Why steady, sustainable progress is best when walking to lose weight

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is steady, sustainable progress, especially when you’re walking for fitness. Weight loss needs to be sustainable to stick – you’ll need to make changes that you can live with over time. Going slow gives you more time to adjust to increases in walking and healthier eating. You’ll also be more likely to stick with your progress as you build off of small wins and make adjustments for things that don’t work well.

Here’s why sustainable changes are key for weight loss, and why slow and steady is the way to lose weight walking.

Don’t have the Pacer app yet? Download Pacer for free! (on mobile)

Why most diets and weight loss plans fail

Woman tired after a walk or run

Most diets (and lose weight fast fitness plans) fail because they’re not sustainable. If a quick fix that results in permanent weight loss sounds too good to be true, that’s because it almost certainly is. Fad diets can often lead to health problems, and if you end up going back to your old eating habits you’ll likely gain the weight back (and possibly even more). Extreme exercise regimens can work the same way, only these can also lead to injuries or overtraining.

Quick fixes for weight loss usually fall within 2 categories:

Unsustainable because they are dangerous/impossible to follow

Extreme fasting or diets that severely restrict your food intake must be temporary by definition. If your diet calls for less than your minimum required calories (generally 1,200 per day for women or 1,500 for men), your body may not be getting the nutrients that it requires to continue functioning properly. A 500 calorie per day diet is just not possible over the long term without risking serious health risks or eventually death. Even if such a diet results in temporary weight loss, you wouldn’t be making long term changes to what you eat. After the diet period is over, you’d likely go back to what you eat right now.

Unsustainable because they’re too hard to follow/not enjoyable enough

These typically involve severe restrictions on what kinds of foods you can eat. If it’s difficult to eat out, shop and prepare meals it may turn out to be too time consuming to continue to follow very limited diets. You may also feel yourself craving old favorites and end up abandoning a restrictive diet. For the most part, making gradual changes to your eating habits is easier to follow and lets you enjoy the foods you love.

Because extreme exercise routines require a lot of time and effort, they’re less popular as quick fixes for weight loss. If you do go on a very extreme workout plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for injury and burnout. Suddenly increasing the intensity of your exercise is usually risky, and your body will need extra rest and time to recover from your workouts. While you might be able to get through one crazy intense day, each successive day of extreme exercise adds wear and tear that will eventually result in an injury. Even if you somehow could physically keep up an extreme exercise routine, you’d need to enjoy it to make it a long term part of your life.

How slow, sustainable progress makes all the difference

Man walking for fitness with phone armband
imtmphoto / Shutterstock

By going slow on your weight loss journey, you’ll set yourself up for success over the long term. Quick fixes often involve an all or nothing attitude – you might feel pressure to either follow the extreme diet completely or go back to your old habits. When the fad diet inevitably fails, people often assume that it’s impossible to lose weight. Instead, by making gradual changes you won’t upend your life and you can always undo a change if it’s not working for you.

If you’re trying to eat better, cutting out soda is a great start. There might be other sugary carbs that you find yourself craving, and cutting them all cold turkey can be tough. By reducing your consumption of problem foods over time, you can build off of small successes as you realize that you can live perfectly happily without certain snacks. If you find that you’re really having trouble giving up a certain guilty pleasure, you can always skip that one and look for other empty calories that you can reduce.

Exercise works the same way – if you try to double your steps starting tomorrow you’re likely to get sore or just give up due to the time requirements. Instead, add a minute or two of walking every day or set a gradually higher step goal. You might not even notice the difference until you look back and see how far you’ve come.

Moving slowly does take willpower, but a different willpower than you’d think. It requires you to keep focused on your goals and your plan, and not get ahead of yourself and think that you can go too far, too fast. You might be surprised how many steps you can do in a day and feel fine, but try that routine for a day or two and you might be so sore that you need to rest and find your momentum again.

You still need to adjust your plan over time

Senior man checking phone during a walk or run
Dragon Images / Shutterstock

It’s important to realize that you’ll need to revisit your healthy eating plan over time to see how you’re doing and make updates if necessary.

Break through plateaus

One common reason for weight loss to plateau is that as you lose weight, your body’s calorie requirements drop. Your resting metabolic rate drops and you burn fewer calories by exercising because there’s less of you to move. You may need to reduce calories a bit further over time to keep up your weight loss progress. If you’ve made changes to what you eat and you’re feeling great, you can also look to swap out more unhealthy foods to increase the pace of your progress.

Stay happy and sustainable

You’ll want to revisit your eating plan from time to time to see how well you’re sticking with the plan and whether you’re having difficulties. If you’re constantly craving something you cut out or if you’re just not happy, it’s a good idea to look into tweaking your plan. Can you add back a bit of that dessert you love while cutting back on juice and chips instead? Are you constantly worrying about what you can and can’t eat? If so, it may be a good idea to roll back your eating plan to a previous version, or take a (hopefully short) break. This can help prevent you from giving up on eating healthy altogether, and it can make your live easier and happier as well.

Walking and eating healthier together

Sporty man eating banana after a walk
Markus Mainka / Shutterstock

By exercising more and eating better at the same time, you can build off your successes and lose weight faster while sustaining your weight loss.

Little steps add up

While walking a bit more and eating a bit better may not be huge changes on their own, adding them both together can start to make a measurable impact on your life. You might not be able to physically add an hour of walking a day, and you might have difficulty making dramatic cuts to what you eat. By combining both methods, you’ll be more effective reducing calories while making smaller changes that you can live with.

Stick it out in the long run

By tackling weight loss in two different ways, you better set yourself up for success in the long run. Success with increasing your steps will help motivate you to keep eating better, and cutting out problem foods can leave you feeling healthier and ready to walk. If you go through a tough stretch, like an injury or a busy period, you’ll usually be able to either keep walking or keep eating well, which can keep up the momentum.

Get Pacer

If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

Leave a Reply