A Healthy Weight Loss Per Week

Promises of quick, easy weight loss bombard you from purveyors of fad diets, marketers of diet pills and fitness magazine covers. Shows such as "The Biggest Loser" make it seem as though dropping 10 or even 20 pounds in a week is possible. Sustainable weight loss comes with a gradual approach. Follow sensible nutrition, consume reasonable portion sizes and pursue an active lifestyle to achieve a healthy weight.

Weight Loss Factors 

Everyone burns a basic number of calories per day just to function--pumping blood, eliminating waste and breathing. This is your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and is influenced by your size (larger people burn more calories), muscle mass, genetics, gender and age. In addition to your BMR, every activity you do--from showering to shopping to typing on the computer--burns calories. The amount of calories burned doing a specific movement depends on your intensity level, your size and your efficiency. Exercise contributes to this calorie burn. For example, a 150 pound woman running at a speed of 6 miles per hour on a treadmill (a 10-minute mile) burns about 1,000 calories in an hour. Take in more calories than you expend in a day and you will gain weight, keep intake and output even to maintain your weight and create a calorie deficit to lose weight.

Rate of Loss

Most nutritionists, such as those at Harvard School of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health recommend slow and steady weight loss at a rate of about 1 or 2 pounds per week. To lose just a pound per week, you must burn 3,500 calories more than you consume. You can create this deficit by trimming calories from your daily intake, increasing your activity level or by combining the two. Aim to expend 500 to 1,000 more calories a day than you take in to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Weight Loss Method

A weight loss rate of 1 or 2 pounds per week means you do not have to experience terrible deprivation. The National Institutes of Health warns that women should not take in fewer than 1,200 calories per day and men fewer than 1,500 per day. Cut discretionary calories first--such as soda and sweets--to contribute to your calorie deficit. Fill half your plate with high-volume, low-calorie foods such as green vegetables, one-quarter of your plate with a healthy carbohydrate such as whole grains or sweet potatoes and one-quarter with a lean protein such as skinless poultry or fish. Make exercise a priority--even burning an extra 250 calories a day in a 40-minute walk--will help contribute to weight loss.

Benefits of Gradual Loss

Gradual weight loss is recommended because it usually encourages the formation of new habits. Losing 1 or 2 pounds per week requires some diligence, but not so much that you become discouraged and give up on your plan within a few days. Severe deprivation, as is often recommended on fad diets that promise you'll lose 5 or 10 pounds in a week, can cause you to become uncontrollably hungry and binge. When you deprive yourself on a very low-calorie diet to lose weight faster, your body starts to cannibalize lean body mass instead of just fat. A gradual approach allows your body to burn mostly fat stores--especially if you exercise along with your modified meal plan.

Moving Forward

Some people who make drastic changes in diet or exercise levels might drop more weight in the first few weeks of effort. Remember, making changes for only a short time may yield results initially, but when you return to old habits, your weight will return. Researchers at UCLA surveyed data from 31 different diet studies and reported in an April 2007 issue of “American Psychologist” that the majority of dieters regain lost weight within a few years. Making small changes to your diet that you can live with forever and creating a more active lifestyle, finding movement that you enjoy, is the only sure way achieve and sustain a healthy weight