All it takes is trying on a swimsuit and looking at your winter-white skin in the 3-D mirrors to get you whispering under your breath, “this year I’m losing weight!” And a good 5–6 pound initial weight loss can really motivate you to keep going. But when your losses taper to 1 or 2 — or zero — pounds a week, your interest in eating healthy and exercise begins to wane.
In a world where we watch people lose 10–12 pounds a week on reality TV, it’s easy to forget what a reasonable weekly weight loss is for the average person in reality. Contestants on “The Biggest Loser” are working out with trainers 4–8 hours a day, getting healthy meals and snacks prepared especially for them with restricted calories, and competing for $250K! That’s not reality for most of us.
Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., at the Mayo Clinic says it best: “When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Fast weight loss is usually followed by rapid weight gain.” He goes on to explain that science has shown us it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. That’s a reduction of 500 calories every day to lose 1 pound per week. But that’s a pound of real fat. Typically, rapid weight loss comes from the loss of a lot of water, fluids or, worse yet, lean muscle tissue — the very tissue that helps you burn fat in the first place.
Studies show that 1 to 2 pounds a week is a healthy, attainable and sustainable weight loss goal for most people. So how do you accomplish that without getting discouraged with the agonizingly slow pace?
- Make simple eating changes. Cutting 500 calories a day can be as easy as removing the whipped cream from your coffee drink and skipping the muffin.
- Add more movement each day. A 10-minute walk at lunch can burn 100 calories. Climb stairs and make it 200!
- Make your success visible. Place a chart on your bathroom mirror and mark each pound as it comes off.
- Think healthy, not just skinny. Your goal isn’t only about poundage. Besides, 1–2 pounds a week can add up to 50–100 pounds a year!
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