How Fast Should You Lose Weight?

how fast can you lose weight
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A smart dieter recently sent a question about how fast to lose weight. Her confusion is shared by many others who are trying to lose weight quickly. She writes:

I always hear you should only lose one or two pounds a week. But I often hear about diets that work much quicker than that and I've seen people on television who lose ten or more pounds a week. Can you tell me how fast I should lose weight?

How Fast to Lose Weight

The answer about how quickly to lose weight can vary from person to person. It can also depend on where you are in the weight loss process. But if you're seeing rapid weight loss on television reality shows or in online ads, you need to understand that it is usually unrealistic to expect those same results.

In some extreme situations, dieters can lose ten or even 20 pounds per week. But extreme is the key word here. The people on many reality shows and who lose weight for advertisements go to extraordinary measures to lose a lot of weight in a limited amount of time. And they are sometimes paid for their efforts. The circumstances that you see on television are often not the same circumstances that you deal with in real life.

In addition, the people on some of those television shows are monitored by physicians. They exercise under the supervision of trainers (for up to eight hours per day) and they follow a very strict, calorie-controlled diet.

They also live with cameras following them around to record every nibble and treat.

But as you may have seen in media headlines, these extreme weight-loss efforts are usually not sustainable for an extended period of time. Many weight loss show contestants regain the weight after they return home to their normal lives.


Quick Weight Loss Diets That Work

Of course, not everything you see on television is likely to fail. Many widely accepted commercial weight loss programs have adopted new diet plans that encourage fast weight loss in the early stages. And there are some diets like Atkins and The South Beach Diet that have quick weight loss programmed into the early phases of the eating plans. Some people on these plans lose up to 14 pounds in two weeks.

So do these quick weight loss diets work? Many times they do. But the short-term fast weight loss is followed by a transition to a long-term maintenance plan for slower and more reasonable weight loss. So, after the introductory phases, weight loss tapers off to about one to two pounds per week.

Another type of quick weight loss program is a very low calorie diet (VLCD) that is supervised by a physician. Doctors will occasionally put a patient on a liquid diet of 800-calories per day to prepare the patient for surgery or for other medical reasons. But these weight loss programs are not safe for everyone and should only be followed under medical supervision.

Lastly, those who have had weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass or lap band surgery often experience weight loss at a much higher rate than one or two pounds per week, but eventually their rate of loss will slow down, too.

Quick Weight Loss Diet Fads

So which quick weight loss diet programs don't work? The ones that promise the greatest results. These are the diets that claim you can lose 20 pounds in a week or lose 10 pounds in three days. I've tried several of these programs and none of them have produced the results that I expected.

When you hear about your friends losing weight quickly on the latest diet plan, they are probably following one of these fad diets. Much of what is lost in those few weeks of a fad diet is water weight. That means that very little body fat has been lost. Fad diets can also result in the loss of lean muscle, something that you need more of, not less, to maintain a healthy weight.

Additionally, losing and regaining weight quickly (known as weight-cycling) can lead to increased risk of certain health problems, including gallstones. Weight lost during a fad diet or any other extreme weight-loss method almost always returns, along with a few extras.

How to Lose Weight at a Healthy Rate

Weight loss at a rate of one to two pounds per week is most often recommended.  Why?  Because experts have found that rate to be realistic and doable for most dieters.

The changes required for weight loss at a faster rate are not sustainable and are almost always unhealthy. So how fast should you lose weight? As quickly as your body will allow with a healthy diet and exercise program. And if you're unsure of a weight loss pill or product that you see on television, ask your health care provider. Your doctor is often the best source of information about what is best for your health.

*Edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert

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