At least once a day, someone approaches me at the gym and asks me a question about weight loss. Many people exercise for the purpose of losing weight, but thankfully they also realize that nutrition plays a large role in whether they are successful at weight loss or not. It is the nutrition part that seems the most complicated, and rightfully so.
There’s so much information online about exercise and nutrition and not all of it is helpful. How our bodies respond to exercise and changes in diet is a very individual thing – what works for your Instagram Fitness Celebrity may not work for you.
So I’ve decided to do occasional blog posts based on questions posed to me by actual people.
QUESTION: I want to lose about 25 pounds in three months. Is two pounds a week realistic?
SHORT ANSWER: Yes.
LONG ANSWER: Yes, but as it is with most things in life, it really depends.
The general guidelines are to reduce caloric intake by about 500 calories per day, which equals 3500 calories over the course of the week, which (theoretically) equals one pound of weight loss. Cut more calories, lose more weight. Sounds simple, I know. But here are a few things to consider:
- Most people underestimate the amount of calories they take in. So unless you are ruthlessly measuring everything, you are probably consuming more calories than you think and therefore your weight loss may be slower than the 1-2 pounds per week.
- Losing one pound per week means 500 less calories every day. EVERY DAY. FOR A WEEK. AND THEN ANOTHER WEEK. AND THEN ANOTHER WEEK. And so on until you’ve lost the weight you want. If your goal was 25 pounds in three months that’s 12 weeks of everyday diligence. That’s sometimes hard for people to do because, you know, LIFE happens and you’d like to enjoy social time with family and friends which many times includes food, and we should enjoy a good meal and a dessert and a couple of drinks every now and again. But this will slow your weight loss a bit.
- Cutting calories without feeling horribly deprived takes some thoughtful planning. If you are eating less, the foods you do eat need to be packed with nutrients – no more empty calories! So do you know how much protein and fiber you should be getting? Do you know the difference between carbohydrates that fill you up and power your activity and those that cause you to overeat and feel sluggish? Are you getting a good balance of unsaturated and saturated fats? You may need to do some research to find recipes and foods you enjoy eating and provide you the nutrition you need. This takes some time and practice, so initially you may not lose much weight.
- The more weight you have to lose, the easier it is to lose. The closer you get to your goal weight, the slower weight loss becomes. So if losing 25lbs will get you to an extremely lean body fat percentage, losing the last 5lbs may be very difficult. If losing the weight gets you from an unhealthy body fat percentage into the upper range of healthy body fat levels, it may be easier for you to lose the whole 25.
Let’s take it a step further: is it safe to lose more than 2 pounds per week?
In general, weight loss in excess of 1-2lbs per week is not recommended. Cutting that many calories makes it hard for you to get all of the nutrients you need to promote good health. In addition, eating fewer calories actually slows the metabolism (since you’re giving it less to do); a slower metabolism burns less calories. If your metabolism has slowed down and you overeat, you will gain back your weight faster. Many people who attempt “crash” diets wind up weighing more than they did before the dieted, because of the vicious cycle of:
cutting too many calories>metabolism slows>I’m starving all the time so I then overeat>excess calories + slower metabolism = weight gain.
Slow and steady has been shown to be the best approach to sustainable weight loss.
Have more questions about exercise or nutrition? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have nutrition counseling programs that can get you on the road to a healthier body fat:
Feel Better/Look Better 30-day Nutrition Plan ($150)
A personalized approach to nutrition. Includes assessments of current habits, goal setting with weekly feedback, macronutrient targets, sample meal plan, recipe sharing, and motivation tips.
Feel Better/Look Better 30-day Nutrition Plan Plus ($225)
This plan includes additional support, including meal planning and prepping suggestions, kitchen makeover information, twice-a-week feedback to assess plan understanding and adherence or update goals, and 30 minutes of Skype.
I hold certifications with the American College of Sports Medicine, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and USA Weightlifting. I hold a level 1 certification from Precision Nutrition and am a CrossFit Level 1 trainer. I am a competitive Masters Olympic Weightlifter, an occasional CrossFitter, and an Army wife and mother.