Many people start the new year with a resolution to lose weight. But while losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, it can be difficult to achieve. In fact, there are a lot of sobering statistics around weight loss. As of 2016, a majority of U.S. adults had tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. And yet as of 2019, more U.S. adults are obese than ever. More than a third (one in three) of U.S. adults are obese, while nearly three fourths (three in four) are overweight. Most people who lose weight only lose it temporarily, ultimately gaining it all (and often more) back.

Why is weight loss so difficult to achieve? It is likely because of how most people go about trying to achieve it. Most people try to lose weight too quickly. Most people also try to lose weight by exercising more and eating fewer calories.

But exercise, while it builds muscle, makes you hungry. Calorie counting, for the most part, simply doesn’t work. And fad diets and rapid weight loss can leave you feeling ravenous while your body is burning fewer calories at rest than it did before you lost weight. All of these things make it very difficult to keep the weight off.

But weight loss doesn’t have to be difficult. The easiest and best way to achieve healthy weight loss in the new year is gradually and sustainably, by adopting a lifestyle focused on healthy eating (focused on a greater intake of fruits and vegetables) and overnight fasting (not to be mistaken for counting calories!).

If you want to lose weight this year, and you want to keep if off, try our 31-day weight loss challenge for the month of January! Obesity and maternal fetal medicine physician Dr. Cecily Anne Clark-Ganheart, MD, FACOG, has helped us develop 31 daily weight loss challenges based on practices proven to help people lose weight sustainably, including intermittent fasting. Dr. Clark-Ganheart has personally lost over 55 pounds and improved almost every biomarker related to insulin resistance with intermittent fasting. She has also helped many of her patients lose 100+ pounds with intermittent fasting and healthy eating, including patients who didn’t qualify for weight loss surgery.

Get started with these challenges below!

Need more help? You can chat with our fasting expert Sumaya Kazi or another health coach about your fasting and weight loss questions by clicking the Connect icon in the lower right-hand corner of this blog post!

Waist measurement close up.
Do you need to lose weight? Some good indicators are your BMI and your waist-to-height ratio. Measure your waist-to-height ratio for an indicator of your health. If your weight circumference (the measurement all the way around your waist) is greater than half of your height (for example, if you are 5′ 3” and your waist is larger than 31 inches), weight loss may be recommended.

31 Daily Challenges for Weight Loss in 2020

Download a visual calendar of the following challenges here.

1. (Jan 1) Happy New Year!

Today is a day to appreciate THIS day, the beginning of another year.  No matter the successes or challenges of 2019, today is a day to reflect, to take steps to continue the momentum from last year or to start a new chapter. Begin and end the day with at least one minute of quiet meditation.

Remember, stress reduction and mindfulness are vital to weight loss and your overall health.  Mentally prepare for not only the month ahead, but remember to live in the present and appreciate the newness of each day, one day at a time.

2. (Jan 2) Let’s Fast!

Fast overnight tonight! For those new to fasting, begin with a 12-hour fast from the evening before. Fasting means that you consume no calories – you can still consume water, black coffee and unsweetened tea.

What is fasting? Learn more here and get started here

Intermittent fasting is a metabolic health intervention that often involves a daily cycle of fasting (no calories) and feeding. Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that refers to different approaches to restricting calories intermittently, including alternate day fasting and circadian rhythm fasting (or time-restricted eating). The simplest form of intermittent fasting is to not snack after dinner and avoid calories until breakfast, fasting at least 12 hours overnight. While fasting, you can drink water and other beverages that contain no calories, such as black coffee and green tea. If you need, you can also chew sugar-free gum, and you can certain take your medications and brush your teeth! Just don’t consume anything with calories, especially calories from sugar.

For more experienced fasters, try a 16 or 18 hour fast from the previous day’s last meal.

Did you know that benefits from intermittent fasting begin in as little as 12 hours of gut rest? As always, do what you can! If you feel up for a longer fast, go for it!

Drink water while fasting.

3. (Jan 3) Eat Your Veggies!

Eat a (green) vegetable at every meal today.

Increased vegetable intake is linked to a number of health benefits and can aid in weight loss. Opt for green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens, etc. Today’s challenge? Incorporate a vegetable in every meal!

4. (Jan 4) No Cream in the Coffee.

Coffee has numerous health benefits, yet we often diminish those benefits with additives. Today is a plain black coffee day! Can’t drink it plain? Then it’s water or plain tea for you today!

5. (Jan 5) Movement Is Medicine.

Spending hours in the gym is NOT required for weight loss. But regular physical activity unlocks many other health benefits, including increased autophagy or cellular recycling. Physical activity will also help give you energy and motivation, and improve your mental health. Commit to 30 to 60 minutes of some form of physical activity today, and continue this 3-5 days out of the week! 

Make physical activity a habit, even if it is just brisk walking.

6. (Jan 6) Have a Meatless Monday.

Commercial meat is not the same as the meat our ancestors ate. Unfortunately, grass-fed, humanely raised meat is not accessible to all of us. Therefore, research indicates that decreasing our dependence on meat has many potential health benefits. 

Today, whether it is a meal or the whole day, substitute meat for a plant-based protein like beans and other legumes. You’ll still get plenty of protein, along with the many other healthy plant compounds and dietary fiber (which helps with weight loss and gut health!) found in beans and legumes like peas and green beans.

Try OMAD – eating just one meal per day! Don’t worry – it can be a hearty one! Just don’t overstuff yourself. Photo by Sharon Chen on Unsplash.

7. (Jan 7) OMAD – Eat One Meal Today!

OMAD (one meal a day) is a popular intermittent fasting protocol. While it is important to make sure that your calorie consumption is adequate during long-term OMAD, integrating an occasional OMAD day to change up your fasting schedule can help your get the scale moving.

Today, eat only one meal. Try to have your meal no later than 8pm tonight!

8, 9, 10. (Jan 8-10) Time for Circadian Rhythm-based Fasting!

Your next challenge will last for the next three days. You’ll be fasting according to your biological clock!

What are the optimal hours to fast? While many have an opinion, research on shift workers demonstrates that chronic night eating has detrimental metabolic effects. For the next few days, try to have your last meal by sunset.  Is it winter where you live? Try to have your last meal by 7pm. Try to fast (have no calories) until at least 7am in the morning or later.

11, 12. (Jan 11-12) Prioritize Sleep!

Rest is an important component to overall health and wellness.  The Wisconsin sleep study demonstrated a “U”-shaped relationship between obesity and sleep. Sleeping less than 7 hours (and more than 9) was associated with increasing BMI.

This weekend, try getting 7-8 hours of sleep. It CAN be done!

Have trouble sleeping? Find some sleep tips and daily sleep challenges here!

13. (Jan 13) Teatime!

Replace diet drinks, smoothies, juice, etc. with a plain herbal tea today. Try black, green, or another herbal tea. Remember, no additives like sugar or Splenda!  

Green tea is rich in healthy, stress-fighting polyphenols. 

Teatime! Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.

14, 15. (Jan 14-15) Six Hour Eating Window – No Snacks.

It’s time to tighten up your daily eating window, as long as you feel up for it. For the next two days, try to limit your eating to 6 hours during the day. Take note of how you feel to decide if a longer or shorter eating window would work better for you. 

16, 17. (Jan 16-17) Fasted Workouts!

Are you accustomed to having a protein shake or smoothie prior to a workout? Today and tomorrow, do a workout (or just a brisk walk) but ditch the pre-workout fuel for water and electrolytes. Wait an hour post workout before consuming a meal (or longer if you are up for it). It can take a few workouts to adjust, but give it a try! Think Terry Crews.

Tip – do your fasted workout in the morning if you feel that you need more energy! With time, you might end up feeling much better working out on an empty versus a full stomach.

18, 19. (Jan 18, 19) Try Yoga!

Try an at home or gym yoga session today and tomorrow. Stretch and meditate. Yoga and meditation both have beneficial effects for health – and they may help with cravings, too.

New to yoga? Get started here.

20. (Jan 20) Meatless Monday, Veggie Edition!

Today, make sure that half of your plate contains veggies at each meal! Veggies can help with weight loss and have many other health benefits.

Reading: Eat these plants to lose weight.

21, 22, 23, 24. (Jan 21-14) Alternate Day Fasting.

You might have heard of alternate day fasting (ADF) in the media. It involves fasting for 24 to 36 hours every other day. However, did you know that ADF also has research behind it? Assuming medical contraindications do not exist (Is fasting safe for you?), changing your fasting schedule up to include ADF may assist you in breaking through weight loss plateaus. 

To do alternate day fasting this week, you can fast today (Tuesday) and the day after tomorrow (on Thursday), or fast tomorrow (Wed) and on Friday. You could also try putting your two fasting days together at the beginning of the week, or fasting for 48 to 60 hours and then taking the next two days to replenish your body. But consult your physician before doing this long of a fast.

This week also technically counts as a 5:2 diet, a regimen of fasting that consists of fasting 2 out of 4 days. The 5:2 diet has been shown to be effective for weight loss.

If you are struggling while fasting or need a taste of something, try water with a lemon slice. Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

25. (Jan 25-26) Gratitude Weekend.

This weekend, take a moment to reflect on three things each day you are grateful for, big and small. Combine with meditation. Additionally, if you are up for it, pick either Saturday or Sunday incorporate water as your only beverage (with and without meals).

27. (Jan 27) Pick Your Challenge!

Today is a “you pick”!  What was your favorite day of the challenge thus far? Repeat that day today!

28. (Jan 28) 23:1 – Fast for 23 hours!

This will be a challenge, but I know you are up for it!  Fast for 23 hours! Remember to break your fast in a nutritious way!

29. (Jan 29) 16:8 – Fast for 16 hours!

This is a staple for many. Today, let’s fast for 16 hours. If you are up for more, go for it!

30. (Jan 30) Let’s Move!

Movement is medicine. How will you move today? Challenge yourself to an extra bout of physical activity than you normally do in a day, or try something new!

31. (Jan 31) Finale!

You’ve made it. Today is a circadian based fast – eating during daylight hours and fasting overnight.  Remember, a healthy lifestyle is just that – a lifestyle. I encourage you to reflect over the various daily challenges from the last month and plan to incorporate them into your daily life moving forward. Can you commit to a 12-hour overnight fast most nights of the week for the next month? Come up with your own plan and stick to it! 

The above is not medical advice. Prior to participating in any wellness challenge, you are encouraged to consult a qualified health professional.