Let’s be honest: losing weight is not always easy. You often have to try and make mistakes to figure out which diet and exercise plan works better for you. And even when you have figured it out, you might still find that your body just isn’t responding to the changes you’ve made. This is because the weight loss process is dependable on a few factors, including your metabolic rate, starting weight, sleep schedule and more.
The most important part of weight loss – in addition to making the decision to lose weight yourself and doing it for yourself – is doing it in a healthy way (which also leads to more lasting results). That means you’re not going on a crash diet or exercising. But the question is: How much weight can you lose in a short period of time (like two weeks or a month) and still be sure you’re doing it the safe way?
Some basic principles behind healthy weight loss
The amount of weight you can lose in a month – and still be healthy – depends on factors such as age, gender, starting weight, caloric intake, caloric deficit and exercise. It takes 3,500 calories a week – or 500 fewer calories a day – to lose a pound of weight as a general rule. All of these variables play a part in how fast you can lose this one extra pound.
You have to look at your daily calorie intake. As a rule, you should aim for eliminating 500 calories from your daily meal plan to lose a pound each week.
Following these calculations, in order to lose two pounds a week, you have to cut back 1,000 calories a day which is a huge drop in terms of energy intake.
General pieces of advice on how to lose weight
You can reasonably expect to cut up to 10 pounds in one month if you follow a fairly strict plan. Losing one pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. To lose 2 pounds per week, you must lose 1,000 calories per day. This means reducing the number of calories you eat, increasing the number of calories you burn while working out, or most likely doing some combination of both.
If you want to cut calories in the kitchen, a daily food journal is a must. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or a phone app. The process of keeping track of every bite that goes into your mouth may seem boring, but it’s a proven way for nutritionists to notice patterns such as mindless snacking and overeating during stress, both of which can lead to extra calories expended. Dropping 1,000 calories a day can seem daunting, but when you think about it in terms of buttered slices of bread, raids on the cookie jar, etc., it’s easy to see where small fixes can be made to reduce that number.
If you need some assistance to burn calories in the gym, aim for a moderate workout five to six days a week. The amount of calories you will burn will depend on your gender, weight, how fast you exercised and the duration of it. Just to give you a glimpse of some options for a person who weighs 150 pounds.
- Working on a treadmill for 20 minutes at 6 MPH: 229 cal.
- Working out on the elliptical for 30 minutes: 179 calories
- Breastfeeding swimming for 30 minutes: 189 calories
- Kickboxing for 30 minutes: 357 calories
So how long does it take to lose 10 pounds or any amount of weight? The answer depends on how many of the above strategies you try and feel you can stick to for quite a while. Anyone who has tried juice cleanses or crazy detoxes knows what it’s like to fall off the wagon and bounce back after; not the perfect goal to attain and keep a healthy weight.
- Keep a journal of your daily diet: It’s easy to lose track of what and how much you actually eat in a day. By taking notes of your meals and snacks, you can draw a more realistic picture of your eating habits. With a diary or food app (there is abundance of them), you can see where you can snack or choose smaller portions, for instance.
- Replace processed foods for organic and whole ones: It’s easier to overeat processed foods, and you won’t get as much nutritional value for your calories. A 2019 study in Cellular Metabolism found that when two groups of people ate two different diets that had the same amount of nutrients (one was whole foods, the other was processed foods), the processed group consumed more calories and put on more weight than the other group.
- Increase your fiber intake: Eating fiber-rich foods will keep you full longer, and can help you reach your weight loss goals. Aim for the 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
- Cut down on sugary drinks: Whether you regularly sip soda or diet soda, these drinks have been proven to lead to weight gain. One American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that participants who drank one liter of soda a day gained 22 pounds in six months, while those who drank diet soda gained about three pounds. Also, keep in mind that a lot of extra sugar can hide in coffee, tea and juice drinks, as well as in smoothies.
- Drink water for hydration: More H2O is generally always a good move. It is believed that there is a connection between the amount of water you drink and weight loss figures. This may be due to the fact that when you are hydrated, you are less likely to mistake thirst signals for hunger signals.
- Cook yourself more: People who make dinner at home consume around 140 fewer calories than people who habitually order, dine out or heat up cooked meals. Make your own breakfast and lunch, and you’ll come close to a 500-calorie magic number.
- Have a regular sleeping routine: You’ll be able to cut around 300 calories. Studies show that lack of sleep slows down our metabolism and increases our desire for sweets. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who habitually slept only four hours a night got 300 more calories than people who slept an average 7-8 hours. These people are also much more likely to be fit as a result of going to the gym regularly where they have to burn only extra 200 calories to achieve these 500 calories reduction.
Fitness element in losing weight
A great way to achieve a 500-calorie reduction is to divide it in half and cut 250 calories a day from your diet while another 250 calories a day you can burn by working out. That way you won’t feel deprived because you’re changing your diet too dramatically, which won’t be sustainable in the long run, because the goal is not just to lose weight, but to keep it withing some certain limits.
Simple fitness ideas to begin with in order to find a balance with your dietary calories reduction:
- Walk on a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes.
- Do a 20- to 30-minute Pilates or barre class.
- Try to take at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Do a 15-20 minute HIT workout.
Consider adding structured strength training a few days per week. A 15-minute strength workout can become a way toward a steady muscle building.
How much weight loss is *too* much?
If you’ve been transforming your diet and adjusting exercise, most experts suggest following the rule of one to two pounds a week, or four to eight pounds total unless you have more than 100 pounds to get rid of, in which case losing up to 20 per month is still considered OK. Still you shouldn’t aim for that 20-pound mark (and if you’re going to go through with it, consult your doctor first).
It’s also vital to monitor your calorie count. The recommendation is not going below 1,200 calories per day, which is the lowest calorie threshold. A very low-calorie diet can lead to overall fatigue and any extra exercise might lead to weight loss. If you are too tired to workout, it indicates that you’ve gone to deep in lowering your calories intake.
One more things to keep in mind – the number on the scale shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. The way your body looks and feels is the best marker of progress and your physical condition. Know that muscle is more dense than fat, so only if a few inches come off or clothes fit more comfortably it will have a bigger meaning than a big drop in weight.