Walk by most any magazine rack and you’ll see weight loss promises that seem to be too good to be true: “Lose 10 pounds in a week.” “Lose a pound a day!” “Lose 21 pounds this month!”
How fast can you safely lose weight?
The answer to that is complex.
Let’s start with the amazing-sounding promises that we all wish were true: Don’t rely on them. Here’s why:
1. Losing weight really fast sounds great. But losing weight quickly for the short-term can be misleading—for example, some fad diets stake their claims on the likelihood that you’ll drop a lot of water weight. That’s not true fat loss.
2. Lasting and long-term weight management requires making changes to your life that take time. Not many people can change their shopping and cooking routine, their eating habits, sleep routine, exercise and activity habits, manage stress, keep up with their families, and maintain a diary all at once. It’s more likely you’ll make changes slowly, and that you’ll have try a few different routines for each before discovering what really works for you. No diet can predict how long those important lifestyle changes will take to test and establish. In other words, lifestyle modification (which is the core treatment principle in weight management) includes: diet, exercise, and behavior tools. Diet can induce early and rapid weight loss, however without consistent and long-term efforts in exercise and behavior the weight loss is temporary.
4. Fad diets that promise quick results aren’t taking into account your unique physiology, habits, and health. Your current body size, for example, impacts how much weight you can lose. Add to the list things like your medical and weight loss history, your basal metabolic rate, your activity level, hormonal changes, medications you’re taking, your stress level, your sleep habits… and it’s easy to see how some promises can’t really tell you how much you’ll lose.
5. Some weeks you’ll see results, and some weeks you won’t. You may hit a plateau. When that happens, a diet with big promises can’t deliver anything but disappointment and a guilt trip that you don’t need. Your body changes as you lose, and your weight loss program should change, too.
The general wisdom of losing 1 to 2 pounds a week, or 1 to 2 percent of your total body weight per week, remains a good guideline.
There are safe ways to lose weight at a faster rate—people who have obesity can seek out medical treatment from an obesity specialist. Under supervision, treatments such as prescription medications and comprehensive weight loss programs based on meal replacements (such as very low calorie diets) can result in faster weight loss which may be sustained long-term. You’ll definitely want a care provider on your side to administer these treatments and monitor you as you progress. If you’re looking for a physician who can help, contact Mettā™ Weight Management.