Young woman on couch and looking up what is healthy weight loss

What is healthy weight loss?

Written on March 12, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Obesity is a common chronic disease, and one of the most effective management strategies is losing weight. The obesity prevalence rate in the US in 2017 was 41.9%. The estimated medical cost annually in the US was close to $173 billion in 2019 [1].

Whether you are purposely losing weight for health benefits or for your summer beach body, you are not alone. Every year, many people try to lose weight. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that from 2013 to 2016, 49.1% of U.S. adults had tried to lose weight in the last 12 months [2]. Additionally, when it comes to weight loss in women and men, more women (56.4%) compared to men (41.7%) were reported to have tried to lose weight during the same time.

Over the years, various fad diets and programs popularized by celebrities and promoted through social media have come and gone [3,4]. Losing weight swiftly is not as easy as it’s sometimes advertised. It’s vital that you healthily lose weight so it will serve you better in the long term.

Fad diets

Numerous fad diets and programs claim fast and easy weight loss and should be avoided [5,6]. Some fad diets involve eliminating foods that contain essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed to maintain health [4]. Typical characteristics of fad diets include:

  • The promise of quick and effortless weight loss
  • Results that sound unbelievably good
  • Promotion of a book or product as part of the program
  • Recommendations centered on one single study
  • Statements that do not align with respectable scientific-based organizations

Risks of fast weight loss

Losing weight too fast can produce harmful health outcomes [5]. If you decrease your calorie count significantly to lose weight rapidly, you will be losing not only body fat but muscle as well. Losing weight as fast as possible will also alter your metabolism, making longstanding weight loss harder to sustain. Eliminating nutritious food groups to lose weight fast can cause a lack of nutrients and may lead to fatigue, constipation, and loss of bone density. You can also easily get discouraged when you want to lose weight fast and notice you’re at a point where you’re not losing as quickly as you had anticipated.

Healthy weight loss

Losing weight as quickly as possible is not the most healthy and beneficial method of weight loss. Healthy weight loss involves a steady decrease in weight and maintenance through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and beneficial lifestyle modifications that promote overall health [6-8].

A healthy and safe weight loss rate is considered to be 1 to 2 pounds per week [6,9]. A healthy starting goal for weight loss is reducing body weight by about 10% from baseline [9]. A weight loss of even 5% to 10% from your original total body weight can lead to health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars [6]. Gradual progressive weight loss that can be sustained is a safe and healthy way to lose weight.

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Strategies for a healthy weight loss plan

No single diet works best for everyone. Weight loss plans that work for you may not work or be the best plan for another person [6-8]. Your individualized weight loss program is based on your goal weight, history, and preferences. However, some universal recommendations are part of all successful weight loss plans.

Effective weight loss plans require lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, stress management, and behavioral therapies [3,6,8-11]. Decreasing fats in your diet without reducing calories is not enough for weight loss, but also decreasing carbohydrates can help reduce calories [8,9]. A diet plan that includes a deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal per day achieves a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week [9]. Physical activity, part of a comprehensive weight loss and control program, contributes to weight loss in obese adults, may decrease abdominal fat, increases heart health, and helps maintain weight loss. Moderate exercise for 30 to 45 minutes about three to five days a week is encouraged. After six months of weight loss therapy, weight maintenance should be a priority. Simple behavioral changes such as regular self-monitoring have had up to 92% success in weight loss interventions [8].

Get started with losing weight

Losing weight is no easy feat. It takes genuine commitment and a personalized, well-designed plan. Here are five steps to get you started [3,7]:

  1. Commit and decide to lose weight.
  2. Take baseline measurements of your height and weight to know where to start.
  3. Set goals that are realistic and individualized to you.
  4. Identify supporters and informational resources.
  5. Monitor your progress by regularly revisiting your goals.

If you want to lose weight healthily, consider speaking with your healthcare provider. You may want to ask your healthcare professional [12]:

  • What a healthy weight or BMI is for you
  • How will losing weight impact your current health issues and improve your overall health
  • What physical activity or dietary limitations should you avoid if any

Through Everlywell, you can book Virtual Care Visits for online weight management to meet with a licensed healthcare provider to discuss your weight management goals and ways to lose weight in a healthy way.

What factors influence weight loss?

What to know about medical weight loss

How much is enough when looking to lose weight?

How to start a weight loss journey: key steps


  1. Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published May 17, 2022. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  2. Martin CB, Herrick KA, Sarafrazi N, Ogden CL. Attempts to lose weight among adults in the United States, 2013–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 313. National Center for Health Statistics. 2018. URL. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  3. 6 proven strategies for weight-loss success. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published December 7, 2021. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  4. FAD diets: Diet, types, tips. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  5. Is it bad to lose weight too fast? Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published October 13, 2022. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  6. Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published September 19, 2022. Accessed February 26, 2023
  7. Losing weight: Getting started. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  8. Ramage S, Farmer A, Eccles KA, McCargar L. Healthy strategies for successful weight loss and weight maintenance: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(1):1-20. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2013-0026. URL
  9. Key recommendations. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. URL. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  10. Kushner RF. Weight loss strategies for treatment of obesity: lifestyle management and pharmacotherapy. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018;61(2):246-252. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.06.001. URL.
  11. Healthy weight, nutrition, and physical activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed February 26, 2023.
  12. Choosing a safe & successful weight-loss program. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed February 26, 2023.
Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More