Steps for Losing Weight

Key points

  • If you want to lose weight, making a specific plan can help.
  • Healthy weight loss involves a lifestyle with healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity, and stress management.
  • The five steps on this page can help you get started.
Two people walking in park and carrying hand weights.


A lifestyle with good nutrition, regular physical activity, and stress management supports a healthy weight. People who lose weight at a gradual, steady pace—about 1 to 2 pounds a week—are more likely to keep the weight off than people who lose weight quickly.

Factors, such as sleep, medicines, medical conditions, and age can also affect weight management. If you're concerned about your weight or have questions about your medicines, talk with your health care provider.

If you are ready to get started, here are 5 steps.

Step 1: Make a commitment

Whether you have a family history of heart disease or want to feel better in your clothes, write down why you want to lose weight. Writing it down can confirm your commitment. Post your reasons in a place where they can be a daily reminder of why you want to make this change.

Even Modest Weight Loss Helps‎

Even modest weight loss can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. For example, a 5% weight reduction for a person who weighs 200 pounds is 10 pounds. This change could lower the risk for some chronic diseases.

Step 2: Take stock of where you are

Write down everything you consume for a few days in a food and beverage diary. Being more aware of what you eat and drink will help you avoid mindless consumption. Tracking physical activity, sleep, and emotions can also help you understand current habits and stressors. This can also help identify areas to start making changes.

Next, examine your lifestyle. Identify things that might pose challenges to your weight loss efforts. For example:

  • Does your work schedule make it hard to be physically active?
  • Do you eat sugary foods because that's what you buy for your kids?
  • Do your coworkers bring high-calorie items, such as doughnuts, to the workplace?

Think through things you can do to help overcome these challenges.

If you have a chronic condition or a disability, ask your health care provider for resources to support a healthy weight. This may include referral to a registered dietitian, clinical or community programs, federally approved medications or devices, or surgery. Ask for a follow-up appointment to monitor changes in your weight or any related health conditions.

Step 3: Set realistic goals

Set short-term goals and reward your efforts along the way. Maybe your long-term goal is to lose 40 pounds and to control your high blood pressure. Short-term goals might include drinking water instead of sugary beverages, taking a 15-minute evening walk, or having a vegetable with supper.

Focus on two or three goals at a time. Effective goals are:

  • Specific
  • Realistic
  • Forgiving (less than perfect)

For example, "exercise more" is not specific. But "I will walk 15 minutes, 3 days a week for the first week," is specific and realistic.

Setting unrealistic goals, such as losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks, can leave you feeling defeated and frustrated.

Being realistic also means expecting occasional setbacks. When setbacks happen, get back on track as quickly as possible. Think about how to prevent setbacks in similar future situations.

Everyone is different. What works for someone else might not be right for you. To help you find what works for you, try a variety of activities, such as walking, swimming, tennis, or group exercise classes. See what you enjoy most and can fit into your life. These activities will be easier to stick with over the long term.

Step 4: Identify resources for information and support

Identify family members or friends who will support your weight loss efforts. Coworkers or neighbors with similar goals might share healthy recipes and plan group physical activities. It may help to join a weight-loss program or visit a health care professional, such as a nutrition or weight-loss specialist.

Step 5: Continually monitor your progress

Revisit your goals from Step 3 and evaluate your progress regularly. Decide which parts of your plan are working well and which parts need to be changed. Use this information to revise your goals and plan.

If you consistently meet a particular goal, add a new goal to help continue your pathway to success.

Reward yourself for your achievements! Recognize when you're meeting your goals and be proud of your progress. Use non-food rewards, such as a bouquet of fresh flowers, a sports outing with friends, or a relaxing bath. Rewards help keep you motivated on the path to better health.


Treatment for overweight and obesity
Health care professionals can help you adopt lifestyle changes that may help you lose excess weight safely and keep it off over the long term.

Choosing a safe and successful weight-loss program
How to choose a program that may help you lose weight safely and keep it off over time.

Prescription medications to treat overweight and obesity
Combined with lifestyle and behavior changes, prescription medications help some people lose weight and maintain weight loss.

Bariatric surgery
Weight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is an operation that makes changes to the digestive system.

Body image
Creating a positive body image through healthy eating habits.

Strategies for success
Find resources to help you lose or gain weight safely and effectively.

Weight management for youth
Address weight issues in children and teens with healthy guidelines, links to interactive and skill-building tools, and other resources.

What you should know about popular diets
How to evaluate claims made by weight-loss products and diets. Find information to choose weight-loss strategies that are healthy, effective, and safe for you.

Food Assistance and Food Systems Resources

Resources for food assistance in everyday situations, as well as before, during, and after emergencies and disasters. These resources are for individuals and organizations.