Many women buy a dress a size too small, thinking by the time they find an occasion to wear it, they will be able to fit in it. For some, that dress still sits in the closet with the price tag. Can you relate? After all, we often see headlines on magazines at the checkout line promising to show readers how to drop a dress size in a week! Or my favorite, “Lose 52 pounds in 30 days!”
Truth is, losing a dress size takes more than wishful thinking. At its simplest, losing weight means eating fewer calories than you burn. While those tabloids are making money selling dreams of overnight body transformation, it's better to believe what researchers and medical experts say. The Mayo Clinic estimates that if you cut approximately 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your normal diet through eating or exercise, you’ll drop about a pound a week.
Dress won’t zip? Skip the chips and dip — grab some water and sip.
You may have noticed that pounds sometimes seem to fall off quickly at the beginning of a diet and then slow down as time passes on. That could be because in the beginning you’ve dropped water weight. Water weight fluctuations can account for a swing of 2 to 4 pounds in a day. Our bodies retain extra water for reasons such as hormone changes or diet. Cutting back on salt and exercising are two ways to lower water retention in the body, which can help you swing the scale in the right direction. Be sure to drink plenty of water. It may seem counterintuitive, but dehydration can make the body hold on to water, adjusting to the inadequate fluid intake. Bumping up your protein and limiting carbs can help, too.
Water weight fluctuations can account for a swing of 2 to 4 pounds in a day. Cutting back on salt and exercising are two ways to lower water retention in the body, which can help you swing the scale in the right direction.
There is no set formula for how many pounds equal a dress size. In an online discussion about the topic on fitness website MyFitnessPal, one poster had success at 15 pounds, a second said it took 10 to 12 pounds and a third said she only needed to lose 6 pounds to slip into a smaller size. While your magic number is unique to you, these research-backed strategies can help you reach your destination whether it takes three weeks, three months or somewhere in between.
Pick the plan that feels right.
There are so many weight loss plans out there you can get overwhelmed wondering if you should embrace the keto diet or if WW (formerly Weight Watchers) would be more effective. The good news: Most are likely to work, says Pamela Frazier, a weight loss coach and founder of San Mateo, California-based wellness company PSF Consulting. Most weight loss plans can help you lose weight in the short-term, she says, but for effective weight loss that lasts, you should choose the one that you would be able to practice year in, year out. “You're really developing a plan that you can use for the rest of your life. It's a lifestyle change,” she says.
Frazier may have a point. A study that compared calorie counting with intermittent fasting, a technique that has you cycle between periods of eating and fasting, found that after six months, participants who tried either method lost approximately the same amount — 6.8 percent in body weight.
Track your progress like a boss.
Entering your food choices and exercise habits into an app may seem like just another thing to add to your to-do list, but one study shows that those who moderately tracked their efforts to lose weight lost 0.63 percent more of their body weight per month than those who rarely took the time. That same study found that one is likely to lose 2.74 percent more body weight per month when tracking their weight, 1.35 percent more per month when tracking their food choices and 0.60 percent more body weight when tracking their exercise.
Chug a bottle of water before each meal.
Getting back to water, are you getting enough of it? Ironically, drinking more water has several weight-loss benefits such as decreasing your appetite and increasing your metabolism. Virginia Tech researchers found that those who drank 500 milliliters of water before each meal — that’s about a 16-ounce bottle — lost 44 percent more weight over 12 weeks than those who did not.
Aim for seven hours of shut eye.
Women who got five hours of sleep or less weighed, on average, 5.4 pounds more than women who slept seven hours a night and were more likely to gain weight over the next 10 years, according to a study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. One theory for why this is so — more sleep helps our metabolism work more effectively.
Hit the treadmill or the pool.
Are you getting the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity? We all know exercise is good for us, but some types of exercise burn more calories than others. Running, swimming and water aerobics are among the exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck, burning (for a 160-pound person) approximately 606 calories, 423 calories and 402 calories per hour respectively. However, even an hour-long walk can help you burn approximately 314 calories. Check with your doctor to make sure your ideal regimen is safe.
Whether your goal is to lose one dress size or that’s just the first step of a larger weight loss goal, celebrate those small health wins, Frazier says.