How to lose 40 pounds

The equation calories in – calories out determines whether you lose, maintain or gain weight. The first number in the equation represents the energy that you introduce into your body via the food that you eat. The second represents the energy that you naturally burn throughout the day and when you exercise.

In order to lose 40 pounds, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. This is known as a caloric deficit, which forces your body to utilize its fat stores as a source of energy. The larger a caloric deficit you create, the faster you will lose 40 pounds.

Calorie needs vary between individuals, and are determined by a persons gender, age, weight, height, activity levels and overall goals. You can use the tool below to get a rough estimate of your calorie requirements.

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 190 pounds, is 5 feet 10 inches tall and exercises 3 – 5 times a week will need to consume approximately 2500 calories to maintain her weight, 2000 calories to lose weight and 1500 calories to lose weight fast.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to consume a minimum of at least the ‘lose weight fast’ number of calories, and should not consume fewer than 1000 – 1200 calories per day without being supervised by a medical professional. Consuming too few calories can negatively affect your metabolism, cause nutrient deficiencies, weaken bones and lower immunity.

Once you have estimated your calorie requirements, it is also a good idea to know how many calories you consume per day on average. Because it is difficult to accurately tell how many calories a certain food has off the top of your head, many people tend to underestimate how many calories they consume.

Luckily, there are apps and websites that can help you to do this. All you need to do is enter your average daily food intake into an app like myfitnesspal and it will tell you how many calories you consume. The great thing about this app is that it has a massive database of foods and can even provide you with the nutritional profiles for store bought food brands.

Alternatively, you can write down the foods that you eat on a piece of paper and then refer to a website like for nutritional information.

As an example, take a look at this meal plan.

Breakfast – 2 medium butter croissants and a glass of orange juice – 574 calories

Snack – 1 milk chocolate bar – 235 calories

Lunch – 1 chicken & cheese sandwich and a can of gingerale – 755 calories

Snack – 1 pack of tortilla chips – 144 calories

Dinner + dessert – 1/2 a 14 inch pizza with cheese topping and a piece of chocolate cake – 1430 calories

Total: 3138 calories

You may be surprised to learn just how many calories certain foods have. A 14 inch cheese pizza with cheese topping for example has 2400 calories, which is the entire daily calorie requirement for most people!

After you have calculated your current average calorie intake, you can begin making changes and swapping certain foods for others to significantly reduce the number of calories that you consume. Here are some tips to help you achieve this.

Eat lots of vegetables

Vegetables are very low in calories, making them the perfect weight loss food. For example, a cup of zucchini has 20 calories and a cup of bell peppers has 30. The reason for this is because they contain large amounts of water, which has 0 calories. Because of this, you can eat plenty of vegetables and not have to worry about going overboard on calories.

Vegetables also contain dietary fiber, which is not digested by the body. Instead, it absorbs water and forms a thick gel that passes slowly through your digestive tract. This can help to keep you feeling satisfied for longer.

Additionally, vegetables are nutrient dense and provide the body with a variety of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial substances. Some of these nutrients affect metabolic health, so eating vegetables can help prevent deficiencies.

You should eat a variety of veggies including leafy greens, root vegetables and fruit vegetables; aim to get at least 3 servings a day. This is not hard to do; thanks to their versatility, veggies can be incorporated into many delicious recipes.

Eat some fruit

Like vegetables, most fruits are low in calories. They are also rich in naturally occurring sugars, which can come in handy especially if you have a sweet tooth. There’s lots of different fruits that you can eat for weight loss, with some examples including berries, melons, apples, oranges, bananas and plums.

Fleshy fruit would be the best option, but you can also eat dried fruit in small quantities. Dried fruit tends to be higher in sugar and calories than fleshy fruit, so it is important to consume it in moderation.

Aiming to get 2 – 3 servings of fruit per day is ideal, depending on how active you are. If you are diabetic or very obese, speak to your doctor first so that he or she can better advise you on how much fruit you should eat.

You can eat fruit on its own as a snack, together with nut butters, hummus & yogurt, or use it to prepare smoothies and healthy desserts.

Eat more protein

Compared to carbs and fat, protein is much more filling, which means eating it can help to decrease your overall food intake. It also boosts energy expenditure slightly, meaning it benefits both ends of the calories in – calories out equation.

Studies have found that increased protein consumption can have some dramatic effects on weight management.

This study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories lead to a decrease of 441 calories being consumed. Protein at breakfast time may help to regulate appetite hormones and reduce subsequent food intake as seen in studies such as this and this. High protein diets may also reduce obsessive thoughts about food.

Adequate protein intake combined with weight training can also assist with muscle mass maintenance. This is important because when you are in a caloric deficit, your body may use muscle tissue as a source of fuel. You want to lose fat but minimize muscle loss as much as possible.

Protein at 25 – 30% of total calories seems to be effective for weight loss, so try and get this much. Protein has 4 calories per gram so on a 1500 calories diet, that would amount to roughly 100 grams per day. Protein rich foods include eggs, fish, legumes, meat, nuts, seeds, dairy and some vegetables.

Eat healthy fat

A lot of people wrongly assume that eating fat is what makes you fat. This is not necessarily true. Consuming more calories than you burn is what leads to weight gain; these calories can come from fat, protein or carbs.

It is true that when compared gram for gram, fat does have more than twice the amount of calories (9 / gram) that protein and carbs do. This however doesn’t mean that fat should be avoided, so long as you are eating the right type.

The fat rich foods that you want to eat most of are those that have been processed very little and are as close to their natural state as possible. Examples include avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and high quality coconut oil. Many of these foods not only have fat, they also contain large amounts of protein & fiber, which makes them very filling.

The fat rich foods that you want to limit intake of are those that have been highly processed. A good example is junk foods like cakes, cookies, pastries and potato chips. These foods are high in calories & processed fat but are not filling and do not provide many nutrients. For this reason, you want to eat them in small amounts or avoid them completely.

Eat complex carbs

Plenty of studies have shown that following a low carbohydrate diet plan can help you to lose weight. Keep in mind however that low carbohydrate does not mean no carbohydrate. You still need to eat some carbs, but you should eat the correct type.

Like with fat, you want to eat carbohydrate rich foods that have undergone minimal processing. These foods are a source of complex carbs, which provide a slow and steady release of energy. Good examples include vegetables, fruits, legumes and unrefined grains.

On the other hand, refined carbohydrate rich foods should be restricted. This includes the junk foods mentioned in the section above, but also things like refined rice, bread and pasta. Refined & highly processed carbs provide quick & large bursts of energy, causing blood sugar & insulin levels to rise and fall dramatically, which in turn can leave you feeling hungry and irritable.

Ideal carbohydrate intake varies from person to person, depending on a number of factors. As a general guideline, aim to eat 50 – 150 grams of carbs per day and make adjustments depending on how your intake affects your energy levels, mood and weight loss progress. Again, if you are diabetic or very obese, speak to your doctor first.

Drink more water

One of the simplest things that you can do to speed up the rate at which you lose 40 lbs is to drink more water. This is because it has 0 calories, may reduce appetite and also boost metabolism slightly.

Lots of people are chronically dehydrated and mistake thirst for hunger, which makes them end up reaching out for food instead of water. The next time you feel hungry, drink a glass of water, wait a few minutes and then decide if you really need to eat or not.

Studies such as this and this have shown that drinking water before a meal can reduce food intake. Try this yourself and see if it works for you; have one or two glasses of water thirty minutes before a meal and see if you end up eating less.

The majority of the time you should try and drink plain water, but you can also drink carbonated water, unsweetened tea and coffee occasionally.

The beverages that you want to reduce intake of are those that have been sweetened with sugar. Sodas are a big culprit of weight gain, but some types of fruit juice may need to be avoided as well.

The problem with these beverages is that they are quite high in calories, but those calories are not registered by the stomach & brain as efficiently as calories from solid food. As a result, they don’t have as large of an effect on satisfying one’s appetite, which means people usually end up consuming more calories than they require overall. The large amounts of fructose they contain also burdens the liver and over time can lead to fat storage.


With these 6 pointers in mind, we can revise the meal plan that we saw above.

Breakfast – 2 large boiled eggs, a cup of cooked oatmeal and a large banana – 441 calories

Snack – 1/2 an avocado – 161 calories

Lunch: grilled chicken breast with 1 medium baked sweet potato – 387 calories

Snack –  1 cup of Greek yogurt with 1 cup of strawberries – 275 calories

Dinner + dessert – 1 cup of cooked lentils, 1 cup of boiled vegetables and 3 dates –  400 calories

Total: 1664 calories

By making these changes, we have been able to reduce the number of calories by almost 1500. This is a huge amount and will have a drastic positive effect. Use a similar approach for your own diet, replacing junk & high calorie, low satiety foods for better options.

Once you remain in a caloric deficit, you will begin to burn fat, which will lead to weight loss. The rate at which you lose weight may start off fast, but gradually slow down. If this happens, you should take a look at your calorie requirements and adjust your diet accordingly. Losing 40 pounds will take some time, so it is important to remain patient and not get discouraged if progress slows down.


Exercise can help to create a larger net caloric deficit and retain muscle mass, both of which will speed up the rate at which you lose 40 pounds.

The more active and individual is, the more calories he or she burns. A person who cycles 5 times a week for 45 minutes will use up far more energy than someone who does not exercise at all.

You should aim to exercise for 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week at minimum. This can be any kind of activity that you enjoy, including swimming, running, martial arts, dancing or playing sports.

If you have not lead an active lifestyle for a long time, start off slowly by going for a short walk a few times a week. Your fitness and stamina will gradually improve, after which you can engage in more strenuous activities.

If you are already quite active, you may want to try out high intensity interval training (HIIT), an effective method for increasing fat burning. It involves doing short intense bursts of an activity, followed by the same activity at a comfortable pace.

An example would be to sprint all out for 20 seconds and then jog at a comfortable pace for 40 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 15 minutes or so.

Because of its intensity, HIIT is not appropriate for everyone. Decide whether it is appropriate for you, depending on your fitness levels.

Together with cardiovascular exercise, you should also do some weight training and combine this with a protein rich diet, as this will help you to retain muscle mass. If you are a member of a gym, speak to a fitness instructor there, he or she will be able to guide you on the types of exercises you should be doing. Alternatively, there are many weight training programs available online.

One very important thing to keep in mind is not to rely solely on your weighing scale when monitoring progress. This is because ordinary weighing scales are unable to differentiate between muscle and fat. Just like fat, muscle has mass, but it is more compact so takes up less space in your body.

If you have been weight training and also remained in a caloric deficit but don’t notice significant changes when you step on the scale, this does not necessarily mean you aren’t making progess. What will have essentially happened is that you will have burnt fat and built some muscle. If you begin to notice that your clothes fit looser and you look slimmer in the mirror, this is a step in the right direction.

At the end of the day, your goal shouldn’t be to just lose 40 pounds. Your goal should also be to have a healthy body composition.


To lose 40 pounds you will need to make changes to your diet and increase your activity levels. It can take a fair bit of time to lose large amounts of weight, so it is important to remain patient and not get discouraged if progress is slow.

After you have reached your target weight, be sure to continue eating well and exercise regularly, so as to prevent the weight from creeping back.

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