Why You Should Stop Trying To Lose 2 Pounds A Week
When you want to lose weight, there’s endless diet options to help you do it quickly. This seems attractive when you’re feeling motivated, but motivation always comes and goes. Fast weight loss isn’t sustainable. And losing two pounds a week is fast weight loss.
When I think about my own weight loss, I can’t help but wonder how it would’ve been different if I expected to lose two pounds a week, and placed that pressure 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,’ (aka normal life) people don’t weigh the same amount every single day.
Losing two pounds a week until you reach your goal weight is often counterproductive 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 simple and sustainable approach to lose weight for good? This guide will help you get started!
The Intensity Isn’t Sustainable
You might be surprised by how drastic the changes 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 it sustainable? Through the journey, your motivation and dedication will vary, some weeks you’ll feel more motivated, and others you won’t. Having a gentler approach allows for more freedom and joy in the process, which help make new habits stick.
Restriction Is CounterProductive
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 eating frequently and is readily available to you. In order to meet the two pound per week 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 counterproductive because it’s 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 restrict it, it’s easy to over consume, so you’ll rely on your willpower alone to avoid it (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. Simply eating a low calorie diet 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 limit eating processed and indulgent foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates 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. These can still fit into a healthy weight loss diet.
Your body would look, feel and function differently by consuming 1800 calories a day of fried foods, sweets and pizza than it would of nutrient dense foods. Which, is why it’s so important to choose nutrient dense foods over empty calorie foods, even when both may be similar in calories.
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 you can’t directly control your weight (for example, water weight fluctuates hourly depending on hormones, salt intake, exercise, stress and sleep).
Also, you might expect your ‘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, make them smaller, easier to achieve, steps that will help you lose weight. Consistency is key so small, habit based goals, that you can directly control are more effective. 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 makes it sustainable.
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 and a piece of whole wheat toast 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 over going to a difficult workout class. 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 go for a 10 minute 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 week day meal plan guide which includes a complete meal plan for 5 days and tips to make healthy eating more effortless.