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Weight Loss for Beginners: A Complete Guide

someone measuring their waist
someone measuring their waist

According to the CDC, about 41.9 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese. This number has increased by more than 11 percent since 1999, signaling that obesity and being overweight are on the rise.

Being overweight or obese can put people at an increased risk for a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

But when it comes to weight loss, there’s no simple formula that works for everyone. The good news is that healthy and sustainable weight loss is possible when you create and stick to a plan that’s designed for your unique health needs and goals.

In this beginner’s guide to weight loss, we’ll be covering the basics of nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that can help you succeed in your weight loss journey.

Why Is Weight Loss So Complicated?

Your body’s ability to manage or lose weight is contingent on many different factors. Genetics, medical history, activity levels, stress, sleep, nutrition, and even blood sugar levels can affect weight loss

statistics about weight loss in america

But for many people, weight loss isn’t as simple as eating a low-calorie diet or exercising seven days a week. As anyone who has ever started on a weight loss journey may know, the progress you’re seeing can plateau over time, you may experience cravings, lack motivation, or start to feel burnt out along the way.

But don't fall for the weight loss plateau myth—and if you find yourself experiencing less progress despite following the same healthy habits, your body may simply need time to adapt into a weight mantenance phase.

Reaching a healthy body weight is not only positive for your overall health, it can also reduce your risk of developing metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes. For example, it’s estimated that:

So if you’re someone who’s figuring out how to start your journey, there are a lot of things to keep in mind and many ways to get off track. With this beginner’s guide, our goal is to break through all the weight loss myths out there and provide the information you need to start this journey on the right foot.

Check out what our dietitian Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN had to say about one common weight loss myth in her conversation with certified health and fitness coach Caroline Jordan:

5 Tips For Starting On a Weight Loss Journey

Now that we've taken a closer look at some of the ways that being overweight can impact your metabolic health, here are some weight loss tips to keep in mind when starting out on your journey.

5 tips for starting a weight loss journey

1) Start out by setting weight loss goals: Realistic and specific goals can keep you motivated and help you monitor your progress along the way. 

2) Consult a dietitian to create a balanced diet plan: A dietitian can work with you to create a balanced diet plan that is made up of whole foods, limits processed and fast foods, and is tailored to your specific health, calorie, macronutrient, and micronutrient needs.

3) Create a workout plan you can follow consistently and that is appropriate for your body: Exercise is a critical component of weight loss for many people, and creating a realistic and appropriate workout plan that you can actually stick to is important. 

4) Outline which lifestyle habits you may need to optimize: Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and taking care of your mental health are all lifestyle habits that may impact your weight loss journey. Your personal dietitian can help you with these as well. 

5) Consider tracking your symptoms. Key symptoms of metabolic and neuroendocrine health include energy levels, digestive health, sleep quality, mood, and cognition, among some others. These symptoms can tell us a lot about what might be holding us back on our bigger-picture health and weight loss success. 

Is Your Diet Important for Weight Loss?

When it comes to weight loss, your diet plays a key role. But research shows that losing weight is actually a lot more complicated than eating fewer calories than you burn. 

Different foods with the same amount of calories can affect the body differently, and our weight can be highly influenced by other factors like hormones. 

With that in mind, here are some dietary tips that go beyond the simple “calories in, calories out” equation. 

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Dietary Tips for Beginners

Eat Adequate Protein

Our bodies use protein to build and maintain our bones, muscles, and skin, and can help weight loss by increasing satiety and thermogenesis. Learn more about how protein can support weight loss here.

Eat Enough Fiber

a graphic of high fiber whole foods
  • High Fiber Fruits: Raspberries, pears, apples, and bananas
  • High Fiber Veggies: Spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce
  • High Fiber Whole Grains: Barley, quinoa, oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice
  • High FIber Seeds and Nuts: sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds
  • High Fiber Legumes: Split peas, lentils, and black beans

Studies show that fiber intake may help promote weight loss, independently of caloric intake and intake of other macronutrients. Unfortunately, only five percent of Americans have enough fiber in their diet. Find out more about how this carbohydrate can be beneficial for your weight loss journey here.

Monitor Your Total Calorie Intake

As mentioned earlier, counting the number of calories you consume can’t tell you everything about how to succeed at weight loss. However, your caloric intake still plays an important role in your weight. 

Eating too few or too many calories for your individual needs can both sabotage weight loss success. Consuming more calories than you need can lead to weight gain, but so can undereating for your needs. If you need a hand to keep you on track, here are some weight tracker apps that can help you monitor your daily calorie intake.

Reduce Your Intake of Processed Foods

someone grabbing a slice of pizza

Foods that are highly processed tend to contain more ingredients like refined sugar, salt, and trans and saturated fats. High intake of these foods can contribute to weight gain and serious health problems, so when it comes to weight loss snacks, try opting for more whole foods.

Avoid Sugary Drinks and Other Sources of Empty Calories

Avoiding or reducing your intake of sugary drinks can go a long way in helping you lose weight. These drinks not only add empty calories to your diet, which are calories from foods that have little or no nutritional value, they also contain a lot of added sugar.

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Creating a Weight Loss Workout Plan for Beginners

A good weight loss strategy should include a workout plan. Aim for a weight loss plan that suits your individual needs, that you are able to do consistently, and that incorporates both full body strength training and cardio. To learn more about how cardio can benefit your weight loss goals, read our article on cardio exercise.

Strength training is another type of exercise that has been linked to weight loss and improved lean muscle mass. Here’s what you need to know about how it can benefit your weight loss

Common Cardio and Strength Training Exercises

a girl riding a bike

Some common cardio exercises are:

  • Brisk walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Jumping rope
  • Kickboxing
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT)

You can also include strength training exercises to lose weight or build muscle while on your journey. Start out with a beginner workout plan that can be done with dumbbells, a barbell, or with your own body weight. 

Check out our sample glute and hamstring workout and a chest and shoulder workout to start with. If you're a beginner, working with a personal trainer can be a great way to get started. 

Sample Weekly Workout Plan

Here is a sample of what a weekly workout plan can look like. This is a great starting point, but be sure to make it work for your specific needs, which may include extra rest days at the beginning.

Doing more than your body is capable of can lead to injury or worsened current health or medical conditions, so it’s always a good idea to start slow and work your way up to more vigorous exercise.

a sample workout plan

Other Lifestyle Changes for Sustainable Weight Loss

As we mentioned earlier, it isn’t just your diet and exercise habits that affect your weight. Here are some other lifestyle factors to focus on to optimize your weight loss.  

Drink Adequate Water and Stay Hydrated

It’s important for many functions in the body to make sure to drink water and stay hydrated throughout the day. Drinking sufficient water may also be linked to weight loss and may also help people burn more calories

One study found that obese women who replaced high-caloric beverages with water experienced an average weight loss of two to 2.5 percent. Learn more about how to stay hydrated here.

Get Plenty of Sleep Each Night

a girl sleeping in her bed

Sleep is also crucial for the functioning of your body, and research shows that not getting enough sleep can affect your mental health, increase your risk of serious health conditions, and even lead to weight gain

On the flip side, studies show that getting enough sleep may help with weight loss. Read more about proper sleep hygiene here

Aim to Reduce Stress Throughout the Day

a body reading a book next to a plant

Long-term elevated cortisol levels are linked to an increase in abdominal obesity. Stress can also make you more likely to reach for comforting foods that are higher in calories, and may even lead to moving and exercising less. Here are some tips for managing stress that may also support weight management.

Try Using a Weight Loss App to Stay Accountable

Weight loss apps can be a great tool to keep you accountable to your weight loss goals. Many apps, including the Nutrisense app, have features that allow you to track your meals and physical activity, as well as other lifestyle factors that affect weight like sleep and stress.

Check out our article about our favorite weight loss apps here!

3 Key Takeaways for Getting Started with Weight Loss

three key takeaways for weight loss
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Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the Nutrisense CGM program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

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Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewed by: Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.

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