Before we dive into how to lose a stone in a month, it's important to remember that healthy and sustainable weight loss methods will always be the best way forward. You can lose weight quickly but if you set your goals too high and restrict yourself too much, you'll likely gain it back even faster.
There's no denying that losing a stone in just four weeks is a big goal, that's 14 pounds overall. This is a much higher goal than many health organizations, would suggest is healthy to lose in this time frame due to the potential side effects. Try to lengthen out your goals, if possible, and always visit your doctor first if you're going to dramatically change your eating and/or exercise plan.
If you want faster weight loss results without making big weight loss mistakes, a calorie deficit will be essential, alongside a steady intake of protein-rich foods and regular exercise. Whether you want to lose weight in a month or learn how to lose weight without dieting excessively, we've got advice from several personal trainers, doctors, and nutritionists to see you through the process.
Can you lose a stone in a month?
Yes, it's entirely possible to lose a stone (14 pounds) in a month with changes to your diet and regular exercise, says Dr Thais Aliabadi, a board-certified physician specializing in weight loss. "However, losing that amount of weight in such a short amount of time is not necessarily safe. It's equivalent to losing three and a half pounds per week."
This is beyond what is advised by health organizations such as the NHS and CDC. "It is recommended to lose one to two pounds per week instead because it is more sustainable," notes Dr Aliabadi, who is also the chief medical officer and co-founder of Trimly.com.
When it comes to losing weight, doing it sustainably is important. The first of several reasons why is that quick-fix diets that promote excessive weight loss over a very short amount of time simply don't work in the long term. "You will not be able to sustain your normal way of living on these diets," says weight management nutritionist Jess Hillard. "Your body craves the things you've cut out, you give in, eat more, and then the weight will go back on again. Even if you just return to your normal way of eating after the diet, you'll gain the weight back. Then tends to begin a cycle of dieting, which also doesn't work."
At the same time as learning how to lose a stone in a month, if you follow fad diets, you'll likely be losing muscle and water weight rather than actual fat, adds Hillard, who is also the resident nutritionist at Warrior. "This also isn't healthy and it could harm your metabolism permanently, making it harder for you to lose weight in the future too. Not to mention, they'll also put you at risk of developing a nutrient deficiency as you're likely not going to be getting enough vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, magnesium, and iron."
That being said, it is possible to lose 3.5 per week, working out to one stone per month. If you're looking to know how to lose weight in a week and how to do it sustainably, here's what the experts suggest...
How to lose a stone in a month
1. Find your calorie deficit
If you want to learn how to lose a stone in a month, you have to put yourself into a calorie deficit. While there are many ways to do this, from simple restriction diets to plans like the keto diet, it's the only way to start losing weight.
As several institutions, including the University of Athens and Colorado State University, explain, a calorie deficit is when you burn more calories than you eat every day. This calorie burn does come from exercise partly, but it comes from your body's regular activities like sleeping and sitting down. As we function in daily life, we burn roughly 60 to 70% of our calories through these processes, which contribute to a process called resting energy expenditure (REE), according to the University of Vermont. This works out to about one calorie per kilogram of body weight, and this combined with calories burned during exercise needs to be more than the number of calories consumed per day for weight loss to happen.
While evidence shows that the deficit can be as small as 250 calories a day, to lose a substantial amount of weight healthily, research from Soonchunhyang University Gumi Hospital and Monash University shows it should be around the 500 to 750 calorie mark. To find your calorie deficit, use a calorie calculator.
2. Have a protein-rich breakfast
Having a breakfast rich in the best high-protein low-calorie foods will keep you fuller for longer as protein is one of the most filling macronutrients, research from Purdue University explains. Doing so, nutritionist Kim Pearson explains, "will in turn help prevent mid-morning snacking as you'll be fuller through the day, keeping your calorie count lower."
A high protein breakfast also promotes weight loss by regulating our appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, she explains. "Swapping cereal or white toast for a protein-rich breakfast of eggs on granary bread or porridge with a dash of high-quality protein powder is the way to go if you want to know how to eat less in the morning and stick to your calorie deficit."
As well, when we exercise, we put a strain on the muscles so eating enough protein is essential for this too. If you're short on time, this could be in the form of your best protein shake for losing weight. Otherwise, including high-protein foods in your diet will do the trick.
"Protein is key to help rebuild muscle fibers. Lean meats like chicken, dairy sources including eggs and milk, alongside powders and supplements are a great way to include the nutrient in your diet," Hillard says.
3. Fill your plate with vegetables
The same research from Purdue University says that alongside protein, fiber is a great macronutrient to help you stay full. Present in high-fiber foods including vegetables like leafy greens, incorporating more of these into your diet will help you stay in your deficit.
"Carbohydrates are converted to sugar in the body and if these sugars aren't used for energy, they're likely to get stored as fat," says Pearson, "Avoid foods like white rice, pasta, noodles, and bread. Cauliflower rice and courgette spaghetti make great alternatives to your standard rice and pasta."
At dinnertime, Pearson advises making sure at least half of your plate includes mostly green vegetables and other low-carb vegetable options, such as mushrooms or tomatoes. In total, a quarter should include high-fiber foods like ancient grains and wholewheat alternatives to refined carbs.
4. Add good fats to all your meals
Pearson insists it's imperative to eat fat if you want to learn how to lose a stone in a month, contrary to what you might have previously been told. "You might think that it could lead to gaining weight, but actually the opposite is true," she explains. "Fat is not only essential for health, but numerous studies have shown that a diet lower in carbs but higher in healthy fats is the best, and quickest, way to lose weight."
What does that include? "Good fats can be found in oily fish, nuts such as walnuts, and seeds like flaxseeds and chia seeds," adds Pearson. "Aim to include a moderate portion of healthy fats, along with some of the other best foods for weight loss, at every meal."
The ketogenic diet is a popular form of this low-carbohydrate, low-fat eating style you may have heard of before. While it does have merits and works for some people, it won't work for everyone. "It's not a long-term option in my opinion as side effects of this and similar plans include the aptly-named keto headache, mental fogginess, and irritability," the nutritionist adds.
5. Keep an eye on portions
"My favorite way of checking meal size is by using your hands," recommends Hillard. "Is there one thumb of healthy fats? One fist of carbohydrates? One palm of protein? Two fists of vegetables? This not only ensures the plate is a balanced meal, but it will help to keep you satisfied with each meal, ensuring you are not snacking on unhealthy options throughout the day."
If you're struggling with portion control, and have the means to do so, utilizing one o the best weight loss meal delivery services or recipe boxes can be a good plan. Many subscription services offer lower-calorie alternatives to go-to dishes, and they can save time and money by delivering all required ingredients to your front door. When you're finished, you can re-use the recipe cards with your own ingredients and make them again.
6. Make time for regular exercise
As discussed, exercise is crucial when it comes to losing a stone in a month - or any amount of weight. "Food of course makes a massive difference, but exercise is also vital," says Hillard. "Increasing muscle mass will enable the body to burn more calories on a daily basis by increasing the metabolic rate, which increases the number of calories you burn at rest (NEAT). Raising your heart rate slightly will help reduce the risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
Doing strength training and high-intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, can be helpful for this, with studies from the University of New South Wales showing that these activities burn more calories over time than many cardio workouts, for instance. But, any exercise that you enjoy will be beneficial for the mind and body, and for weight loss.
For those looking for something a little more low-impact, the 25-7-2 StairMaster workout, walking, hiking, and light jogging are good alternatives. "Start with a 30-minute walk per day, at least three times a week," suggests Dr Aliabadi. "Then gradually increase your time and intensity."
Don't enjoy exercise or find it boring? "Joining gym classes or exercise groups can be a great way to meet people and spice things up exercise-wise," adds Hillard. "For instance, one of the many benefits of swimming is that it's sociable with many swimming clubs around across the country, but it also creates minimal impact on the limbs."
Given the age of Covid-19, there are also thousands of home workouts available on YouTube or via a pick of the best workout apps. Tried and tested by woman&home, these apps feature winners like Fiit and Peloton, which are perfect for doing at home with minimal equipment.
However, this is another reason why taking weight loss slowly and implementing sustainable methods is so important. If you're someone who's never run or walked a lot of distance before and you suddenly decide to start without easing yourself in, you could injure yourself, meaning you won't be able to exercise at all in the coming weeks. If you took a gradual plan to learn how to start running over a few months, this would be less likely to happen and you'd experience more long-term benefits.
7. Move whenever you can
To burn more calories every day, try moving a little wherever you can. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is another important way we burn calories and it's similar to resting energy expenditure (REE) as it's all the movement we do outside of voluntary exercise, such as moving around the house, walking the dog, standing up cooking in the kitchen. This NEAT calorie burn, combined with calories burned during exercise and your REE, needs to be more than the number of calories you eat every day to lose weight.
A morning routine is a great way to find small pockets of time for this movement. "If you're deciding between jumping in the lift or taking the stairs, then the latter is always the smarter choice," adds the sports nutritionist and weight loss specialist. "Keeping your body moving will have a massive impact on your weight loss journey and general health. Walking for weight loss is a form of cardio, for instance, and cardio burns calories. Even when you are at home, walking up and down the stairs a couple of times throughout the day will definitely play a part."
8. Try to avoid grazing
"It's better to eat substantial main meals and then allow time in between," Pearson explains. "This allows your body the opportunity to use up some of your stored fat reserves, rather than purely focussing on easy energy from the food you've just consumed."
Three meals per day should suffice, she says. "While this does depend on the individual, for the average person who isn't following an intensive exercise program, eating three meals per day, five hours apart, is ideal. For example, you might have breakfast at 9 am, lunch at 2 pm, and dinner at 7 pm. It's always a good idea to avoid eating late in the evening."
If you are following an intensive exercise program safely, snacking will actually be pretty essential to stay feeling full and keep your hunger levels regular, to avoid overeating later in the day. Opt for high-protein snacks and shakes to feel the full benefits of protein powder for satiety instead and choose carbohydrate-based snacks like oats and bananas.
9. Reconsider your alcohol order
Whether you live in the US or the UK, we unfortunately live in a very alcohol-focused society and when it comes to learning how to lose a stone in a month, drinking calories is many people's biggest downfall. "Alcohol can contain high amounts of sugar and it increases our appetite hormones, compromising willpower when it comes to food choices. The following day, those who have been drinking can suffer from a 'sugar hangover' which makes them crave high-carbohydrate and fatty foods, like takeaway. This, of course, does not contribute positively to a healthy calorie deficit," says Pearson.
If you find you have a healthy relationship with alcohol and practice drinking mindfully more often than not, it may be about cutting back and finding suitable alternatives to alcohol that you enjoy instead - like some of the best low-calorie non-alcoholic drinks in a can. Otherwise, this may be a good time to reassess your relationship with alcohol and seek help via a health practitioner, if required.
10. Don't deny yourself treats
Rather than heading straight to the advice on how to stop eating chocolate and other sweet treats for good, enjoy them in moderation. It's important to indulge yourself every now and again, even when you're sticking to a tight calorie deficit.
"Cutting out everything you love is likely to end up making you miserable," says Pearson, and we couldn't agree more. Moderation is key when it comes to weight loss because for an eating regime to be effective it needs to be something you can stick to.
"Allow yourself one treat meal per week where you can eat whatever you fancy, suggests Pearson. Or, spread them out over the week. "Having a piece of chocolate each evening is a really balanced way of enjoying it," adds Hillard. "There's no such thing as healthy chocolate but try and choose dark chocolate which contains less sugar and has the additional health benefits of flavonoids."
11. Beware of hidden sugars
"Consuming too much sugar is one of the main ways weight loss is stalled," says Pearson. "If it's not used immediately for energy, like exercise, the body will convert it to fat to store for future use."
While we all know that biscuits, cakes, chocolate and sweets are high in sugar, there are some foods with hidden sugars that you need to watch out for. "You might be surprised, but you'll find them in cereal bars, stir fry sauces, salad dressings and smoothies," says Pearson. "Check the nutritional information to find out how much sugar is really in your food, and if in doubt, consume real fruits or make your own sauces and salad dressings."
There are some other additives to note, especially if a product is labeled as low fat or low sugar. "In order to make these ‘low’ they add in additional ingredients," warns Hillard. "These can include artificial ingredients such as xylitol, which can have health consequences. Often full-fat versions are actually best."
12. Keep track of your calorie intake and burn
When it comes to sticking to a calorie deficit, one of the top tips recommended by all the experts is to track what you eat via one of the best calorie-counter apps. These allow you to log your calories and nutritional information like protein intake, and they offer you a total for the day.
"I recommend using MyFitnessPal to record what you are eating," says Pearson. "This is so useful in identifying unhelpful behaviors as well as foods you might think are healthy but discover actually aren't." It can also help you avoid nutrient deficiency since you're given a breakdown of your intake of the likes of B vitamins as well as minerals like magnesium. However, it won't be an option suitable for everyone - especially those with a prior history of disordered eating - so it's important to assess other options too, such as the 80/20 method.
Does drinking water help you lose weight?
Yes, drinking water can help with weight loss for several reasons. Firstly, it can help to increase your resting energy expenditure (REE) by up to 30% within 10 minutes of drinking, according to research from Humboldt University, and it's a benefit that lasts for up to an hour.
Regularly drinking water, at least in studies of middle-aged and older people, has also been found to be a good appetite regulator by Virginia Tech as it works to combat dehydration, which is sometimes mistaken for hunger, and it takes up space in the stomach which can help with feelings of fullness.
As a replacement for high-sugar drinks like soda or alcoholic beverages, water is also a winner since it doesn't have any calories.
However, water should never be used as a replacement for food by those looking to learn how to lose a stone in a month. As all the nutritional advisors have said above, reducing calorie intake excessively has numerous negative side effects including short-term symptoms like binge eating, headaches, nausea, and fatigue, alongside longer-term issues such as nutrient deficiencies and a slower metabolism.
For more effective and longer-lasting results, approach weight loss sustainably by making gradual changes to your diet and exercise routines, and always consult a health practitioner if you're unsure of the best way forward.
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Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer.
A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.
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