Why You Should Stop Trying To Lose 2 Pounds A Week
When it comes to losing weight, I’ve had the idea, for what seems like my entire life, that a 1-2 pound loss per week is the standard. Diets, programs, workout plans, you name it, are typically set up to help you achieve that goal. I commonly see recommendations by experts and various weight loss programs of 2 pounds per week, sometimes even more, making it seem like any less is a bad thing; something to be disappointed about.
When you really think about what it takes to lose 2 pounds every week, that rule is crazy for weight loss that’ll actually be healthy and sustainable. Here's what I mean...
2 pounds ~ 7000 calories
For example, to burn off 7000 calories without changing your diet, you could run almost 70 miles or walk over 110 miles, on top of what you might already do...every week.
To create that deficit with food, you'd have to eat significantly less, considering a glass of milk has only 146 calories, a piece of bread has 75 calories, a serving of chips has 150 calories and a serving of peanut butter has a little under 200 calories. Even if you eat fast food once a week (~2,000 calories) and cut that out, you’d be left still needing a 5,000 calorie deficit.
So even if you can maintain this intensity for a month or two and lose weight, what happens afterwards?
There are a various issues with trying to lose that much each week; the level of restriction, calories in food over the quality of it, the focus being on what you eat and do, rather than what you need, lack of a specific goal and the drastic change from your normal routine that's involved to achieve it.
It's never pleasant to focus on what you can't have, which is exactly what happens when you remove foods and eating habits from your normal routine overnight. It’s counter productive, a scarcity mindset like that can make you think about food even more than you already do
With a large goal like 2+ pounds per week, you can't simply eat less chips; you wouldn’t be able to eat any chips and then you'd probably think about how much you want chips as you eat an apple or carrot sticks. There's little room for higher calorie foods and indulgent treats, which often leads to overindulging and binges. Diets that are overly restrictive can make you feel trapped and rarely allow you to enjoy food and eating.
Quantity Over Quality
Quality is a big deal to me, and especially when it comes to healthy weight loss. Focusing on calories really misses the whole point.
It's the quality (nutrient density, how it's grown/raised and processed) that matters most and the habits you change in the process that should be the real focus, because this is a better approach to controlling calories. You can still eat high calorie foods (many healthy foods are higher in calories like avocados and nuts) and even some indulgent treats. The key is to also change your habits around food and eating, to eat just enough to satisfy your hunger and appetite.
Many weight loss plans and advice put the priority on what you can eat, what you can't and exercise. But what about what you need and want?
It's better to focus on what makes you feel great, the healthy foods you actually enjoy, the exercises and intensity level you can stick with and eating only when you're hungry and stopping when you're just full. Some days you might eat more, some less and you might need a little chocolate or indulgence to feel satisfied and stay motivated. Focus on how food and eating makes you feel to drive your eating habits rather than feel forced into changes that aren't best for you.
Too Many Changes, Too Fast
Going from your normal eating habits (which have taken a lifetime to develop and are deeply emotional) to diet habits for faster weight loss, often feels uncomfortable and flat out miserable. You might maintain it for a while, especially if you're seeing and feeling results, but as time goes on, it becomes less and less worth it. This is the point where you might feel defeated, like you lost motivation and lack willpower or self control, when in reality, most people cannot undo habits that took 20+ years to build, overnight.
Lack Of Specific, Meaningful Goals
Losing weight quickly isn’t specific enough! It’s common to feel completely overwhelmed by the many ways to create a calorie deficit and either have no real sense of direction or feel like you have to do it all.
It helps to shift the focus to smaller, more meaningful goals, that improve your everyday wellbeing but also help you with longer term goals. These are meaningful goals, that have a purpose now and later. Getting more specific and working on just a couple changes, (improving your food choices, activity level or eating habits) at a time, makes the process so much easier. One week you may feel super motivated and lose 2 pounds, but the next you may lose half a pound, or even none at all. Progress is progress even if it isn’t perfectly consistent.
I’ve shared some examples below of what I mean by specific and meaningful goals/changes.
For food choice changes you could:
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
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
To sum it all up, faster weight loss doesn’t mean better weight loss! It’s often the exact opposite.
Why make losing weight so hard? It's ok to be easier on yourself, slowly replace your habits with healthier ones and to enjoy the process. Losing weight a little slower while feeling happier and less stressed/trapped by restriction is quite an accomplishment! Sustainable success is not reaching the end goal, but rather how you get there (because that’s is the only way you can maintain it!).