If you’ve tried to lose weight, you know how hard and frustrating it can be. Women, in particular, face a lot of challenges related to weight loss. Some of those challenges are physical, some are emotional, and some are social – including repeated messages that remind us how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off.
And if you’ve experienced weight loss “failures” or feel stuck at a weight that isn’t comfortable for your body, you may feel like giving up – because the whole experience is just so discouraging.
But, I want you to know that, while losing weight is certainly challenging, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s very possible. And while it definitely takes hard work, it doesn’t have to be endlessly discouraging and frustrating. You can figure out how to lose 15 pounds (or 10 or 20 or more). The key is finding the weight loss strategies that work for you and then sticking with them until you reach your goal.
How do I know? Because I recently figured out how to lose 15 pounds – my “COVID weight” plus some extra pounds that had been hanging around for the past several years. I finally got so frustrated, and felt so uncomfortable in my body, that I decided to buckle down, create a plan that worked for me, and stick with it until I reached my goal weight. Here’s what my very up-and-down process looked like over the past two years:
Sticking with it for months was the hardest and most frustrating part, because losing weight (especially for women) can be a slow process – many times I often felt like I was doing all the right things but not seeing any results. (Includes affiliate links)
But I finally lost 15 pounds and reached my goal weight, and I believe that you can too! I’m not skinny now by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m a healthy weight for my body. And, most important to me, I feel 100% more comfortable in my body.
I know that weight loss doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package, so what worked for me may not work for you. But, if you’re struggling to lose weight and haven’t found the right approach, here are the things I did may work for you too:
How to Lose 15 Pounds
1. Cut out sugar. Sugar creates a lot of problems for women who are trying to lose weight, and it’s not just the “empty” calories it provides. Eating sugar causes your blood glucose to rise and fall steeply and rapidly, compared to eating more complex and balanced foods. And for many women, that rise and fall in blood sugar leads to hunger – it’s as if your body thinks, “Oh, my blood sugar just dropped. It must be time to eat.” Eating sugar can also lead to craving more sugar, which can become a vicious cycle.
One of the main things that sugar triggers in your body is the release of insulin – when your blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin to deal with it, either by moving it to cells where it can be used now for energy or to cells where it can be stored and used later for energy. Insulin is your body’s primary storage hormone – it shuttles glucose to cells that need it now for energy or to fat, liver, or muscle cells for storage.
I don’t know if the sugar hunger and craving cycle affects all women, but it definitely affects me. When I eat sugar, even a small amount, I start to feel hungry very soon afterward. And once I start eating sugar, I find it hard to stop – it honestly feels like an intense craving to me. So, in order to lose weight, I’ve had to cut way, way down on the amount of sugar I eat and to limit it to very small amounts on just one or two days a week. For example, I only eat sweets (and only in small amounts) on Friday and Saturday evenings, and only put sugar in my coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
(Similar effects may happen with artificial sweeteners, which don’t add calories but may affect insulin levels or change the way your body processes glucose. So it’s probably a good idea to stop using them or cut way down when you’re trying to lose weight.)
2. Consider intermittent fasting. I know that fasting is somewhat controversial, and many people have strong opinions about it. I never considered it until 2 or 3 years ago, because it went against everything I’d ever learned about the best way to eat healthy and lose weight. For years I thought that eating healthy meals and snacks 4 or 5 times throughout the day was the healthiest way to eat and the best way to lose weight. And I believed that allowing myself to become even slightly hungry was sure to lead to overeating.
But it turns out I was wrong. In recent years I’ve learned that, for me, intermittent fasting is beneficial for losing weight – I only began to make consistent progress when I added intermittent fasting to my weight loss plan. And, as a bonus, I’ve learned that fasting can benefit my overall health – by stabilizing glucose and insulin, promoting fat burning, and enhancing my body’s natural “housecleaning” process (known as autophagy).
(Some people shouldn’t fast, including children and teenagers, women who are pregnant or nursing, and type 1 diabetics. And some shouldn’t fast unless they’ve cleared it with their doctor, including people with type 2 diabetes or other serious health conditions and those taking medications that affect their blood sugar. Check out the books and articles below for more information on who can fast safely and how to do it, and talk to your doctor first if you have any health issues or concerns.)
The type of fasting I usually do is called 18:6 – it involves eating within a 6-hour window and then not eating for 18 hours. For me that means not eating breakfast, eating lunch around 2:00 pm, and finishing dinner by 8:00 pm. So on the days I’m fasting (usually 3 or 4 days a week), my eating “window” is between 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm. (But if I’m really hungry by 1:00, I go ahead and eat lunch. The goal isn’t to make yourself ravenous or miserable!)
You can fast in other ways too, including a 16:8 schedule (probably the most common), which generally means eating lunch around 12:00 and finishing eating for the day by 8:00.
Before I started fasting I did a lot of reading, and I encourage you to do that too if you’re even a little bit interested in trying it. These articles and books, in particular, gave me the scientific, medical, and practical information I needed to know in order to decide whether to fast and what type of fasting to try:
- Intermittent Fasting – Healthline
- Intermittent Fasting – Johns Hopkins Medicine
- The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung
- The Diabetes Code by Dr. Jason Fung
- Fast. Feast. Repeat. by Gin Stephens
- Complete Guide to Fasting by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung
3. Clean up your diet. No single eating plan works best for every woman – you probably know women who’ve lost weight or improved their health on a wide range of diets. But, many nutrition experts agree that the best diets for weight loss generally include several things, like lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, and limit or exclude several other things, like added sugar, white carbs, processed foods, and unhealthy fats.
As I’ve worked on losing these 15 pounds my diet has included a lot of salads, vegetables, fruit, legumes, chicken breasts, nuts, and olive oil and a moderate amount of whole wheat pasta and bread. And it’s included a lot less sugar, white pasta, and wine than I would prefer! I also recently read Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz and incorporated a lot of his ideas for adding more plants to your diet, which I think helped me to lose the last 3 to 4 pounds.
What kind of weight loss diet will work best for you? I don’t know, and you may need to try several eating plans before you figure out your best approach. But if you’re not sure where to begin, consider getting started by cutting way down on sugar, cutting out soda (regular and diet), increasing fruits and vegetables (you might start with the 2 x 3 +1 plan), and decreasing processed food. And get in the habit of prepping some healthy meals and snacks on the weekend so that you’ll start each week with healthy food that’s ready to go.
4. Get up and move. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to move your body regularly. It’s very difficult to reach and maintain a healthy weight if you’re sitting down all day, every day. But, that doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or take exercise classes or lift weights. It just means that you need to get up and move regularly, throughout the day, whether that movement is walking, dancing, riding a bike, or – if you enjoy it, going to the gym.
The key is to figure out what kind of moving works for you – what you enjoy, what fits with your schedule and responsibilities, and what you’re willing to do regularly and consistently.
For me, it’s almost entirely walking (with a few strength exercises thrown in a couple of days a week). I wear a Fitbit and use it to keep track of my steps, with the goal of getting 10,000 steps a day, 6 days a week.
For you, something entirely different might work better. And that’s fine – the key is to get up and move regularly, avoid extended periods of sitting, and find ways to integrate regular movement into your life – in whatever way works best for you.
So, those are the 4 things I did that helped me to (finally!) lose 15 pounds. It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t easy. I got fed up with the whole thing more often than I care to remember, typically when I felt like I was doing everything right but wasn’t losing weight. Sometimes I stuck to my plan really well, and sometimes I veered off onto a completely unproductive path. But, I kept going and eventually reached my goal.
If you’re frustrated with your efforts to lose weight, or you haven’t even attempted it because the past 2 years have been so exhausting, consider giving my 4 strategies for how to lose 15 pounds a try. You don’t have to start all 4 at once – if that seems overwhelming, try one and see how it works for you, then add the others over time.
You can reach and maintain a weight that’s healthy for you and feels comfortable for your body. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but it will be worth it – and I’m confident you can do it.