Why You Should Stop Trying To Lose 2 Pounds A Week
How many times have you heard that losing two pounds per week is a good weight loss goal? It seems to be the understanding anywhere weight loss is discussed, except I’m not exactly sure where it came from or why it’s so accepted.
When I think about my own weight loss, I can’t help but cringe to think how it would’ve been different had I placed that kind of stress on myself. Some weeks I did lose two pounds, other weeks I lost nothing, and I’m sure there were a couple weeks where I gained a pound or two. And that is what sustainable weight loss looks like. Even in ‘maintenance,’ people don’t weigh the same amount every single day.
Losing two pounds a week, every week until you reach your ‘goal weight’ is unrealistic if you’re looking for lasting results. Striving for two pounds per week is like a sprint, and healthy, sustainable weight loss is more of a marathon. Below I’m sharing why trying to lose two pounds a week doesn’t often result in lasting weight loss and what you can do instead.
Looking for a simpler, more sustainable approach? This guide will help you get started!
The Intensity Isn’t Sustainable
You might be surprised by how drastic the changes actually are in order to lose 2 pounds. And that’s just for two pounds, think about doing it every week for a sustained period of time. It can be intense!
2 pounds = 7,000 calories
To burn off 7,000 calories without changing your diet, you could jog about 70 miles or walk 110 miles a week, on top of any activity you might do already.
To create that deficit with food alone, you'd have to eat significantly less, considering a glass of milk has only 146 calories, a slice of bread has around 75 calories, a serving of chips has about 150 calories and a serving of peanut butter has a little under 200 calories. Even if you’re used to eating fast food or takeout once a week (~2,000 calories) and replace it with something healthier, you’d be left still needing a deficit of over a 5,000 calories.
So even if you can maintain this intensity for a month or two, how long is that intensity sustainable? Through the journey, your motivation and dedication will vary, some weeks feeling really motivated, and others lacking it. Having a less drastic approach creates more freedom in the process and makes new habits stick.
Restriction Is Counter Productive
When someone tells you can’t have something, it typically makes you want it more. This is exactly what happens during restrictive/low calorie diets, especially when it’s something you’re used to having frequently and is readily available. In order to meet the two pound weight loss goal, many foods in your diet would be restricted, especially foods that are satisfying and caloric (which, doesn’t equal unhealthy).
Restriction is counter productive because it prompts a scarcity mindset within abundance. When something is actually scarce, it’s more valuable and not easily over-consumed. When something is abundant and easy to get, and you’re forcing scarcity, you’ll just think about and want it more and have to rely on your willpower alone (read about why willpower won’t help you eat less, here). This is why you might eat something just because it’s there or choose more indulgent foods, even if you aren’t hungry or don’t really want it.
Calories are simply energy for your body. Sustainable weight loss is about strengthening your foundation of health, including supporting healthy hormones and metabolism. Changes in calorie consumption alone, won’t help restore your health.
Calories are important, but so are nutrients, which include macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs) and micronutrients, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s best to avoid eating calorie and carbohydrate dense foods when they’re processed or overly indulgent like chips, ice cream, fast food, takeout and fried foods. But healthy, nutritious foods can also be caloric, like avocados, nuts, olive oil and grass fed butter.
Your body would look, feel and function differently between consuming 1800 calories a day of fried foods, sweets and pizza or that of nutrient dense foods. Which, is why it’s so important to make the distinction between nutrient dense foods and empty calorie foods, even when both may be caloric.
Goals & Expectations
When you expect to make certain changes and lose two pounds a week, what happens when you don’t? People often feel disappointed and like they’ve failed when they don’t achieve their goals, but weight isn’t always controllable (for example, water weight fluctuates hourly depending on hormones, salt sensitivity, response to exercise, stress and sleep).
Also, people expect that their ‘goal weight’ to be an end point where they’ll feel happier. But a certain number on the scale doesn’t bring lasting happiness. This is especially true if you have to sacrifice enjoying life, socializing and food in order to achieve it.
Instead of measuring success through goals that you don’t have direct control over or on the assumption it will make you feel a certain way, make your goals pieces of the overall puzzle. What I mean by that, is to make your goals smaller, short term and habit based, so they’re things you can directly control. This way, it helps you adjust as you go to shape a healthier lifestyle, that fits you, your schedule and your preferences. This is how you actually enjoy the journey in achieving your goals, which is typically unpleasant. Enjoying the process is how you actually reach your goal as well as maintain it.
An example goal would be to eat a healthier/lighter breakfast six out of seven mornings each week. This is a goal that will help you lose weight, but isn’t restrictive and is customizable, so you can still choose to eat what you enjoy, as long as it’s healthy and lighter. Instead of a bagel sandwich, you might have a veggie omelette or a yogurt parfait.
Another example would be to go for a walk 4-5 days a week. If you’re starting a new habit, it’s helpful to make goals with less pressure. Be specific but less intense, like walking 4-5 days a week. This way, you create the habit to fit exercise into your days, but don’t make it so difficult that you choose not to do it in the moment. It’s much harder to stick with a goal of walking 3 miles a day, than it is to simply go for a walk, no matter the distance.
Eating Habit Goal Ideas:
Eat a healthier, lighter breakfast each day
Replace bread with other healthy carbs for most of your meals
Make your favorite takeout meals at home instead
Add a green vegetable to each of your meals
Replace a packaged/processed snack with a real-food snack
Lifestyle Habit Goal Ideas:
Only eat a snack after dinner 3 days a week (instead of everyday)
Walk 5,000 or 10,000 more steps each day (park further from the door, walk alone or with coworkers at your lunch break)
Do squats, lunges and push ups during commercial breaks or while you cook
Find non-food ways to reduce stress (what do you really need?)
Focus on improving your nightly routine and getting better sleep
You can stack multiple goals each week, depending on your level of commitment and motivation. Some weeks you’ll do more and other less but this way, it helps prevent burn out. Each small goal you master, will have a cumulative and synergistic effect with other small goals. Results are inevitable and you’re building the healthy lifestyle that will not only help you lose weight, but keep it off too.
Losing Weight & Maintaining It Should Be One In The Same
I always say to lose weight for good, eat for maintenance. A diet by definition is short term and gives the idea that you can go back to ‘normal life’ afterwards, but in reality you have to create a new normal. And diets don’t help you create that new normal.
There are weeks where you’re busier, you’re more stressed, you’re sick, you lack motivation, go on vacation or have celebrations. This creates so much added stress to navigate while you’re following a specific plan or diet. But when you create new habits, have structure and a more open mindset around health and weight loss, you can navigate challenges and the ups and downs of life with more ease.
In the end, to lose weight you don’t have to restrict your calories to the point where you’re starving or kill yourself in the gym. You’re likely looking to lose weight for good, not yoyo diet. To achieve this, there’s no way around changing your eating and lifestyle habits. Most look at the process as an unpleasant chore, but there are so many ways to create and adopt habits that you actually enjoy, and that stick for life.
Adding the stress of losing a certain amount of weight by a certain time, especially when it’s based on losing two pounds a week, is counter productive. Not only does it make the process less enjoyable, it’s more strenuous (which makes your body hold onto, and put on, more weight). Restrictive diets help you lose weight quickly but aren’t sustainable. Lasting weight loss might be a slower process, but is more enjoyable and easy to maintain.
Are you ready to get started with a different approach, one that doesn’t constantly test your willpower or make you feel restricted? Download my free guide ‘5-Day Real Food Reset,’ which includes a complete meal plan for 5 days and tips to make healthy eating more effortless.