How Many Pounds Can You Safely Lose in One Week?

Is "Biggest Loser" weight loss realistic?

by Danielle Lagow for DietsInReview.com

Like a lot of things in life, losing weight can be stressful…especially for the impatient.

Though fad diets aren’t supposed to be the best way to go about losing weight, sometimes they’re hard to turn down when they make such lofty weight-loss claims. The reality of these quick-fix plans is that once you lose the weight and quit the pill/potion/program, you’re more likely to gain it right back than keep it off. And it’s easy to say you won’t be able to handle any fad diet long because they’re just not realisttic. That’s why they’re called fads. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week is the healthiest way to go. If one pound equals 3,500 calories, then divide that by seven (days in a week), which means cutting out 500 calories per day. That might be through food, more exercise, or a combination of both. 

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The problem with this “1-2” number is that it’s going by the "average person" with the "average diet" and lifestyle. It doesn’t pertain to those who specifically weigh 130 pounds on a healthy diet, and it doesn’t pertain to those who specifically weigh 300 pounds drinking regular soda three times a day. According to Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, the amount of fat that can be lost per week is determined by many different factors.

“Weight losses tend to be relative to body size. The more body fat you carry, the more likely you’ll be able to safely lose more than two pounds per week,” said Venuto at PhysicalLiving.com. “Therefore, we could individualize our weekly guideline a bit by recommending a goal of 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week or up to 1% of your total weight. If you weighed 300 pounds, that would be 3 pounds per week.”

Again, these are more estimates that do not take into consideration how each individual’s diet currently stands.

There’s also the factor of high water weight loss that plays a large role here. 

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“Sometimes at the start of a diet, there is a pronounced loss of water weight. It is especially true when the weight-loss diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrates,” says DietsInReview.com resident dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD. “But the gain and loss of water is transient and has nothing to do with excess body fat. Eventually, weight stabilizes and weight loss slows down.”

For every one-gram of carbohydrate, about three grams of water is held. That’s why low-carbohydrate diets allow such large drops on the scale.

“Regardless of weight on the scale, everyone needs a diet that meets the needs for energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibers and all other components of food,” says Hartley. “When calories are too low, fat-burning muscle is sacrificed for fuel and binge-eating often ensues.” Therefore, the best way to go about losing weight safely is to have a healthy diet and incorporate exercise regularly (but realistically). Once you’ve got these two things down, let the weight take care of itself.

More from Diets In Review:

Kirstie Alley Prioritizes Energy Over Weight to Measure a Healthy Lifestyle

Paleo and Crossfit Combine for Explosive Weight Loss Results

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