Just about everyone has tried to lose weight at some point in their lives. But shedding pounds can feel like climbing Mount Everest. Food and drinks taste good, and so many of our social gatherings revolve around eating. On top of that, many of us don't move our bodies much during any given day (except to get more of that delicious food).
But what if you are ready to climb that mountain (figuratively or literally!) and see the number on your scale decrease? How much weight can you expect to lose? And how quickly will those pounds fall off?
How Much Weight Can I Lose in a Week?
In general, a safe rate of weight loss is approximately 1-2 pounds per week. Can you lose more? Well, yes, but it's generally not considered effective or long-lasting. For example, water is heavy, so if you become dehydrated, that lost water weight will result in a lower number on the scale. You may even notice that your clothes feel a little looser. But once you consume fluids again your body becomes rehydrated and the pounds come back.
Some diets promise massive weight loss in a week or two. Very few of these programs deliver on their promises. Many people who try these programs find that they gain all their pounds back quickly. Some quick weight-loss methods can also be unhealthy and even dangerous. You may find it easier to keep the weight off for good if you plan a sustainable lifestyle change instead of a blitz diet or temporary workout plan.
Factors That Influence How Fast You Can Lose Weight
In general, the best way to lose weight is to shed pounds slowly and gradually. The most basic factor that influences weight loss is caloric intake. In general you need to adjust how many calories you consume and the types of calories you eat or drink. The number of calories that you burn through activity also matters. And lastly, consistency counts. So it is important that you are committed to the journey.
In general, your weight reflects the balance between the calories you take in and the number that you use over time. You can think of it as a bank account. If you deposit $500, but only spend $300, you'll have $200 left in your account. Your "account" in this case is fat deposits. When your body has more energy (or calories) than it needs, it stores the excess as fat. When you burn more calories than you consume (this is called a calorie deficit) you use up the stored fat. Your body needs fat to carry out daily functions and protect your vital organs. But excess fat isn't necessary. Cut the calories to drain those "savings."
What you eat is super important too. Eating a truckload of kale will do different things to your body than if you ate the same amount of jelly beans. The truckload of kale not only provides fewer calories, but also fills you up with vital nutrients, including fiber. Fiber helps you to feel full and satisfied after eating, so that you are less likely to hit the fridge again soon after your meal. Jellybeans, on the other hand, simply provide the body with sugar - which your body can burn through quickly, making you hungry again soon after eating. While your body can use sugar for energy those jelly beans don't provide any vitamins or minerals to help keep your body strong and healthy.
Off course, some people might enjoy eating jelly beans rather than kale. And enjoying your food is important! Variety is the name of the game. Try not to eat too much of any one thing. Instead, make mindful choices about the food you eat. For many people, intuitive eating works best. Intuitive eating is a practice that involves making food choices based on your body's internal cues. It is not a weight loss method, but it is a great way to develop a healthier relationship with food that may help you to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise and Activity
For some, burning mega calories throughout the day is just a way of life. For example, someone who works in a labor-intensive field, like a construction worker, will naturally use up more calories throughout the day than someone who sits and works on a computer all day. If you have a sit-down job, you may need to incorporate more extra-curricular exercise than, say, a professional soccer player.
Of course, exercise is one way to ramp up your calorie expenditure. You can start an exercise program to burn calories but also to boost heart health, gain strength, and improve flexibility. But simply moving more throughout the day matters as well. Take a short walking break after lunch, bike with the kids to the market, do some gardening, take the elevator instead of the stairs, or just get off the couch during commercial breaks of your favorite show to stretch and move around. All of this movement adds up to increase your daily calorie expenditure.
You lose weight by spending more "money" than you put in your calorie bank. In this case, overdrawing your account is exactly what you're shooting for. But to spend more than you put in takes commitment. Make sure you know the "why" behind your weight-loss intention and keep that reason at the front of your thoughts.
You may find it helpful to write out your goals in a journal when you begin your weight loss journey. Then keep notes along the way about your challenges and successes. A journal is a one of the best ways to track your weight loss progress and make note of your accomplishments.
You may have tried to lose weight before and wondered why it seems to take so long and be so hard. The truth is, a lot of elements can make your weight goals easier or harder to reach. Some of these factors are out of your control.
- Basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is a fancy way of describing how fast your body burns calories just by doing things like breathing and digesting food. It's your metabolic rate at rest. If your BMR is faster than average, you'll be able to lose weight a bit faster, too.
- Medications and health conditions. Some diseases, disorders, and the medications used to treat them can cause weight changes. As a result, they can make it harder to lose weight. Speak with your healthcare provider if you feel this may be the case for you, and they can help you come up with a plan that takes your situation into account.
- Your starting weight. People with a higher starting weight may be able to lose pounds faster than those with a lower starting weight. Someone who weighs 300 pounds usually expends more energy at rest and throughout daily life than someone who weighs 100 pounds and has the same activity level. So, if you're starting from a higher mark, you may see bigger losses in the beginning.
- Sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, your body can take revenge by increasing your appetite. Experts recommend that we get at least 7 to 8 hours per night. Make sleep a priority all the time, but especially when you're trying to lose weight.
How to Increase and Track Your Weight Loss Progress
You've heard a lot about the different factors that can affect how fast you can lose weight. Now you probably want to know where you're supposed to go from here! Everyone is a bit different and you may need to try a few weight loss methods to find the one that works for you. But consider some of these starting points to see if one might work for you. As you move along in your weight loss journey, you might want to add one of these skills to increase your progress.
- Create a food plan with MyPlate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Keep a food and beverage diary to evaluate the calories you consume each day.
- List new habits you want to make, like eating more slowly and planning meals and snacks ahead of time.
- Make a list of habits that you need to break, like always finishing everything on your plate, or eating when you feel bored or anxious.
- Take home half your restaurant meal to eat the next day - restaurant portions are notoriously huge!
- Talk to your healthcare provider to make a plan together.
- Use a smaller plate for meals to help you choose smaller portions.
You may also choose to invest in a commercial weight-loss program to get some accountability and day-to-day direction. Be sure to research your chosen company well and, if possible, get a reference from someone you know who has used it with good results.
Once you've set out on your weight loss journey, you'll want to track your progress along the way. Tracking allows you to see exactly where you are and help you to feel like all your hard work is paying off, even if the payoff is slow. For many people, the best way to track weight loss is by using an app or activity trackers. They can help you set calorie and activity goals as well as pair with your smartwatch so you can monitor your calorie intake. If you prefer paper, you can download printable charts to track your progress.
You might also want to consider different ways to track your progress. While weight is one way to show changes in your body size, it is not the only metric that you can use for measurement. For example, if you are participating in strength training while you try to lose weight you might notice an increase on the scale even though your body is getting smaller (and stronger!). Some tools help you to track fat loss by measuring body fat percentage so that you know you are making progress and feel motivated to continue. You might also want to track factors such as energy level, mood, and other improvements that you notice as a result of changes to your diet and exercise program.
Lastly, remember that as you track your progress, there will be days or weeks when it might seem like your progress has stalled. The weight loss process can be discouraging when your numbers seem to drift downward at a snail's pace. But keep in mind that this is normal and try to stay encouraged. For some people, even a small amount of weight loss can do wonders for your health. Celebrate your wins a pound or 1/2 pound at a time. Don't give up too quickly if you move a step or two back here and there. Consistency is key. While losing weight very fast may sound like your best option, remember the healthier, longer-lasting choice is just a few pounds a week. It may not be flashy, but it'll stick!