The weight-loss deadline you've set -- whether it's a wedding, spring break or a reunion -- requires you to lose 2.2 pounds per week. Diligent exercise and significant calorie restriction may allow you to reach this goal, which is only slightly higher than the 1 to 2 pounds per week recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people are not large enough or active enough to safely sustain the calorie deficit of 1,100 calories per day required to lose 2.2 pounds -- or 1 kilogram -- a week. If you have the time, the willpower and the metabolism to successfully meet this goal, use a sensible whole-foods diet and structured physical activity to help you.
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What It Takes to Lose Weight
To lose just 1 pound, you must create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. For a 2.2-pound weight loss per week -- the same as 1 kilogram -- you must create a deficit of 7,700 calories total, or 1,100 per day. Take in fewer calories than you burn to create such a deficit. You can cut calories from meals and beverages, exercise to burn more calories or combine both strategies.
The problem with trying only to trim calories to lose weight is that you may end up depriving yourself of valuable nutrients and energy. Not everyone burns enough calories daily to be able to healthfully sustain an 1,100-calorie deficit by cutting back on food alone. For example, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2010 note that most adults burn somewhere between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day. Younger, more active males fall on the higher end of that range and can reduce 1,100 calories while still consuming a fair amount of food. But, if you're a sedentary woman over the age of 50 who burns 1,600 calories per day, reducing 1,100 calories from your diet will leave you subsisting on 500 calories per day, which is simply not enough.
Avoid Extreme Deprivation
Professor of Psychology at Yale University, Kelly Brownell, told Shape magazine in 2009 that no one should try to lose weight by consuming less than 1,200 calories per day. Even if you can manage to stick to such a meager caloric intake, you may find yourself missing important nutrients including calcium and folate. You also may not have the energy to exercise and this could spur the loss of muscle, instead of primarily fat, as you drop weight.
Even if you can safely trim 1,100 calories daily from your diet, it may be challenging to maintain. A more reasonable 500- to 750-calorie deficit -- which still yields a 1- to 1 1/2-pound loss per week loss -- may be more doable for most people. Trying to maintain an aggressive weight-loss rate of 2.2 pounds per week can be overwhelming and stressful. In the long run, this aggressive weight-loss rate could lead to long-term failure because the calorie deficit is too difficult to maintain.
Eating to Lose 2.2 Pounds Per Week
If you're committed to the goal of a 2.2-pound loss per week and it's possible for you to create an 1,100-calorie deficit safely, refine your eating habits. How many calories you consume a day depends on how many you're burning, but make the calories you do eat come from nutrient-dense whole foods. You don't have room for nutrient-poor foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugar, or from saturated and trans fats.
Each meal should consist of a serving of lean protein. According to a study published in a 2012 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, protein also helps you maintain feelings of fullness and satisfaction, even when you're limiting your caloric intake. Protein also keeps your metabolic fire burning and spares muscle loss when dieting. Options for lean protein include white-meat poultry, tempeh, tofu, white fish, lentils, lean beef and eggs. Serve the protein with lots of fresh green vegetables -- such as spinach, asparagus and broccoli -- and about 1/2 cup of whole grains -- including brown rice or quinoa -- or a starchy vegetable -- such as sweet potato or green peas. If you are ravenous, eat more of the leafy greens, as they are low in calories, but are nutrient dense and full of fiber to help fill you up.
For snacks, partake in a serving of low-fat yogurt, fresh berries or a scant handful of nuts. Nuts, along with olive oil and avocado, provide healthy unsaturated fats that are important for nutrient absorption and brain function. Aim for 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories to come from healthy fats, says the American Heart Association, even when you're trying to lose weight.
More Physical Activity to Lose Weight
Most people will need to increase their physical activity to achieve a caloric deficit that yields 2.2 pounds of weight loss per week. Weight training two to three times per week helps you create muscle that boosts your metabolism and spares the loss of muscle mass. Cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, also helps burn off calories so that you lose weight faster. Aim for at least 30 minutes most days per week, but more than this will afford greater calorie burning and greater weight loss. One or two workouts per week that involve high-intensity intermittent exercise, or HIIT, also provides a rev of your metabolism for several hours post workout and may also help your body oxidize fat more readily, explains a paper published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Obesity. Do HIIT by alternating short bouts of very intense cardiovascular exercise with short periods of rest. Get the okay from your physician before undertaking this type of intense exercise.
The more you can move all day long, the more calories you'll burn to create your 1,100-calorie daily deficit. Get up and walk around at least every hour if you have a desk job. Pace while you're on the phone, park further out in the parking lot and walk when doing your errands, whenever possible.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010: Balancing Calories to Lose Weight
- Shape: 10 Things You Don't Know About Calories
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
- Joy Bauer: 11 Ways to Rev Your Weight-Loss Engine
- British Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein - Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss