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Managing obesity includes a combination of lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and increased physical activity over time. Along with a commitment to a healthier lifestyle, your doctor may suggest prescription medications or surgery to help you lose weight.

The first step in treating obesity is managing your expectations. A transition to a healthier lifestyle takes time, effort, and commitment. You may not see results right away. You’ll also likely go through periods where you don’t lose weight even though you’re doing everything right.

Losing weight is about getting healthy, not about the number on the scale. Avoid putting pressure on yourself to set and then try to achieve unreasonable expectations. Set your goals based on what you feel most comfortable with.

You’ll likely experience some setbacks on your weight loss journey. That’s OK. The key is sticking to your plan and continuing your weight loss journey. Lifestyle changes won’t happen overnight. It takes time.

Find out which diets and treatments are effective and which you should avoid.

There are tons of diet plans floating around the internet with hefty promises of quick weight loss. Of these diet plans, the ones that work the best are the plans that reduce the number of calories you eat and are easy to stick to over time.

The simplest diet approach is to increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, while avoiding sugary snacks and processed foods.

Diet plans, like the ones outlined below, can also be effective if they’re done right. But you might need to do some trial and error before you find one that works well for you. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian for help.

Here are some diet plans that have been shown to be effective.

Calorie counting

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. So, the simplest method for weight loss is to count the number of calories you’re eating.

Weight loss programs that involve calorie counting often result in more weight loss than those that don’t, according to a 2014 peer-reviewed study.

The first step is to find out how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight. There are calculators available online, like this one, to help you figure this out. Enter your current height, weight, gender, and activity level to determine your calorie needs.

The next step is to keep track of the number of calories in the foods you’re eating each day. This takes a bit of effort, but there are many apps and websites available to simplify the process.

Some of the most popular free calorie-counting apps or websites include:

Enter in the type of food you’re eating and how much of it you ate. The app or website will do the rest. To make sure you’re counting calories accurately, you may want to invest in a food scale.

Low-carb diets

A low-carbohydrate diet, like the Atkins diet, South Beach diet, or ketogenic (“keto”) diet, involves reducing the number of carbohydrates you eat each day while increasing the amount of protein.

These diets often restrict carbs to just 20 to 50 grams per day. When you eat this few carbs, your body begins changing fat into compounds known as ketones. Your body switches to using ketones as its main source of energy.

A low-carb diet encourages you to eat a lot of protein, which has been shown to burn more calories during digestion than carbs or fat and helps keep you full longer.

One study showed that low-carb diets like the Atkins diet are more effective for weight loss than other types of diets.

Plant-based diets

Vegan or plant-based diets put emphasis on eating whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while avoiding meat, dairy, and processed foods.

In one study involving 75 participants who were overweight or had obesity, those who ate a vegan diet saw significant improvements in body weight, fat mass, and insulin resistance markers.

Plant-based diets may also help reduce your risk for heart disease and other health issues.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a way of managing your calorie intake by cycling between periods of fasting and eating. Fasting makes your insulin levels go down, while growth hormone levels increase dramatically.

This helps you lose fat, while maintaining muscle. A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that this type of eating pattern can result in a 4 to 8 percent weight loss on average.

There are several intermittent fasting methods, including:

  • Alternate-day fasting (5:2 diet). You eat normally for five days a week and restrict your calorie intake to 500 to 600 calories for two days each week.
  • 16/8 method. With this method, you restrict your eating period to eight hours. For example, you can only eat between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat. This method includes fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. For example, you don’t eat between dinner one day until dinner the next day.

It may take some time to find a plan that works best for you. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you’re unsure which is best for you.

Managing obesity goes far beyond your diet. You also need to adjust your lifestyle. But there’s no need to make all these changes at once.

Here are a few lifestyle changes you can add to your daily routine over time:

  • keep your refrigerator stocked with fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks
  • increase your water intake
  • use a smaller plate
  • eat slowly
  • don’t eat while sitting in front of a TV
  • make sure you’re getting enough sleep
  • park far away from the entrance of a building so you have to walk a bit to get inside
  • use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • avoid fast food restaurants
  • eat high-fiber foods
  • reduce your stress levels
  • eliminate all sugary drinks; if you’re having a hard time giving up soda, switch to diet soda or try sparkling water
  • start your day with a healthy, high-protein breakfast, like eggs instead of cereal or bagels
  • when dining out, ask for a take-home box and put half of your dish in it to eat the next day
  • read food labels carefully and pay attention to what’s considered a serving size and the number of calories in each serving

Making just a few of these changes can have a massive effect on your weight and overall health.

Exercise is a key part of healthy living. Exercise improves your physical and mental health. It can also help you lose weight. You’ll want to aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.

For cardio, aim for just 30 minutes per day at first and then work your way up. Some ways to get cardio exercise include:

  • jogging
  • cycling
  • power walking
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • using an elliptical

Loss of muscle mass is common during dieting. To combat muscle loss, try lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises like pushups and situps at least twice a week.

Ask your doctor if a prescription medication can help you lose weight. Keep in mind that these medications aren’t right for everyone. Some of them carry harsh side effects. Also, you’ll need to keep up with the diet and exercise changes above.

Examples include:

  • orlistat (Xenical)
  • bupropion and naltrexone (Contrave)
  • liraglutide (Saxenda)
  • phentermine and topiramate (Qsymia)

Weight loss surgery, often called bariatric surgery, involves making your stomach smaller.

During the surgery, a surgeon will cut across the top of your stomach and seal it off from the rest of your stomach to create a small pouch. This pouch can hold only about an ounce of food. Your small intestine is connected directly to the pouch.

Bariatric surgery isn’t for everyone and comes with risks. You’ll also have to meet certain eligibility requirements. To be eligible for surgery, you must:

  • make a commitment to a special diet before and after the surgery
  • have a body mass index (BMI) over 35.0
  • have a BMI of 30.0 up to 35.0, have a serious weight-related health problem such as type 2 diabetes, and have been unable to sustain weight loss with nonsurgical treatments such as dietary changes

For people with BMIs of 30.0 up to 35.0, surgery is most effective for those between 18 and 65 years old.

Any diet that promises a “quick fix” in a short amount of time likely won’t be what you need to manage obesity. In fact, these types of diets can make things worse.

Avoid heavily restrictive diet plans such as:

  • liquid diets
  • “detox” diets
  • “cleanses”
  • fad diets that only allow you to eat just a few types of food each day, like the cabbage soup diet or the grapefruit diet

Obesity is a complex disease. The ideal way to treat obesity is with a combination of diet, physical activity, and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend prescription medication or surgery.

Managing obesity is about improving your overall health, not just about losing weight.

The key to effective weight loss is consistency. The best diet for you is the one that you can stick to in the long term.