If you’re like most people, you want to lose weight fast – and do it fast. It’s empowering to look down at the scale and see you’re down 5 pounds in only a week. But losing weight at lightning speed isn’t such a good idea from a health standpoint. Patience really is a virtue when it comes to successful weight loss.
Why is fast weight loss a problem? If you’re losing weight rapidly, it usually means you’re restricting calories too much. Excessive calorie restriction is counterproductive for two reasons. For one, it’s not sustainable. Are you really going to be able to happily exist on 1000 calories a day? Most people can’t. Secondly, you’re putting yourself at risk for nutritional deficiencies by not eating a balanced diet. Restricting calories too much can also slow your metabolism as your body senses the food supply is short and slows down the rate at which it uses energy.
Most nutritionists and dieticians recommend staying above 1200 calories to avoid some of the problems that come from calorie restriction including a slower metabolism. After all, if you’re driving a car with only a little gas, you’re not going to press down on the accelerator and burn more fuel. Your body works the same way. It likes to conserve fuel when it has limited resources.
Is It Safe to Lose Weight Fast?
A safe rate of weight loss is between a half pound and two pounds a week. Since you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound, cutting your calorie intake back by 500 calories a day works well for most people. Since exercise is an important element of any successful weight loss plan, you can cut back your calories by half that amount and burn an additional 250 calories a day through exercise – as long as you stick with it. This should result in a slow, but more sustainable, rate of weight loss. After all, what good is it to lose weight fast only to put it all back on just as quickly? Having a plan you can live with long term works best, especially if you have lots of weight to lose.
How Many Calories Do You Need a Day?
Cutting back 500 calories a day is difficult if you don’t know how many calories you’re actually eating and drinking a day. Your body requires a certain amount of calories for maintenance, to all of the functions that keep you alive like digesting food, fueling your heart and lungs, maintaining body temperature, etc. Plus, it needs additional energy to fuel the activities you do every day. First, find out how many calories you need each day based on your height and activity level using the online calculator in our Workout Manager. Once you know your daily calorie requirements to maintain your current weight, subtract 500 calories or 250 calories, if you’ll be burning 250 calories a day through exercise, to determine how many calories you need daily to lose a pound a week. Here are additional suggestions to help you lose weight safely and successfully. We’ll be discussing these in more detail later along with other healthy weight loss tips.
- Keep a food diary. Research shows that people who write down everything they eat are more successful at losing weight.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods. When you’re limiting your calories, it’s important that each calorie have nutritional value. You’ll get more “bang for your buck” if you choose nutritious, whole foods with greater water content like fruits and vegetables. These foods are low in calories due to their high water content and high in fiber to fill you up faster. Just don’t douse them in butter or cream sauce.
- Don’t weigh yourself every day. If you step on the scale too often, you’ll get discouraged by normal daily weight fluctuations. Your weight varies depending on how much liquid you’re drinking, your last bowel movement and how much salt is in your diet. It’s not uncommon for your weight to vary by several pounds a day due to normal fluctuations. Weigh once a week instead.
- Be patient. Successful weight loss takes time. Don’t try to rush the process by following the latest fad diet. They rarely work, and you’ll almost surely regain the weight.
The Bottom Line?
Don’t try to rush to lose weight fast. You have a much better chance of reaching your desired weight and sustaining it if you take it off slowly. Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to weight loss.