Your health should be a main priority throughout your life, including in your 30’s.

For some people, losing excess body weight can improve several aspects of their physical health, including their blood sugar and blood pressure levels, inflammatory markers, and mobility (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Plus, reaching a healthy and sustainable body weight may improve your self-confidence, body image, health-related quality of life, and depressive symptoms (7, 8, 9).

Unfortunately, most weight loss methods are inappropriate and unsustainable. Plus, dieting and diet culture can be incredibly harmful to your physical and mental health (10, 11).

However, it’s possible to safely reach a healthy body weight that promotes your overall health.

This article covers 20 sustainable ways to lose weight in your 30’s.

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Focusing on improving other aspects of your health rather than your body weight or physical appearance may help you reach your goals.

One study including 301 women found that those who were motivated to lose weight to either reduce their disease risk or improve their overall health — and least motivated by self-appearance reasons — achieved significant weight loss after 30 months.

Alternatively, women who were most motivated to lose weight to improve their appearance had gained weight at the 30-month mark (12).

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be motivated by improving your appearance. Rather, it suggests that your appearance and desire to be accepted by others shouldn’t be the only — or even the main — motivators for reaching a healthy body weight.

Being motivated by factors like improving your diet quality, endurance, and energy levels, as well as reducing your disease risk, may help improve long-term success on your weight loss journey (13).

Decades of scientific research show that increasing your fruit and vegetable intake promotes weight loss and may help you maintain a healthy body weight (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19).

Making a point to add more vegetables and fruits to your diet is an excellent way to improve diet quality, decrease disease risk, and promote healthy weight loss.

Try adding spinach, tomatoes, and onions to your eggs in the morning, and enjoy them with a side of berries. You can also snack on veggies dipped in hummus, or add a side of roasted mixed veggies to your dinner.

Countless diets and detoxes promote rapid, extreme weight loss through the use of very low calorie meal plans.

The truth is, these diets are likely to promote quick weight loss, as drastically reducing your calorie intake would.

However, these diets are not a good choice for sustainable weight loss since they can drastically affect your energy levels, health, and overall performance.

Studies have repeatedly shown that crash dieting leads to weight regain and compensatory changes that may make future weight loss and weight maintenance more difficult (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

Creating a satisfying dietary pattern that fuels your body while creating a small calorie deficit will result in slower weight loss, but it will decrease the chances of weight regain over time and ensure you get the nutrients your body needs (25).

When trying to lose weight, most people think that they have to participate in frequent high intensity activity. While incorporating this type of activity into your routine can promote weight loss and muscle gain, it’s unnecessary to do this to reach a healthy body weight.

Being active daily by increasing your step count and sitting less is just as important as spending a few hours in the gym per week (26).

If you’re currently sedentary, it’s important to increase your activity slowly. If you’re only averaging around 1,000 steps per day, try to increase your count to 2,500 steps most days of the week, which equals about one mile (1.6 km).

Once you’re consistently reaching that goal, increase it by 1,000 steps per week or so until you’re comfortably walking a few miles per day (27).

Never compromise your health or happiness by following a diet or exercise program that makes you feel bad about yourself.

If a diet is extremely restrictive or causes you to become overly preoccupied with food, that’s a sign that the plan you’re on is unhealthy and inappropriate for your needs.

The same goes for activity. If your new trainer or workout class makes you feel uncomfortable or bad about yourself, find a different activity that you enjoy and have fun doing.

A sustainable dietary pattern and activity plan should make you feel healthy, nourished, and energized.

Losing excess body fat can indeed improve your health and reduce your disease risk (28, 29, 30, 31, 32).

But weight loss is only one piece of a large puzzle.

Stress, mental health disorders, lack of activity, illness and disease, poor nutrition, genetics, and lack of sleep are just some of the other factors that need to be considered.

This is why improving your overall health, not just losing weight, should be your goal.

Many people in their 30s are trying to juggle work responsibilities alongside their family and social life, which may reduce their sleep time and negatively impact their sleep quality.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain by increasing hunger hormones and calorie intake and decreasing satiety hormones and energy levels, making weight loss even more challenging.

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep consistently is important for weight management and your overall health (33, 34, 35 ).

To develop a sustainable weight loss plan that works for your needs, it’s important to avoid restrictive, unnecessary diets.

Research shows that dieting and restrained eating don’t work for long-term weight maintenance. Plus, restrictive eating behaviors can take a toll on your physical and mental health (36).

A healthy dietary pattern can be followed for life, no matter whether you’re on vacation, enjoying a holiday meal, or out to dinner with friends.

If you often having to “cheat on” or “go off” your plan to eat foods you enjoy, that’s a sign your diet is overly restrictive and unsustainable. All foods can and should fit into a healthy, sustainable eating pattern that can be followed long term as part of a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.

Spending time in nature is incredibly beneficial for your overall health.

Some research suggests that spending more time outside is associated with higher activity levels and less time sitting, which may help you lose weight naturally. Plus, spending time outside may help reduce your chronic disease risk (37, 38, 39).

Make a point to get outside daily to go for a walk or simply enjoy the fresh air.

Staying hydrated is important when it comes to weight maintenance.

One recent study including 358 people between the ages of 18 and 39 found that higher fluid intake was associated with healthier body composition, including a lower body fat percentage and smaller waist circumference (40).

Fluid needs are dependent on many factors, including your activity levels and body size. A simple way to tell whether you’re hydrated is to check your urine color. Aim for a light straw color (41).

Although having short-term goals is normal when trying to lose weight, it’s important to consider your future self.

How can improving your nutrition, increasing your activity, and managing your body weight during your 30s benefit your future health?

Rather than making dietary and lifestyle modifications based on how quickly they encourage weight loss, make decisions based on how they affect your overall health and future well-being.

Reducing your added sugar intake is one positive change you can make to promote weight loss and reduce the risk of health conditions like heart disease and metabolic syndrome (42, 43, 44, 45).

Foods and beverages like sugary cereals, sweetened coffee drinks, soda, candy, and baked goods contain a shocking amount of added sugar while offering little to no other nutritional benefits.

Try reducing your intake of these foods over time, and use all forms of sweeteners less often or in smaller amounts, including table sugar, raw sugar, honey, and agave.

Finding an activity you enjoy is crucial to increasing your activity levels.

Muscle mass naturally declines with age, starting in your 30s. One way to build and maintain your muscle mass and metabolism is by engaging in regular exercise.

Instead of jumping into an exercise routine based on the number of calories it burns, take the time to narrow down one or more activities that you truly find enjoyable and can imagine doing for life.

Zumba, hiking, biking, walking, Pilates, swimming, and dancing are just some examples of activities that many people of all ages find pleasurable.

If there’s one piece of advice that nearly all healthcare professionals agree on when it comes to promoting healthy weight loss, it’s cutting back on nutrient-poor highly processed foods.

These foods are not only associated with weight gain but also can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and certain cancers if you eat them too often (46, 47, 48).

Make a point to cut back on your consumption of ultra-processed foods, including fast food, packaged snack products, and soda. Instead, try to eat more nutrient-dense foods like fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, beans, and nuts.

Numerous studies have linked cooking more meals at home to a healthier body weight and improved diet quality (49, 50, 51).

For example, a study that analyzed data on 11,396 people ages 29–64 found that those who consumed home-cooked meals more than 5 times per week were 24% less likely to have excess body fat than those who ate less than 3 home-cooked meals per week (50).

However, this doesn’t mean you have to cook every meal at home or that the meals need to be complex or gourmet. You could rely on meal planning apps to help you be prepared and have everything you need.

If you’re currently cooking only one or two meals a week, try to increase the number of meals you prepare every week. This may help you lose weight, improve your diet quality, and even save you money.

Registered dietitians and therapists can be incredibly helpful when trying to lose weight and improve your overall health (51).

These healthcare providers can help you understand your relationship with food and make healthy changes that are beneficial to your physical and mental well-being.

When searching for a nutritionist or therapist, make sure they have proper credentials and that their counseling philosophies align with your specific needs.

Different foods have varying effects on your satiety and hunger levels.

For example, protein is the most filling macronutrient, and adding protein-rich ingredients to meals and snacks can help increase feelings of satisfaction and help you manage your weight (52).

Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds is also beneficial for weight management (53).

When putting together meals and snacks, aim to make them as filling and nutritious as possible by pairing foods like vegetables, beans, and fruits with sources of protein and healthy fats, such as eggs, nuts, fish, chicken, and unsweetened yogurt.

It can be hard to love your body or feel confident in your skin, and that’s OK. However, learning to respect your body at any weight fosters self-acceptance and successful weight management.

Being hard on yourself won’t make you more successful at losing weight or changing your body size. In fact, studies show that self-criticism may undermine attempts at weight management (54).

If you’re struggling with self-acceptance and showing your body kindness regardless of your body weight, working with an experienced therapist may help.

Plateaus and fluctuations are a normal part of losing weight. Weight loss is a complicated process that involves compensatory changes in the body that slow weight loss over time and encourage weight regain.

Keep in mind that you may actually need to increase your calorie intake when you hit a plateau, especially if you’ve been following a diet that doesn’t supply your body with an adequate amount of energy.

Although this sounds counterintuitive, slowly increasing your calorie intake may help counteract some of the compensatory metabolic changes that occur during weight loss and make keeping weight off long term so difficult (25).

Being realistic and choosing goals that you can reach without engaging in unsustainable, restrictive diets and extreme workout regimens is essential when trying to lose weight.

Your overall goal should be to improve your health in general. It can include, but should not be limited to, losing excess body fat.

Understand that your “goal weight” might not be feasible for you to reach unless you use extreme measures that are harmful to your health.

Work with a qualified healthcare provider like a registered dietitian to develop realistic weight loss and nutrition goals specific to your body and health needs.

If you’re in your 30s and you’ve decided to lose weight, it’s important to use safe, sustainable methods to improve your overall health.

Using the tips listed above can help you manage your weight while prioritizing your physical and mental health.