How to lose weight is one of the most pressing health questions for many people.

People gain weight by consuming more energy than they burn, so consuming fewer calories, or energy, can help. However, other factors play a role, such as genetic factors, metabolism, hormones, the type of food you eat, your body type, and lifestyle.

This article will review reasons to lose weight, the most effective methods, and medical interventions.

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Health experts around the world now see obesity as an epidemic.

Every year, at least 2.8 million people die due to complications related to excess weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity was 42.4% of adults in the U.S. from 2017 to 2018.

Obesity affects some groups more than others. According to the CDC, 49.6% of Non-Hispanic Black adults are obese, followed by 44.8% of Hispanic adults, 42.2% of non-Hispanic White adults, and 17.4% of non-Hispanic Asian adults.

The health risks of excess weight include:

There are many reasons for losing weight:

  • Appearance: Some people may feel that if they lose weight, they will look more attractive, fitter, or healthier.
  • Confidence and body image: Some people with excess weight or obesity may feel uncomfortable about their appearance.
  • Overall health: Maintaining an appropriate weight can help to boost overall health and prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
  • Specific conditions: Symptoms of sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes, for example, may improve or go away when a person loses excess weight.
  • Fitness: A weight-loss program that involves exercise can leave a person feeling fitter, with more energy and stamina.
  • Sports competitions: In some sports, such as boxing, an individual may seek to control their weight to stay in their existing weight category.
  • Fertility: Fertility treatment appears to be more effective in women with obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) if they lose some weight before treatment.

Many diet plans make weight-loss claims. It can be difficult to know if they are true.

Some are evidence-based, safe, and effective, but others are not. Many health professionals, dietitians, and nutritionists agree that the best results tend to come from combining a healthy, weight-reduction diet with physical activity, especially in the long term.

This 2017 article discusses nine popular diets rated by experts.

It is not always possible to know how effective a diet will be.

Many factors determine how many calories a person should eat per day to lose weight.

Some of these factors include:

  • desired weight loss
  • desired speed of weight loss
  • age
  • sex

Below are the daily calorie recommendations for adults from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Daily recommended calorie consumption for males:

Age 19-20

  • Sedentary: 2,600
  • Moderately active: 2,800
  • Active: 3,000

Age 21-30

  • Sedentary: 2,400
  • Moderately active: 2,600-2,800
  • Active: 3,000

Age 31-50

  • Sedentary: 2,200-2,400
  • Moderately active: 2,400-2,600
  • Active: 2,800-3,000

Age 51+

  • Sedentary: 2,000-2200
  • Moderately active: 2,200-2,400
  • Active: 2,400-2,800

Daily recommended calorie consumption for females:

Age 19 to 30 years

  • Sedentary: 1,800 to 2,000
  • Moderately active: 2,000 to 2,200
  • Active: 2,400

Age 31-50 years

  • Sedentary: 1,800
  • moderately active: 2,000
  • Active: 2,200

Age 51+ years

  • Sedentary: 1,600
  • Moderately active: 1,800
  • Active: 2000 to 2,200

If a person wants to lose weight, they should consume fewer calories than the amounts listed above. It is important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet.

A person should check with a dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor, if possible, before changing their diet.

A person should make sure their carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratios are suitable for good health.

Further reading:

A meal plan should be balanced in terms of nutrients, as a poor diet and malnutrition can occur regardless of calories. A poor diet can also lead to a low mood and loss of motivation.

When a person has reached their target body weight, they should gradually increase their daily intake of calories until they reach their “weight maintenance” figure.

A person can control their body weight successfully by combining a well-balanced diet with regular exercise.

If a person gets adequate sleep, it also could help them control their weight. A 2018 review states that there is scientific evidence that impaired sleep may lead to enhanced appetite, cravings, and a decrease in motivation to perform physical activity.

There are many ways a person can control their weight after losing weight. Some helpful options include:

  • Avoid restrictive diets: Too much calorie restriction can slow down the metabolism and alter hormones that regulate appetite. This can cause weight gain.
  • Exercise: A 2013 study shows that exercising for 200 minutes per week can help maintain weight loss.
  • Eat more protein: Protein can make a person feel full and reduce hunger.
  • Be mindful of carbs: Some studies have found a low-carb diet can help keep weight off after losing it in some cases.

Some health professionals and researchers believe that dieting and weight-loss efforts may lead to further weight gain and poorer health.

A 2021 study of 60 women, ages 20-30, found that those with an individualized diet plan paired with goal-oriented psychotherapy saw more weight loss over the long term.

This study states that primary cause of obesity is the inability to control overeating, so obesity should be treated as an eating disorder. Supporting weight loss with psychotherapy can help mitigate the negative effects of issues arising from traditional diets.

Many supplements are available that claim to help people lose weight.

Some of these include:

  • omega-3 products and fish oils
  • chitosan, derived from shellfish
  • green tea extracts
  • some Chinese herbs
  • bitter orange extract

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), these are ineffective, and they are likely to have side effects.

Ephedra, which was once an ingredient in some weight-loss supplements, is now banned because of safety concerns.

Further concerns include the sale of “fat burners” that do not have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, some herbal supplements may not contain exactly what the label says.

The NCCIH points out that approaches that focus on the mind and the body may help.

Examples include:

It recommends finding a qualified and experienced instructor to guide you through these activities.

Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, is a surgical procedure for people whose body mass index is high enough that it puts them at risk of serious complications.

If other weight loss strategies have not worked, a doctor may recommend bariatric surgery.

The procedure involves either reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or surgically removing part of the stomach.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend a type of gastric bypass surgery in which the small intestines are rerouted to a small stomach pouch.

This surgery will considerably reduce a person’s appetite, and they cannot absorb or digest food as fully as before.

Bariatric surgery can be an effective way of reducing body mass index (BMI) for people with severe obesity. However, research results for different procedures have not confirmed which type of surgery is best in each case.

The procedure has proven successful in treating type 2 diabetes and reducing cardiometabolic risk.

It is important for a person to aim for a body weight that is compatible with height, age, and sex. This article may help a person understand their ideal weight.

In some cases, losing weight may create problems.

Weight loss happens when a person exerts more energy than they consume. This is called a negative energy balance. The body seeks out stores of energy, starting with fat, to make up the shortfall.

In a person with little fat, more muscle and lean tissue will be used up. This can lead to further health problems.

These include:

A severe loss of body mass can be life-threatening.

A person who is experiencing unexplained weight loss should talk to a medical professional if possible.

If a person wants to lose weight, there are many factors to consider, such as age, sex, diet, activity level, and health conditions.

Health professionals have found that reducing calories, exercising, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and getting enough sleep can help people lose weight.

In some cases, a person may benefit from surgery, such as bariatric surgery, to lose weight. In some cases, too much weight loss can be problematic for a person’s health.

A person should check with a medical professional, if possible, before changing their diet and exercise routine.