Praveen Guntipalli, a double board-certified physician in internal medicine and obesity medicine and medical director of Sanjiva Medical Spa in Dallas. "This combination can help maximize caloric burn and boost metabolic rate."
The weight loss journey "isn't just about the body, it's also about the mind," says Guntipalli. "Staying motivated can be difficult, which is why I suggest using the buddy system to create a partnership that fosters mutual encouragement and accountability." Weight loss apps like Noom can provide structured programs and community support that can keep you on track.
"Adopting a healthy diet and exercise regimen is the best and safest way to lose weight, bar none. It's also, admittedly, not the fastest method," says Dr. Sergio Alvarez, CEO and medical director of Mia Aesthetics in Miami. "If you want to lose weight safely and keep it off, we still recommend and even insist that you try and adopt a healthy lifestyle. We can, however, help you accelerate your success with one of two prescription medications: semaglutide and tirzepatide."
Semaglutide is FDA-approved as a weight loss drug and in clinical trials helped people lose 20% of their body weight in just over a year. Tirzepatide has shown even better results, with some people losing up to 30% of their body weight in the same time period. "These two drugs can provide excellent support for your weight loss journey," says Alvarez. "But you must generally have a BMI of 30 or higher in order to qualify for them. If you have weight-related health issues, you may be able to qualify for these drugs at a lower BMI of 27."
Unfortunately, many insurance companies won't cover the drugs unless you have type 2 diabetes. And they aren't the end-all, be-all of weight loss. "These drugs, although incredibly effective, are not weight loss shortcuts," says Alvarez. "People who don't pair them with healthy lifestyle changes usually gain back all the weight they lost when they stop taking these medications."
"The evidence on the long-term effectiveness of rapid weight loss is mixed, with many studies showing that various diets result in similar weight loss over time," says Dr. Alex Foxman, FACP, medical director of Achieve Health and Weight Loss in Beverly Hills, California. "The key to success seems to be adherence to the diet rather than the diet itself. Clinically managed weight loss programs, which include a team approach with dietitians, exercise professionals, and medical oversight, are much more successful and safe options in the short and long-term management of obesity."
He adds: "My medical opinion is that rapid weight loss is not recommended, but if it is to be considered, it should be approached with a strategy that includes medical supervision, a focus on sustainable healthy eating patterns, and an understanding of the potential risks involved. It is crucial to adopt a diet that not only creates a negative energy balance but also emphasizes good food quality to promote overall health and always under the supervision of a medical professional experienced in obesity management."