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How Fast Can You Lose Weight?

Losing weight is a goal for many people, and they often want to know if there’s a safe way to lose weight fast. How much weight someone can safety lose per week depends on several factors, but there are some general guidelines for safe, fast weight loss.  

How many pounds can a person safely lose per week? 

The best and safest way to lose weight is to do it gradually. When people lose lots of weight quickly, they tend to be losing the wrong kind of weight – muscle, water, and bone mass – rather than losing fat. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends trying to limit weight loss to one or two pounds per week. It might seem slow, but people who do that are more likely to keep the weight off.

If you want or need to lose weight faster than one to two pounds per week, don’t try fad diets or severely limit your calories. Make sure you work with a doctor or other healthcare practitioner. There are medical weight loss experts at Beaumont who can guide your diet and exercise plan to help you lose weight faster while making sure you are getting enough nutrition and aren’t exercising too much. Excessive exercise and some fad diets can help people drop pounds quickly, but those losses are usually not permanent, and extreme diets and too much exercise can be dangerous.

There are health risks involved with losing too much weight too fast, especially if it’s done through fasting or severely limiting calories. If you fast without guidance from a doctor, you’ll put yourself at risk for nutritional deficiencies, heart problems, and a sluggish metabolism. For example, if you don’t have enough electrolytes in your body, you may experience heart palpitations, among other things. Without sufficient calories, your body can’t do its job, and two things can happen – you’ll start storing fat calories for future use and using muscle tissue for energy, and your metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. 

Considerations to personal weight history

If you’ve lost weight in the past, especially if your weight has yo-yoed up and down for years, you may have a harder time than some people losing weight and keeping it off. The reason is that your metabolic rate can slow when you lose weight, making it more difficult to lose weight in the future. When your metabolic rate slows, your body burns fewer calories during the course of a normal day – about 25 percent fewer calories. 

The key to successful weight loss (and then maintaining your goal weight) is to not give up when you feel like you aren’t losing fast enough or if you have a week or two when you gain weight when you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do to lose. Some people just have to fight a little harder for a little longer than others, but if you change your lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and exercising nearly every day, you will lose weight. Stay focused on the goal, and try not to let the slow weeks get you down.

Lifestyle considerations

There are several lifestyle factors that play into a healthy lifestyle – regular exercise (both aerobic and strength training); a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and nuts, and lean protein; limiting alcohol consumption; staying away from cigarettes and other forms of nicotine; sleeping well; and keeping your stress levels in check. All these will enhance your health. But remember that if you’re already doing a lot of these things, it may take you longer to lose weight than it might for someone who isn’t engaging in healthy lifestyle habits yet. Basically, if you have a lot of room for lifestyle changes, you may see results faster than if you’re just cutting calories and adding more fruits and vegetables into an already pretty healthy lifestyle. 

Dietary needs 

One of the risks of dieting without medical supervision is that you might not get enough nutrition. If your body doesn’t get the nutrition it needs, your metabolism will slow down, and your body may burn muscle tissue for energy rather than fat. If you are thinking of starting a diet, consult with a dietitian or nutritionist about the best way for you to lose weight. 

There are several things to remember when dieting:

Change your mindset. Don’t think of it as dieting. If you focus on making a permanent change to your eating habits, you’re more likely to be successful than if you diet. 

Make sure you eat enough calories. Severely limiting calories can get in the way of weight loss, but more importantly, it can be harmful to your health. Find out what your daily calorie intake should be, and try to stick close to that number. Don’t fast unless your doctor tells you to do it and guides you through the process.

Keep track of what you eat and drink. Many people find that writing down everything they eat and drink helps them keep their calorie intake where it needs to be for weight loss and optimal health. You can handwrite your food diary, or you can use an app on your phone, tablet, or computer to track your food. This is an easy way to see what you eat over time and to quickly know how many calories you eat at each meal or snack. 

Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber, and they tend to be lower in calories than other food. As a general rule, the darker the color of the vegetable, the more nutrients it has. Leafy greens are an excellent choice as are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts. There are vegetables, like cucumbers, that don’t have a ton of vitamins and minerals but do provide fiber and water without many calories, so those are good options too. 

Drink water. Water helps keep you hydrated, which is important for your body to function properly, but it also helps you feel full, and it flushes toxins from your body. Adding lemon, lime, oranges, or cucumber slices to your water gives it a bit of flavor, which may make it easier to drink more. Electrolyte waters are fine as long as they don’t have added sugar or artificial sweeteners. 

Stay away from sweetened drinks. Soda and juice can hamper weight loss, and they aren’t great options for a balanced diet either. When people drink their sugar, they tend to consume more calories than those who stick with water. Artificial sweeteners can also get in the way of losing weight, and there is some evidence they are bad for your health. If you need a sweet drink, consider adding honey or stevia. But talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

Choose lean protein. If you eat meat, choose white meat poultry, fish, nuts, low-fat dairy, and beans. It’s best to stay away from red meat and processed meats, but if you want to eat bacon or lunchmeat, choose options that are free from nitrates. And make sure you pay attention to the sodium content. 

Select complex carbs. Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Eating a slice of white bread won’t give your body the same nutrition as eating a slice of whole grain bread. When you’re looking for options for carbohydrates, look at the ingredients. If the first ingredient is a whole grain (like whole wheat), you’re going in the right direction. Also, if you’re eating rice, choose brown or wild rice over white rice. The same goes for pasta. There are several types of whole-grain pasta available that give you more fiber than the standard white pasta. When in doubt, read and compare nutrition labels.

Load up your cart with fruits. Eating fruit is a good way to have a sugary snack without the processed sugar you get from most sweet foods. One of the great things about fresh fruit is the fiber content. The fiber in the fruit helps counteract the body’s response to the natural sugar in the fruit, and it helps keep your digestive system healthy. Just don’t eat too much fruit. While it’s better than candy and processed foods, some fruits are high in calories and sugar. If you want to know how much is too much, talk to your doctor or nutritionist. 

Exercise. Balance your new eating habits with regular aerobic exercise and strength training. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, you can do this. You’re sure to have days when you eat more calories than you wanted to or you ate some junk food. Everyone does that, and it’s okay. A day here and there of decadence isn’t going to derail your whole plan. Changing your diet and lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t splurge once in a while or take a day off from the gym. You’ve got the ability to get back on track the next day.

If you’re struggling with your weight loss despite exercising and eating a balanced diet, you may want to talk with your doctor about medical weight loss. Experts at Beaumont can help you reach your goals through a medically supervised program designed to help you lose weight safely and quickly. Call 800-633-7377 to request an appointment.