You’ve more than likely heard that a safe weight loss pace is between 1-2 pounds/week. However, who in their right mind is going to choose 1 pound/week when 2 pounds/week is safe too? If you ask 100 people that want to lose weight what pace they’d like to lose it at, at least 90% of them are going to choose 2 pounds. Is this realistic for everyone though?
Is It Possible to Lose 2 lbs a Week?
I get a lot of questions that go something like this:
I have so and so event coming up xx days from now. I’d like to lose xx pounds. Is this going to be possible?
More times than not, my answer is yes – it is possible, but it’s not probable. These lofty goals of 2 lbs/week (or more) are possible for the people who have dieted down to single digit body fats several times in their lives (think bodybuilders). They have their bodies down to a science and know exactly where they’re going to be in xx month’s time. For the average person who has never been (or recently been) at their goal weight before, there is going to be a lot of trial and error. For the most part, they need to cut their expectations in half.
Depends on Your Starting Point
For the person that is starting off at a very high body fat – say above 30%, losing 2 pounds a week is not unrealistic at all. In fact, it’s possible that you could lose weight at an even faster pace at the beginning, especially as you drop excess water weight. For the person who is in the teen % body fat, 2 pounds/week might be a lofty goal. However, even that depends on several factors. The biggest one though – is your weight.
Use Body Fat as Your Guide – Not Weight
Most progress goals are set in weight measurements. For example, you might want to lose 30lbs, or you might want to lose 10lbs in a month. The better way to set your goals is using body fat percentage as your measurement. Let’s take a look at an example:
Take a 150lb female at 20% body fat. She currently holds 30 pounds of fat on her body (150lbs * 20%). Her goal is to lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks at a pace of 2lbs/week. This is a very lofty goal, and one she will very likely never reach. Here’s why:
If she were to maintain her lean body mass of 120lbs (150lbs – 30lbs of fat), and lose 10lbs of fat, that would put her at 120lbs of lean body mass and 20lbs of fat (30lbs of original fat mass – 10lbs fat mass lost). Her new body stats would be 140lbs at 14% body fat. Losing 6% body fat in 5 week’s time would be an amazing transformation.
She would be much better off setting her goals in body fat percentage measurements. A good guide is .5-1% body fat per week. If you are reaching the 1%/week mark, you are doing extremely well. For most people though, .5% is much more realistic and attainable.
Now, let’s take another look at the example using .5% as the goal. Her starting stats are 150lbs at 20% body fat. To lose .5% each week for 5 weeks would total 2.5% body fat lost (.5% * 5 weeks). To maintain a lean body mass of 120lbs and be at 17.5% body fat (20% body fat – goal of .5%/week for 5 weeks), she would end up at the finishing stats of 145lbs and 17.5% body fat.
That’s Why You Should Measure Your Body Fat
So, this person lost 5lbs over the course of 5 weeks. That’s a pace of 1lb/week. This is the scenario much more people are likely to reach. Do yourself a favor and get some body fat calipers, and get in the habit of measuring your body fat. You will learn a lot about your body.
The scale shows you nothing but weight. It can’t show you the differences in fat and lean body mass. Having these two measurements tilts the power of information back in your favor. With this information you can set realistic goals, make smart adjustments to your diet and exercise program, and break through plateaus as they come upon you.
Be smart about the goals you set for yourself. Reaching your goals gives you the added motivation to continue changing your lifestyle. If you start off with lofty, unrealistic goals, you are dooming yourself to failure. Weight loss is such a mental game, and the difference between succeeding and giving up can simply be a matter of meeting realistic expectations.