If you have a few pounds to lose, you probably want to drop the weight as soon as possible. But when it comes to weight loss, slower is better. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a safe rate of weight loss that will maintain your health and help you keep the weight off for good. You can use your body weight, activity level and current calorie intake to estimate your energy needs for effective weight loss.
Healthy Weight Loss
Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you can theoretically lose up to 104 pounds in 12 months. But, most women don’t have that much weight to lose, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends losing only 10 percent of your body weight and maintaining that weight loss for six months before losing any more. This means a 160-pound woman who loses 16 pounds should maintain that weight loss for six months before attempting to lose more. This strategy will help prevent you from regaining the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose.
To lose 1 to 2 pounds per week you need to create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. The best way to do this is to decrease your caloric intake and exercise daily. If you normally eat 2,300 calories per day, drop your intake down to 1,300 to 1,800 calories daily. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while most women will lose weight eating just 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day, active women and women who weigh 165 pounds or more should aim for 1,200 to 1,600 calories each day to safely lose weight without feeling hungry.
Rapid Weight Loss
Severely restricting your food intake will lead to rapid weight loss. According to the Weight-control Information Network, dropping your energy intake to 800 calories or less per day can help you lose 3 to 5 pounds per week, but it can cause unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and gallstones. For this reason—and because very low-calorie diets have to be carefully planned to prevent malnutrition—use very low-calorie diets only if you’re supervised by a doctor. Even with very low-calorie diets, you should still aim to maintain your weight loss after losing 10 percent of your initial body weight.
While cutting your calories is the most important determinant of your weight loss success, adding exercise to your program can increase your strength and energy level, reduce body fat, increase muscle mass and help you maintain your weight loss long term. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends participating in 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity most days of the week to keep that lost weight off for good.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: How are Overweight and Obesity Treated?
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: American Dietetic Association Publishes Evidence-based Nutrition Practice Guidelines for Registered Dietitians
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- Weight-control Information Network: Very Low-Calorie Diets
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.