You’ve more than likely heard that you should try to lose between 1-2 pounds/week. However, who is going to choose 1 pound/week when 2 pounds/week is safe too?
Part of the problem is thinking that you actually have a choice over how fast you lose weight. On paper it looks possible to lose weight faster, but in the real world, the outcome is much different.
Is It Possible to Lose 2 lbs a Week?
I get a lot of questions that go something like this:
I have so and so event coming up xx days from now. I’d like to lose xx pounds. Is this going to be possible?
More times than not, my answer is yes – it is possible, but it’s not probable. These lofty goals of 2 lbs/week (or more) are possible for the people who have dieted down to single digit body fat several times in their lives (think bodybuilders).
They have their bodies down to a science and know exactly where they’re going to be in xx month’s time. For the average person who has never been (or recently been) at their goal weight, there is going to be a lot of trial and error.
So what can you expect then? Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed after coaching clients for close to a decade:
- Most people are doing extremely well if they lose an average of 1lb/week over a period of months.
- Many times you won’t lose any weight that first month, and might even gain some, especially if you’re coming from a sedentary lifestyle.
- You might have several weeks of no weight loss even though you’re doing everything right. Then you’ll suddenly start losing again without making any changes.
- The average person will lose between .5 and 1lb every 1-2 weeks.
- People who weigh more have the potential to lose weight faster, but this is far from a guarantee, and assumes there are no psychological forces at play (there are).
- You will fall off track more than a dozen times on your journey. But it’s what you do after that happens that matters most.
- You will struggle through difficult situations and your life will never be perfect for losing weight.
- Other people doing the same thing as you will get different and sometimes better results. Others doing something different could also get better results. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
You’ve likely struggled with weight loss all your life. Don’t expect to come out of the gates losing 1-2lbs per week every single week until it’s all gone. It’s probably not going to happen. There’s going to be a learning curve.
How Long Will It Take to Lose xx Pounds?
Most of us have a very skewed reality for how long it should take to lose a particular amount of weight. It’s understandable.
We all seem to know someone who made a dramatic transformation, whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone you’ve seen in a magazine or on the internet. This is what anchors our expectations.
So you know it’s possible, and you have high hopes that you’ll be the next weight loss lottery success story. But the chances of this happening are similar to most lotteries – slim to none. That’s not meant to discourage you. Just the opposite, actually.
It’s meant to encourage you and show you that the small progress you make, whether it’s an improvement in weight loss, body composition, energy, strength, body image, happiness, or health, are all amazing accomplishments and are moving you closer to your goal.
So to give you a better idea of what your weight loss journey might look like, I’ve created a calculator. Simply enter your current weight and goal weight into the boxes below and the calculator will show you how long it will take. In addition, it will chart out your realistic weight loss for the next 6 months.
Your High Weight Loss Expectations are Holding You Back
Your weight loss expectations have a big impact on your behaviors. Start falling behind your target pace and you tend to do drastic things to your program that actually take you away from your long-term goals.
You cut more calories than necessary due to panic that you might not be beach ready, or you start increasing your exercise intensity or duration to burn some extra calories so you aren’t embarrassed to wear shorts this summer.
But these behaviors create a vicious negative feedback cycle. Calories get cut to the point that you’re hungry all the time, and unbearable cravings start popping up more frequently. You give in and have a little too much of a “forbidden food”.
You feel guilty and upset when you weigh yourself the next day. You fall even further behind your pace. And the cycle continues until you give up again until next year.
Take your time to learn the required mindset for a healthy lifestyle and just focus on getting your weight moving in the right direction. Then you will be able to make adjustments to your already great habits to possibly speed up the process.
With Great Losses Come Great Risk
Can you lose weight faster than the .5% of body mass each week the calculator above assumes? Yes, but what tends to happen is the faster you lose weight the greater the risk of adherence issues. And if you can’t stick to your plan, then 2+lbs/week is meaningless.
That’s because once you start getting up to 2+lbs of weight loss per week, you need a 1000+ calorie deficit/day. When your maintenance calories are only 2000/day that means you need an insanely low amount of calories or high amount of activity to make that happen.
Those low calories lead to adherence issues because your body fights back with hunger and cravings. You’ll be moving right along for 3, 4, or 5 days and then – bam, you binge.
This binge/restrict behavior is not what we’re looking for. It makes it impossible to establish habits. We want consistency day to day. Consistency builds habits.
So take your time with weight loss. If your weight is trending in the right direction this is a success. Don’t get caught up in the pace. Progress is progress no matter how small.
Start setting weight loss goals you know you can achieve. Be patient. Let the momentum build and the improved habits become established. And you’ll be a different person next year.