Without fail, at the end of an initial consultation with a new nutrition counseling client, after all the goals are set, I ask them if they have any last questions, and I know what’s coming.
98% of the time, for a client whose primary goal is too loose weight, their last question is:
How long should it take me to lose X weight?
And internally I sigh, because I know without fail the answer I’m about to give them will define their expectations and hopes as my client for the next 3-6 months. I fear that when I tell them my honest opinion, they will regret their purchase with me and wish they had hired a different coach. But, I can’t help but tell them both what I believe to be the truth and the silver lining to the truth.
What is a safe amount of weight loss per week?
Let’s break it down.
Most experts recommend 1-2lbs a week as “safe weight loss.” But, a lot, and I mean a lot, goes into the word safe and how you define it. When I make time recommendations for my clients, here is what I’m thinking about when I think of the word safe:
- can you still enjoy social gatherings?
- how much weight do you have to lose to start with? (the more total weight loss, the more you can lose per week initially)
- are you making lifestyle changes, or are you dieting?
In general, the faster you lose weight, the FASTER you gain it back. I’ve never met a single person who lost 30lbs or more in less than 3 months who kept it off for longer than a year, definitely not five years. Not one single person, ever. I’ve never even read about this person.
You know what else? I’ve never met a person who put on 30lbs in 3 months who didn’t have some underlying medical conditions (being diagnosed hypothyroid or a hormone imbalance such as menopause or PCOS.) In most cases, it takes much more than 90 days to gain 30lbs. So, it should probably take your more than 90 days to lose it. The only nonmedical reason I’ve seen for people gaining weight that quickly is if they did an extreme diet to lose, say 15lbs, and when it was over, they gained 30lbs back. Now, that definitely happens, which is the whole point of today’s post.
Because the slower you lose the weight, the less likely you are to gain it back at all.
Why Is Slow Weight Loss Better?
First, fast weight loss usually means strict dieting or programming that is difficult to maintain over the long term. As soon as the program is over, even if you ease back in, likely, you won’t be able to sustain the results. The stricter the program, the harder it is to maintain the results.
Second, because your metabolism notices fast weight loss, and not in a good way when you lose weight SUPER fast, your brain assumes starvation. Not the self-inflicted starvation in the land of plentiful that’s actually occurring, it assumes back in the day potato famine starvation. It kicks in survival mechanisms disrupting optimal hormone balance and turning down thyroid activity to preserve scarce resources. To the extent this happens varies in each individual, and we don’t know how long you have to starve yourself for this to occur. Either way, even with short-term fast weight loss, the body notices, and when you start eating again, it aims to replete your resources if not build on them should another starvation period occur.
So, the moral of the story here is the faster you lose, the faster you gain back (plus some.)
The slower you lose, the less likely you will gain it back, and the easier it is maintained.
So how much? HOW MUCH?
Alright, so I’ll answer the question. Typically I recommend:
- If you have 25lbs or less to lose that it should take 3-6 months.
- If you have 25-50lbs to lose that it should take 6-12 months.
- And if you have over 50lbs to lose that it should take a year or longer.
Is that slower than typical recommendations and typical claims on most websites that are part of the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry? Yes, a hell of a lot slower. And it’s a total b*!ch.
What I’m asking of you is to change your entire lifestyle, all your eating habits, the food you chose, your emotions regarding food, the way you think about food, the way you interact at social gatherings, EVERYTHING. And it’s not temporary. It’s forever.
But that’s what makes it worth it. You can finally get off the yo-yo dieting train, and you can be at peace knowing you’ll never start another diet again. You’ll be rid of the weight and the mental strain of it for good. But, to do that, you have to commit to a longer-term plan of action vs. a short diet with quick results. Remember quick results = quick failure.
This is why I include my 52 Healthy Habits Series with my 3 or 6-month coaching packages. It’s to keep my clients moving forward with lifestyle change even after our initial program has ended together!
But, Wait, I Need to Lose Weight Now!
That’s not to say these recommendations are hard and fast. I tell them to you and my clients, knowing you are an adult and can make your own damn decisions.
You may have an event coming up, like your kid’s wedding or a high school reunion. I get that. That’s why I offer stricter programs with more controlled results like my custom meal plans or macro calculations. But even still, the max weight loss is 2lbs per week. I never calculate lower than that because I won’t be the one to damage your metabolism. I also support my one on one nutrition clients if they want to count macros to help them get a little faster results, but almost no one wants to do that long term. If they do, that’s fine, but most people don’t want to.
So, that’s my two cents on how fast you should lose weight! Let me know if you have any questions, and you may also enjoy these posts on weight loss I’ve written before:
- Why 1200 Calories Is Not The Right Number
- Why Your Hormones Need Carbs
- What’s Up With Hormones and Weight Gain
- Is Fasting Bad For You?
- How to Get Off Keto Without Gaining Weight