How much Weight can I lose per week? One of life’s immortal questions. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Should I aim to lose two pounds a week or six? I know. Conventional wisdom advises you to aim for one to two pounds. The problem is, this may or may not be healthy for you. You have two better questions you should be asking. One, is “How much Fat should I lose per week?” Two is, “What is a healthy amount of weight to lose per week?”
How much Fat can I lose per week?
This is the real question, not how much weight should I lose per week. As discussed in my article Can I lose ten pounds in two weeks, you should never aim to lose weight. You should aim to lose fat. A visual will help us here to put things into context.
Number of Pounds You Want to Lose
# of Calories You Need to Burn
Minutes of Jogging to Burn Calories
# of Oreos (To Not Eat)
*Jogging are calories burned for a 150-pound male. Each Oreo contains 45 calories.
This little chart will put things into perspective. This is assuming a pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, which is a low estimate. To lose a pound of fat, you must jog 514 minutes. No walking, a jogging pace. That is equal to the number of calories in 78 Oreos! Think about that, that is like not eating entire packages of Oreos a week. Can you realistically cut that many calories from your diet? Are you fit enough to jog 514 minutes per week?
The magic number of one to two pounds of weight loss, or more importantly, fat loss, means you need to either burn, or not eat, an absurd number of calories. This all boils down to how much fat you need to lose, and you BMR (Resting Metabolism). If you burn 3,000 calories a day as a 300-pound male, then sure, eating 2,000 a day is not going to be impossible and you easily can lose two pounds a week with any trace of a diet and no exercise.
With exercise, you can push that to three or more pounds of fat easily.
For a 120-pound female, who has a BMR of 1,200 calories a day, losing two pounds a week is nearly impossible. The math just does not make sense. This is where we get to the question of “What is a healthy amount of weight to lose per week?” Is it healthy to aim for two pounds? For the 120-pound female, you need to be at a 700-daily calorie deficit to lose two pounds a week. That is eating only 500 calories a day.
That is not enough Protein to maintain muscle mass, so you will not lose two pounds of Fat. This means it is not healthy. A rate of two pounds a week is not healthy for a 120-pound female. On the other hand, for the 300-pound male, two pounds a week is not enough.
Two Pounds is Not Enough?
Losing two pounds a week, for a 300-pound male, is essentially skipping a single meal a day. The problem is this approach is not inspiring a lifestyle or long term dietary change. After six months, the person who approaches dieting this way will be back at their original weight. This type of dieting, or what I like to call, “Watching what I eat” is doomed for failure.
This approach will teach no new habits. If you aim for three pounds, and try it through diet alone, you will be hungry. Half your normal calorie intake will force you, as the dieter, to decide if you want one Big Mac meal, or three meals of two chicken breasts, all the broccoli you can eat and a sweet potato. If you are exercising as well, you will physically change your routine to burn calories.
These lifestyle changes are how you learn to change what made you be in the position of losing weight in the first place. For this reason, I always suggest being aggressive when trying to lose weight, and accept you will fail. If you do it in a healthy way and try, you will reach your goal. Failure will help propel you to keep trying harder and stick with it.
What is a Healthy Amount of Weight to Lose Per Week?
The most important question has the simplest answer. For long term success, you want to aim for a number which requires both a dietary change and a lifestyle change. It will force you to change what you eat, how much you eat, and exercise. These results multiply over time.
Along with the weight loss, the exercise will raise dopamine levels, making you feel good to keep going. The healthier foods will make your body feel better and help you keep moving. Cutting out the carbohydrates, fat and sugar to consume less calories will help break your addiction on unhealthy food. The holistic approach of forcing diet and exercise is the only sure-fire way to lose the weight and keep it off. If you can’t do both, start with what you can. It is only unhealthy if you do nothing.
How much Weight can I lose per week? Depending on your size, at least a pound. Most likely a lot more.
Find all the resources used in this article and the scientific basis of all our article at The Science Behind Fitness.