Losing 50 pounds is a robust but achievable goal. Learn how counting calories, exercise, and other weight-loss strategies can help you drop the weight.
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Losing 50 pounds is one of those life goals that seems both reasonable and a little bit intimidating. Rest assured that you can do it if you take a strategic approach to your weight loss. Winning strategies include counting calories and increasing exercise, but there are some additional techniques that will give you the edge on success.
How to Lose 50 Pounds: Strategies That Work
A two-year study of 1,801 obese women working on a weight-loss goal found that those who included one or more of the following strategies in their 24-month effort were most successful at losing weight:
- Counting calories to cut calories
- Lowering the amount of fat in their diet
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Being more physically active
- Cutting sweets out of their diet
- Eating smaller portions
Women who used some or all of these strategies lost weight, while those who didn’t use any of them actually gained.
How to Lose 50 Pounds: Counting Calories and More
“You have to be aware of what you’re eating, and counting calories is one way of being aware,” explains Gail Curtis, assistant professor at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, N.C. Curtis works with morbidly obese clients and previously directed a weight-management center for adults with a body mass index of 27 or higher.
“We encourage people to look at portion sizes more than counting calories. You do have to be a good consumer — you have to learn about what’s in the food that you eat. Learn about protein content, fat content, fiber content. So the first three to six months of any lifestyle change is going to be very hard because people don’t know they are going to have to take the time to re-educate themselves,” she says.
Curtis explains that you can apply some basic math to your weight-loss goal to find out how many calories to cut out on a daily basis:
- You have to cut 3,500 calories to drop a pound, which is about 500 calories a day, seven days a week.
- You can safely aim to lose 1 percent of your body weight in a week. So a 200-pound person who wants to lose two pounds a week will calculate that they need to cut out 1,000 calories a day. Keep this up and you could lose 50 pounds in 25 weeks!
- Always eat at least 1,200 calories a day. If you need to cut out more calories to meet your goal, do so by burning them through exercise.
“We talk about trying to find 300 calories to change — 150 through exercise, 150 through nutrition,” says Curtis. As you learn more about the calorie content of food, you may find that you can actually eat a lot more low-calorie but healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, than you thought.
Curtis also advises these strategies to make calorie counting an even more successful part of your weight loss plan:
- Keep a daily journal of what you ate and how you felt; this can help identify stress or emotional triggers that tempt you to overeat.
- Always eat breakfast, ideally one containing a low-fat protein.
- Have healthy 100-calorie snacks on hand.
- Plan on six small meals spread throughout the day to prevent hunger.
- Weigh yourself, but only once a week.
- Create short-term goals that build toward your 50-pound goal.
- Strategically build in one day a week when you are a little less strict about what you eat.
How to Lose 50 Pounds: Exercise Helps It Happen
“The two things research has shown really make a difference in long-term weight management are exercise and journaling,” says Curtis.
Curtis says at first that many of her patients complained of weight-related joint pain that kept them from being active. She advises starting slowly, with chair- or water-based activities or a moderate walking goal that you can build upon. Talk to a physical trainer or your doctor if you are not sure how to get moving.
It will take time and effort, but you’ll find that applying a variety of diet strategies increases your weight-loss success. Make a commitment to losing weight and as you stick with it, week by week, you’ll get closer to reaching your 50-pound weight-loss goal.