Losing 30 pounds in three months is a lofty goal, but is achievable if you've got the grit, determination -- and a lot of weight to lose. A three-month deadline puts your rate of loss at an average of about 2 1/2 pounds per week, just slightly above the ideal range of 1 to 2 pounds per week that's recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can safely lose weight at this faster rate, as long as you choose a diet plan that emphasizes diligent portion control, healthy food choices and exercise. Always check with your personal physician before beginning a diet-and-exercise program to be sure it's appropriate for you.
Potential for Losing 30 Pounds in 3 Months
Weight loss happens when you reduce your calorie intake below what you burn. To lose 30 pounds in three months, you'll have to create a deficit of 8,750 calories per week -- or about 1,250 calories per day. For the average adult, who requires about 2,000 calories per day to maintain the current weight, a 1,250-calorie deficit is unhealthy and unsustainable because it would leave just 750 calories on which to live. Registered dietitian, Joanne Larsen, on her website AsktheDietitian.com, warns against eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day because of the potential for nutrient deficiency, poor energy and muscle loss. In general, men need more calories per day than women, even when trying to lose weight.
But, the larger you are, the more calories you burn, so, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, chances are you burn more than the 2,000-calorie-per-day average.Consult with your physician or use an online basal metabolic calculator, which estimates your daily calorie maintenance needs, to ensure you burn at least 2,450 calories daily. This ensures you can safely trim the 1,250 calories daily to lose 30 pounds in three months.
Exercise to Assist in Weight Loss
If trimming the required number of calories is not possible for your frame, combine eating less with increased physical activity. Exercise boosts your daily calorie burn significantly. Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic work -- such as brisk walking -- on most days to burn more calories, along with regular strength training to maintain muscle. You can then reduce calories by only 500 to 1,000 per day to achieve the goal deficit of 1,250 calories per day.
How much of an increase in caloric burn you get from physical activity depends on your size and the intensity of the exercise. Note that if you're already physically active and maintaining your weight, you'll need to add more exercise duration or intensity to create a deficit that promotes loss. Consulting a personal trainer is helpful for recommendations about what types of exercise will benefit you the most and be safe for your current level of physical fitness.
Choosing a Weight-Loss Diet Plan
A sensible weight-loss plan teaches you reasonable, maintainable habits so you'll stay in control of your weight your whole life. Drastic measures may bring immediate results, but they're more likely to lead to serious consequences, such as low energy, muscle loss, irritability, diminished immunity, inability to concentrate and binges. If you don't learn to manage your eating and exercise, chances are you'll gain all 30 pounds back -- and possibly more. Go with a plan that's sensible, doesn't ban entire food groups, and is appropriate for your lifestyle and schedule. For example, a plan that requires lots of nightly cooking when you work 12-hour days and have children may be unsustainable and set you up for failure.
Diet plans that provide a tool for monitoring -- whether it's a food journal, a counselor or online tracker -- help keep you from straying, too. To lose a significant amount of weight in a relatively short period, like three months, accountability is key.
Sample Diet Plan
How many calories you eat to lose the 30 pounds in three months is really tailored to your size, calorie needs and activity level. A sensible approach, though, usually includes eating a 2- to 4-ounce serving of protein, at least 1/2 cup of whole grains or starchy vegetable, 1 to 2 teaspoons of an unsaturated fat, and 1 to 2 cups of leafy or nonstarchy veggies at each meal. Quality protein foods include white fish, chicken breast, lean steak, white-meat pork, tofu and egg whites. Opt for brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and 100 percent whole-wheat bread for whole grains or sweet potatoes, winter squash or peas as starchy vegetables. Leafy and nonstarchy vegetables include lettuce, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, green beans, asparagus. For healthy, unsaturated fats, choose olive and avocado oil, nut butters, raw nuts or seeds and avocados.
Your daily meal plan might consist of an egg white omelet with chopped peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes and a slice of whole-wheat toast topped with 2 teaspoons of almond butter; a tossed spinach salad with chicken breast, quinoa, olive oil and cucumbers; and flank steak, wild rice and steamed broccoli for dinner.
Although you're trying to lose weight quickly, you can still indulge in snacks. Make them nutrient-rich choices, though, that are portion-controlled to keep calories low. Low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit -- especially berries, which are low in calories -- whole-grain crackers, hummus and almonds are some options to choose from. The number of calories you eat at snack time depends on your daily calorie limits.
Weight Loss Pitfalls
Your daily calorie needs are calculated according to your size. As your size shrinks with weight loss, your calorie needs change. To keep losing weight, you'll need to adjust your calorie intake downward every time you lose five to 10 pounds. Larsen notes that for every five pounds lost, you'll need to decrease your intake by 25 to 50 calories. So, if you successfully lose weight when eating 1,600 calories per day at first, once you lose 15 to 20 pounds, you may have to reduce your intake by an additional 100 to 200 calories to keep dropping weight.
Even if you don't reach your goal weight in three months, know that small changes can make a big health impact. The CDC notes that even losing 5 percent of your total body weight can lead to improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- AsktheDietitian.com: Overweight & Weight Loss
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Losing 10 Pounds a Week Safe?