How to Jump Start Weight Loss & Build Healthy Habits (11 Easy Tips)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 19 December 2021

Figuring how to jump start weight loss can seem overwhelming at first, and odds are you spent a fair bit of time standing on the scale, pondering diets, and wondering the best way to achieve your dream physique.

Given that 36.2% of adults in the USA are obese, and 39% worldwide, you’re not alone. Learning how to lose weight is not a new thing, and the good news is that the start of your weight loss plan is going to be much simpler than you expected with our easy-to-follow tips. 

The bad news is that it still requires a plan and just a little dedication.

These 11 tips are designed to be things you can start implementing throughout your day-to-day life to lose weight tomorrow— your focus should be on using one new strategy per day, but if you mess up, it’s not the end of the world. You might not be able to shed 20 pounds overnight, but as long as you make an effort every day, you’ll be in shape before you know it.

1. Set SMART Goals & Actionable Steps

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound (SMART) goals is one of the first steps you should take if you’re serious about dieting to lose weight. Your health is not a race, don’t allow yourself to rush [1].

Ask yourself the question, “Why do I want to lose weight?” and put your answer next to your goals. Maybe you want to improve your health to live to see your grandchildren, or maybe it’s just to look good at the beach. Now that you have your “why”, let’s see how we can set a SMART goal.

If you’re unsure where to start, writing down your goals in a journal and taping them up somewhere you can see them is a great motivational tool. Just writing “I want to lose weight” is too vague and unspecific. Instead, try writing, “I want to lose X pounds within X weeks.” If you’ve set a realistic weight loss goal, say losing 4-8 lbs in 4 weeks, then you’ve successfully set a SMART goal. Congratulations!

As you continue along your weight loss journey, the important thing to keep in mind is that each improvement you make has a compounding benefit. Writing down your goals is one of the best ways to promote weight loss, and the next step would be to write down a plan of action on how you’ll reach that goal [2]. I.e., “I will go to the gym 2x per week for 1 hour each time”“I will take a walk for 30 minutes a day”, or “I will eat 2-4 servings of veggies a day.”

2. Eat the Rainbow

Because of the nutritional value and low calories, fruits and vegetables will be your best friend when learning how to jumpstart weight loss. The CDC says only 1 in 10 American adults are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The federal guidelines range from 5.5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and since you want a wide variety of colors ( and phytonutrients) in your diet, an easy motto to start following is ‘eat the rainbow [3]. Here are a few color-coded food ideas to figure out what you might like:

  • Red & Pink: Apples, strawberries, chilis, cherries, tomatoes
  • Orange & Yellow: Oranges, pumpkin, squash, carrots, yams, corn
  • Green: Avocados, limes, peas, broccoli, lettuce, grapes
  • White: Cauliflower, dates, onions, garlic, potatoes
  • Blue & Purple: Blueberries, plums, eggplants, prunes, pomegranates

Eating your vegetables doesn’t have to mean eating 40 cups of Brussels sprouts a week, but it will take some conscious effort. Next dinner, toss some peas on the side of your chicken or blend up some frozen veggies into a protein shake (you won’t even taste it). Try to have fun with it, and remember, the most important part of any weight loss plan is making consistent improvements day by day!

3. Substitute Dessert With Fruit

Making fruit pops is another great weight-loss option if you’re looking for a delicious, healthy alternative to that nighttime bowl of ice cream. Next time you’re at the store, grab a few bags of frozen berries since they’re below in sugar, a few cheap ice trays, a blender and some toothpicks. Blend the berries, fill the ice trays with the mixture and pop them in the freezer with the toothpicks in the juice. 

Voila! You’ve got yourself some healthy, gourmet popsicles to replace the typical dessert roster. Plus, fruit juice consumers were found to have a higher average diet quality (than non-fruit juice consumers) in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. However, we suggest blending berries to get a more wholesome popsicle with fewer calories and sugar than typical juice. 

Weight loss shouldn’t be grueling, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t hit the 5.5 servings of fruit that the AHA suggests [1]. Every day that you eat fruit or veggies is a weight-loss victory. Focus on small, meaningful steps, and you won’t even notice your diet!

4. Eat for Fuel – Not to Feel Full

The body needs food for three reasons:

  • Energy production
  • Materials for growth
  • Control of bodily processes

While it certainly feels good to eat an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s while stretched out on your couch, it’s definitely not how to jump start weight loss. Ice cream isn’t the devil, but it has tons of calories and refined sugar so it should be eaten in moderation. 

Consuming far more than you want or need, feeling guilty if you leave food uneaten this is the ‘clean plate’ effect in action [4]. Furthermore, telling children to keep eating when they’re no longer hungry can result in adults that don’t know when to stop eating.

If you are a victim of the ‘clean plate’ effect, you can counteract it by using smaller plates or utensils. Or, try eating foods that you know to be filling, with a plan to stop eating once you feel full [4]. In a 2013 study conducted by Michelle J. Clark and Joanne L. Slavin, evidence was discovered to support the claim that fiber offers a greater feeling of satiety, or fullness, than other macronutrients. Another study conducted in 2013 provided conclusive evidence that fiber and protein resulted in higher levels of reported satiety than sugar.

Whole grain bread is an easy, efficient way to get your daily recommendation of fiber and morning oats can go a long way too. Plus, who doesn’t love PB&J or oatmeal? Slather some organic strawberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter on either for extra tastiness. That’s a meal with fruit, fiber, and protein all rolled into one!

5. Drink Water Over Liquid Calories

A 2010 study found a correlation between an individual’s preference for water as a primary beverage and low weight among adults [5]. While the field still calls for more study, there’s concrete evidence that water makes it easier for you to remain a healthy weight.

Pop, sweet teas, and other calorie-rich drinks like diet sodas, while they taste good, offer very little nutritional value to a consumer beyond the initial enjoyment. Water, on the other hand, is one of the 6 essential nutrients.

A human dies very quickly when deprived of water, yet can go weeks without food. So it should come as no surprise that consuming a greater amount of it provides greater benefits to the body. It allows your cells to function more efficiently. Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to jumpstart both your metabolism and weight loss [6]. Invest in a high-quality refillable water bottle and a filter if your tap water isn’t up to par.

6. Limit Alcohol

Alcohol is generally high in calories and low in nutrition, which makes it the ideal candidate to cross off your diet list in favor of something a little more health conscious. 

As mentioned above, water and berries are both excellent options when it comes to the beverages of your diet. If you’re truly aiming to be healthy and shed pounds, alcohol should at least be limited.

7. Eat More Frequently or Less Frequently

Sometimes a change in eating schedule can help you break through the occasional diet speed bump. If you’re used to eating 3 meals a day, try splitting them up into 5 smaller meals spread further apart. 

Or, try eating 1 big meal a day of at least 1200-1700 calories. Some people do better fasting all day with one large meal mid-day, while others feel more satiated with small meals during the day. You should also think about picking up a few simple options that you can eat as snacks between meals that would support your health.

Substituting out chips and other fattening foods for nuts, fruit, or yogurt can help you get the vitamins and nutrients you need in your diet, while still satisfying a wide variety of cravings.

8. Eat Out Less

Another basic strategy to jump-start your weight loss journey is to eat out less frequently. A University of Minnesota study published in 2005 says that people who ate fast food 2-3 times a week would gain an average of 10 pounds more over time than those who would make their own meals.

Instead of splurging on McDonald’s at the end of the week, plan in advance and pick up some lean ground beef instead. An egg, salt, pepper, and a quarter-pound of lean beef can be turned into a burger 10 times more delicious than a Big Mac, and about half as fattening too.

Make sure you’re baking or using a healthy oil when pan-frying. Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil are all health conscious options but which is best depends on the dish.

9. Try Protein Shakes to Replace Meals

In a 2010 study that pitted two diet plans against each other, the protein shake diet completely overshadowed the food-based diet— with the meal replacement participants achieving nearly twice the weight loss. The jury is still up in the air as to whether meal replacements can substitute the full nutritional value of standard meals. But for those researching how to jump start weight loss, protein shakes are invaluable due to their satiation (feeling of fullness) benefits.

Most studies suggest eating or drinking 20-30 grams of protein in a sitting, but if you want to get extra, you can even time your protein shakes for optimal results

10. Meal Prep or Eat Similar Foods Most Days

Meal prepping has been associated in several studies with higher-quality diets and success in weight loss. Plan to prepare a large quantity of gumbo, stew, pasta, curry, or any other dish that holds well [7]. 

Having a reliable set of Tupperware containers can be a game-changer when it comes to diet and meal prepping. You can even divide your macros between different containers to get approximate values of each. You could use a large container for protein and carbs while using a smaller one for fats. 

Or if you’re trying keto, you could use a large container for fats and protein, with a smaller one for carbs. It all depends on the percentages you’re aiming for, but a 33% ratio of carbs, fats, and protein is a decent place to start. 

Being able to microwave or pop your food into the oven is a blessing mid-day or after work. This alone may encourage you to eat out less too. 

11. Walk & Move More

Turning your 15 minute breaks into a mini walkathon can be the next step you take with your weight loss plan. Or maybe you can take evening strolls with your doggo, parents, significant other, roommate or even by yourself. 

Of course, once you get your step count up, you can look into weightlifting or more rigorous forms of exercise, but baby steps are still a step in the right direction

FAQ

  • Is it Too Late to Focus on Weight Loss?

It’s never too late to begin your weight loss journey. Jump starting your diet and losing a couple of pounds is attainable with just a few small tweaks. Start with something simple, like deciding to look up the nutrition facts on foods you’ll be eating tomorrow. 

  • Can I Kick Start My Metabolism to Lose Weight? 

If you want to jumpstart your metabolism, drink plenty of cold water, eat enough protein, and find a demanding workout routine you enjoy. Although there’s mixed evidence on it’s efficacy, you could also try reverse dieting to get your metabolism firing on all cylinders again. 

  • Will a Few Cookies Ruin My Weight Loss Plan?

No, a few cookies here and there shouldn’t de-rail your progress and you can also make “healthy cookies” at home. You’ll be able to save money, lessen the calories, and control the amount of oil and/or sugar in them. Pro tip: timing simple sugars before or after a workout can help you burn it off quicker. 

Conclusion

Learning how to jump start your weight loss journey can begin as easy or as difficult as you need it to be. “Fitness” looks different for everyone and even the smallest changes can add up over time. You can simply try eating better, moving more, or a combination of both.

Even if you fall of the weight loss wagon, just remember to get back on when you’re able and keep your chin up. If you work on adding one of these a day, or even one a month, you’ll be on the road to a thinner, and healthier version of yourself!

References

[1] Wang, D. D., Dong D. Wang Dong D. Wang, Li, Y., Yanping Li https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0412-2748 Department of Nutrition (D.D.W., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Rosner, B. A., Bernard A. Rosner Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Sun, Q., Qi Sun https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8480-1563 Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Giovannucci, E. L., Edward L. Giovannucci Department of Nutrition (D.D.W., Rimm, E. B., Eric B. Rimm Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Manson, J. A. E., JoAnn E. Manson Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Willett, W. C., Walter C. Willett Channing Division for Network Medicine (D.D.W., Stampfer, M. J., … Al., E. (2021, March 1). Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality. Circulation. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048996.

[2] Olson, K. L., & Emery, C. F. (2015). Mindfulness and weight loss: a systematic review. Psychosomatic medicine, 77(1), 59–67. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000127

[3] Eckel, R. H., Jakicic, J. M., Ard, J. D., de Jesus, J. M., Houston Miller, N., Hubbard, V. S., Lee, I. M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Loria, C. M., Millen, B. E., Nonas, C. A., Sacks, F. M., Smith, S. C., Jr, Svetkey, L. P., Wadden, T. A., Yanovski, S. Z., Kendall, K. A., Morgan, L. C., Trisolini, M. G., Velasco, G., … American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (2014). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 129(25 Suppl 2), S76–S99. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1

[4] Weisenberger, C. J., & Ellis, and E. (n.d.). Keep kids out of the clean plate club. EatRight. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/keep-kids-out-of-the-clean-plate-club.

[5] Daniels, M. C., & Popkin, B. M. (2010). Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews, 68(9), 505–521. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00311.x

[6] Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x

[7] Ducrot, P., Méjean, C., Aroumougame, V., Ibanez, G., Allès, B., Kesse-Guyot, E., Hercberg, S., & Péneau, S. (2017). Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 14(1), 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.