So you want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, you are probably wondering:
- Is it even possible?
- If it is possible, can I do it?
- What diet should I follow?
- How many calories should I eat?
You are not alone, according to the American Obesity Association, “New statistics show that 42% of Americans in 2020 are obese and another 35% are overweight”
The percentage of Americans that will be categorized as obese by 2025 is predicted to be 50%. (1)
The good news is that you can do something about it, and 6 months is a doable time frame.
This is a lofty goal, but it is definitely achievable if you follow some simple steps and put in the hard work.
We may get a lot from studying individuals who have lost weight and were able to keep it off. (2)
Some key findings in weight loss research:
- Keep track of your weight and food intake.
- Goal setting is important.
- Surround yourself with motivating and encouraging people.
If you are ready to make some serious changes and lose 50 pounds in 6 months, then keep reading!
Stay motivated by setting goals
It is no secret that losing weight can be a complex and challenging process.
It often requires making significant changes to your diet and lifestyle, and it can be easy to lose motivation along the way.
One of the best ways to stay motivated throughout your weight loss journey is to set goals. When you have something to work towards, it is easier to stay on track.
Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable so that you do not get discouraged.
For example, if your goal is to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, break that down into smaller goals such as losing 8 pounds every month.
Each small goal you accomplish will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated to reach your final goal.
Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination!
Learn more about setting goals for weight weight loss.
There are many different reasons why people want to lose weight, so it is important to understand what motivates you specifically.
Motivations can be categorized in two ways: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivations come from within, while extrinsic motivations come from external factors.
The most important motivation should come from within.
This seems like an obvious statement, but when you do something for the wrong reasons, such as wanting to lose weight because someone told you you should, it is more likely that you will eventually give up.
When your motivation comes from within, it is more likely to be a lasting change.
Some intrinsic motivations can include:
- Wanting to improve your health
- Feeling better about yourself
- Want to set a good example for your children
- Feeling more confident
- Want to live a longer, healthier life
When you are truly motivated to change your lifestyle and improve your health, nothing can stop you.
While intrinsic motivation is the most important, external motivators can be helpful in the beginning stages of your weight loss journey.
External motivators are things that come from outside of yourself and can include:
- Losing weight to fit into a certain size or outfit
- Wanting to look good for a special event
- Support and accountability from friends or family members
While external motivators can be helpful in the beginning, they should not be the only thing that keeps you going.
When the external motivators disappear, your motivation should still come from within.
Start by making small changes
You did not gain all of the weight overnight, so you cannot expect to lose it all quickly either.
Following fad diets or crash courses on fitness will most likely result in another failed diet attempt.
When you are trying to lose weight, it is important to make small changes that you can stick to over the long term.
This means that you should focus on making changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can maintain for the rest of your life.
As a registered dietitian that has helped hundreds of people set realistic goals, I like to say one phrase.
Are you willing to marry this change?
By asking yourself, am I willing to marry this behavior change, you are identifying if this change is sustainable for the long term.
Realistic weight loss in 6 months
So how much weight can you realistically lose in 6 months? Studies have shown that you can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week. This may seem like slow progress, but it’s more likely to lead to lasting results. And don’t forget that even a small amount of weight loss and healthy behavior change can have health benefits.
So if we do a little math, over the course of 6 months, you have 24 weeks. If you lose 1 pound per week you would be 24 pounds down. On the other hand, let’s say you lost 2 pounds per week, you would be down 48 pounds in 6 months.
Focusing on body composition in addition to weight loss helps monitor muscle mass during the journey. Read more about weight loss vs fat loss.
Smart goal setting
When setting weight loss goals, it is important to make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
This is known as the SMART goal setting acronym.
Specific – Make sure your goals are clear and concise. For example, “I want to lose 50 pounds” is a better goal than “I want to be thinner.”
Measurable – You should be able to track your progress and see how close you are to reaching your goal. For example, “I will weigh myself every week and keep track of my weight loss in a journal.”
Attainable – Make sure your goals are realistic and within reach. Losing 50 pounds in 6 months is definitely possible, but losing 100 pounds in that time frame is not.
Realistic – It is important to be honest with yourself when setting weight loss goals. If you have never worked out before, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to lose 50 pounds in 6 months by working out 7 days a week.
Time-bound – Set a deadline for yourself so that you have a sense of urgency and stay on track. For example, “I want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months.”
When it comes to weight loss, nutrition plays a big role.
It is important that I mention, that nutrition is not black and white. It lives on a spectrum.
Your genetics and social environment play a role in how you eat, digest, and metabolize food. Not to forget that they also play a big role in your body size.
For this reason, any recommendation that I make regarding how you should eat, workout, or sleep, will be in line with evidence-based guidelines.
How to create a weight loss nutrition plan
Calories are the units of energy that we measure our food intake and expenditure.
When we talk about wanting to “lose weight”, what we really mean is wanting to lose body fat.
To lose body fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit, which means we need to be eating fewer calories than we’re burning. There are a few different ways to do this.
We can either eat less food or burn more calories through exercise. Ideally, we want to do a combination of both.
This is where creating a weight loss plan comes in.
By eating plenty of:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein
- Whole grains
- Low-fat sources of dairy
We can ensure that we’re getting the nutrients we require while still maintaining a calorie deficit by including these foods.
How many calories should I eat to lose 50 pounds in 6 months?
The number of calories an individual should eat to lose 50 pounds in 6 months varies based on that person’s age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women 18-55 need 1600-2400 calories daily, men need 2200-3200 calorie daily.
Too often, people try to lose weight by cutting out entire food groups or by eating abnormally small amounts of food.
However, this approach is not only unhealthy, but it is also likely to be ineffective in the long run.
To lose weight healthily, you need to find a balance between the number of calories you consume and the number of calories your body burns.
This will be different for everyone because the number of calories that you need will be determined by your:
- Activity level
Some general guidelines can help you determine how many calories you need to eat to lose weight.
For example, the American Dietetic Association recommends that adult men consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day, while adult women should consume between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day. (4)
When trying to lose weight, the American Dietetic Association‘s (ADA) position on calorie deficits is, “A reduction of 500 to 1,000 kcal/day is advised to achieve a 1 to 2 lb weight loss per week.” (5)
How to create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1000 calories
There are two primary approaches for creating a calorie deficit. Through a nutritional deficit and, or, increasing physical activity to create a deficit. Regardless of your methods, to achieve weight loss you need to create an energy deficit, meaning that you need to burn more calories than you consume.
Examples of a nutritional deficit would include any form of restricting your energy intake like counting calories, portion control, and meal planning to tracking macros. In addition to
Increasing physical activity can also help to create an energy deficit. It is important to note that while physical activity can be impactful it can not make up for a poor diet.
Read more about calorie deficit diets.
Eat more whole foods.
When it comes to weight loss, one of the most important things you can do is focus on whole foods.
Fruits – apple, banana, blueberry, cherry, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi
Vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower
Lean protein sources – chicken, cod, eggs, egg whites, lamb, lentils,
Whole grains – amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa
Nuts and seeds – almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds
Low-fat dairy products – fat-free milk, fat-free yogurt
When you focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, you get the most nutritional value for your calorie intake.
Eat plenty of nonstarchy vegetables
Nonstarchy vegetables are a great way to fill up fiber and nutrients.
They are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied.
Some great nonstarchy vegetables include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
According to the Center for Disease Control, “Depending on their age and sex federal guidelines recommend that adults eat at least 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern.” (6)
Make sure you’re getting enough protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a role in everything from muscle repair to hormone production.
In addition, protein has research to support that it keeps you full when compared to carbohydrates and dietary fats. (7)
Not only that, research suggests that just eating protein can help increase your metabolism.
Regarding protein, there are two main types: animal-based and plant-based.
Plant-based proteins, such as beans and legumes, are considered “incomplete” because they are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. We could go into a lot more detail with this topic, check out the article whey protein vs plant protein and whey vs hemp protein for more information.
Animal-based proteins are considered “complete” proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. Check out the top 25 meats for weight loss.
However, you can still get all the essential amino acids you need by eating various plant-based proteins throughout the day.
Exactly how much protein you should eat depends on your age, height, weight, and activity level.
For a general recommendation of a sedentary person, the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) is .8 grams of protein per kilogram or .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight
Some great sources of protein include:
- Chicken breast
- Black beans
For a more detailed list of lean protein sources check out my blog post The Ultimate Macro Food List.
Make sure you’re getting enough fiber
Fiber is another essential nutrient that plays a role in everything from digestion to heart health.
Fiber plays a role in weight management by helping you feel full and satisfied after eating.
Higher-fiber foods typically have more nutritional bang for your buck and tend to have fewer calories than low-fiber foods. Check out this list of high fiber cereals.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. (10)
Some great sources of fiber include:
- Whole grains
- Chia seeds
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
Let’s not all forget the best part of the fiber, poop. Once you have adjusted to an adequate fiber diet, your pooping regimen improves. Read more about high-fiber cereals.
There is a lot to pay attention to when trying to eat healthier, and that’s why a lot of people rely on meal plans. Although they’re not the be-all-end-all, they do serve their purpose. Check out this 1900 cal meal plan
Drink plenty of water
Water is essential for overall health and plays a role in weight loss.
Studies do suggest that drinking more water is associated with weight loss.
In research published in the Obesity (Silver Spring) Journal, people were fed a low-calorie diet and asked to drink 500 ml of water before meals.
After 12 weeks of the regimen, those who drank water before meals lost 44% more weight, than those who didn’t drink water before meals. (11)
However, the research has limitations. All though we need more research, I think we can all agree that drinking enough water is going to benefit you.
So how much water should you drink?
I am sure you have heard the “drink 8 – 8 0z glasses a day.”
The answer is it depends on:
- Overall health
- Activity level
As for a general guideline, men need 15.5 cups of water per day and women need 11.5 cups of water per day. (12)
Taking into account that you get around 20% of your water from the food you eat. The general guidelines:
- 9 cups of water for women
- 11.5 cups of water for men.
Move your body
The one thing that will have the most impact on your health is the amount of exercise you get.
When trying to lose weight exercise is that much more important!
Being active uses more energy (calories) and you pare that with eating a whole food diet, your chances of weight loss are much higher.
I always like to say break that time up into whatever works best for you.
If you break it up into 30-minute sessions five times a week, that’s great!
If not, 10 minutes, 3 times a day, or 5 minutes 6 times a day. discover How To Live A More Active Lifestyle.
If you are looking to lose weight, you may want to aim for 300 minutes per week.
Instead of trying to do the next Beach Body workout, focus on just getting in a walk per day maybe two.
Walking is something that does not require equipment, can be done anywhere, and most importantly is easy to stick with.
Exercise not only helps you burn calories, but it also has a number of other benefits, including improving your mental health, reducing your risk of chronic diseases, and increasing your lifespan. (13)
It is important to make sure that you can do physical activity be sure to check with your doctor before staying a new exercise routine.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is another essential part of a healthy lifestyle and one that often gets overlooked.
According to the sleepfoundation.org Sleep Statistics for 2020, 35% of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours. (14)
Studies have showen that a lack of sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity.
People who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more and make poorer food choices.
Find a supportive community
When it comes to weight loss, it is important to find a supportive community. This can help you stay motivated and on track with your goals.
There are a number of different ways to find a supportive community, including online forums, social media groups, and in-person meetups.
In a recent study, those who had lost a significant amount of weight loss and were able to maintain that weight loss reported that they appreciated having guidance, interest, and support from healthcare professionals, during and after their weight loss journey. (16)
Not only did these study participants find it beneficial to seek out help from a healthcare professional, but they also found it helpful to join online weight loss communities.
Tracking your progress
Another helpful tip for weight loss is to track your progress. This can help you stay motivated and on track with your goals.
There are a number of different ways to track your progress, including using a food diary, fitness tracker, or weight loss chart.
In a study called Perspectives Into the Experience of Successful, Substantial Long-term Weight-loss Maintenance: A Systematic Review, researchers looked at how people who had lost weight and kept it off for more than five years tracked their progress.
The most common methods were weighing themselves regularly, tracking their food intake, and exercising regularly.
So, if you’re looking to lose weight and keep it off, make sure to track your progress. Find out more on how to take body measurements for weight loss.
Keeping a food journal can be a helpful way to track your progress. When you keep a food journal, you are able to see what you are eating and make adjustments as needed.
There are a number of different ways to keep a food journal:
Pen and paper: You can use a pen and paper to write down what you eat. You could also write down the number of calories or protein in each food product.
Online food diary: You can use an online food diary, such as MyFitnessPal, to track your progress.
Food tracking app: You can use a food tracking app, such as Cronometer, to track your progress.
Taking a picture of your food: You can take a picture of your food and review the pictures at the end of the day. You can monitor protein size and see if you consistently ate from all the different food groups. Read more about tips for tracking macros.
When trying to lose weight tracking your calorie intake can be a helpful tool to see how much you are eating and make adjustments as needed.
As I had mentioned above, weight loss depends on creating a calorie deficit.
Whether you use a food diary, calorie counting application, or online calorie counter, having a method to know where you stand with regards to calories is going to play a huge role in your weight loss journey.
learn more about the pros and cons of tracking your macros
Tracking your macros can be a helpful tool if you are looking to lose weight.
Macros, or macronutrients, are the protein, carbohydrates, and fat in your food.
By tracking your macros you can ensure that you are eating the right amount of each nutrient for your goals.
This is a great way to dial in your diet and make sure that you are getting the most out of your food while staying within your calorie budget.
A great way to start tracking your macros is to use a macro counting application or online calculator.
If you take the route of tracking your macros you will get a lot out of the Macros For Cutting blog post
Weight and measurement tracking
If your goal is to lose weight, keeping track of your weight should be a metric that you are keeping track of.
In a study published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people that weighed themselves every day lost significantly more weight than compared to those who did not. (17)
With that being said, your weight and weight loss are going to fluctuate. Which can be frustrating.
For that reason, I highly recommend that you also find another tool to keep track of your progress.
This can include taking progress pictures or taking body measurements.
While your weight may not be the most accurate way to track your progress, it can still be a helpful tool to see how you are doing.
If you are not into getting regular exercise, setting a weekly goal and tracking each one of your workouts is a great way to make sure you are still on track.
When you track your exercise, you can see how much you are working out, what type of exercises you are doing, and how long you are working out.
This information can be helpful to can help to keep you accountable.
If you have a goal to work out for a certain number of days each week, tracking your exercise can help you stay on track.
The bottom line
If you want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, start by understanding your motivation for weight loss and setting smart goals. Consider reading the Weight Loss 101 article for more information.
Include healthy whole foods, eat enough protein, make sure you are getting enough fiber, drink plenty of water, move your body, get enough sleep, and find a supportive community.
Track your progress so you can celebrate your successes along the way and course-correct when needed. Lastly, mindset play a crucial role in weight loss, learn more about limiting beliefs about weight loss.
With these tips in mind, I’m confident that you can achieve your weight loss goals!
Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.
Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.