Losing 30 pounds in three months is a lofty goal, but it's achievable if you've got the motivation. 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 recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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.
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Always check with your doctor before starting a diet and exercise program to be sure that it's safe and healthy for you.
Is It Possible to Lose 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 calorie 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 their current weight, a 1,250-calorie deficit is unhealthy and unsustainable because it would leave just 750 calories on which to live. At minimum, you should be eating between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day, depending on your sex, age and other factors.
But 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 doctor 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.
Get Regular Exercise for 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, per the Mayo Clinic.
Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — such as brisk walking every day — to burn more calories. You can also try running, cycling and swimming, which, when mixed with strength training like lifting weights or using resistance bands, can help you maintain muscle while losing fat, according to a January 2018 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
If you burn an additional 250 to 750 calories per day through exercise, you then only have to reduce your caloric intake by 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.
Choose a Weight-Loss Diet Plan
A sensible weight-loss plan teaches you reasonable, sustainable habits so you can maintain a healthy weight long term. Drastic measures may bring immediate results, but losing weight too quickly is likely to lead to serious consequences, such as low energy, muscle loss, irritability, nutrient deficiencies, dissatisfaction with your body and risk of eating disorders, per Oklahoma State University.
Keeping up with balanced eating and exercise will help increase your chances of maintaining a healthy weight for your height. 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.
Look for diet plans that provide a tool for monitoring, like a food or workout journal, counselor or online tracker to help keep you accountable.
A Sample Diet Plan to Lose 30 Pounds in 3 Months
How many calories you eat to lose 30 pounds in three months is really tailored to your size, calorie needs and activity level.
A sensible approach, though, usually includes eating a quality source of protein, complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grains or starchy vegetables, a small amount of unsaturated fat and plenty of leafy, nonstarchy vegetables each meal, per Cedars Sinai.
The recommended macronutrient consumption for adults is 65 grams of fat, 50 grams of protein and 300 grams of carbohydrates per day, respectively, per the FDA. Portion sizes will differ based on your body's caloric needs.
Your daily meal plan might consist of:
- Breakfast: An egg white omelet with chopped peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes and a slice of whole-wheat toast topped with 2 teaspoons of almond butter
- Lunch: A tossed spinach salad with chicken breast, quinoa, olive oil and cucumbers
- Dinner: Slow cooker flank steak, wild rice and steamed broccoli
Quality sources of protein include:
- White fish
- Chicken breast
- Lean steak
- White-meat pork
- Egg whites
Sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Brown rice
- 100 percent whole-wheat bread
- Sweet potatoes
Leafy and nonstarchy vegetables include:
- Green beans
You can find sources of unsaturated fat in things like olive oil, nut butters, raw nuts, seeds and avocados.
Although you're trying to lose weight quickly, you can still indulge in low-calorie snacks. The key is to make sure they are nutrient-rich choices. 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.
How to Avoid Weight-Loss Pitfalls
The amount of calories you need to eat per day is largely based on your body size. That means, as your size shrinks with weight loss, your calorie needs change — i.e., you may need to decrease calories even more to keep losing weight, per the Mayo Clinic.
For example, if you successfully lose weight eating 1,600 calories per day at first, but then reach a plateau in your weight loss, you may need to continually lower this calorie amount to keep dropping weight.
It's important to remember, however, that there is no single best strategy for weight management, only some evidence-based suggestions — with the most notable being reducing caloric intake for weight loss, according to a March 2021 study in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome.
Even if you don't reach your goal weight in three months, know that small changes can make a big difference in your health. Even losing 5 percent of your total body weight can lead to improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, according to the CDC.
Avoid vitamins and supplements that are advertised specifically for weight loss, as they can be unhealthy and even dangerous, according to the National Capital Poison Center. Always talk to your doctor before trying a weight-loss supplement or drug.
Other Factors That Affect Weight Loss
Although we tend to think about weight loss as a simple "calories in, calories out" equation, there's more to it than that. Your genetics affect your weight and ability to lose weight, for one. And while you can't change your DNA, there are other factors more within your control that make a difference when you're trying to lose weight:
- Sleep: Logging the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night is ideal when you're on a weight-loss journey. Sleep and weight loss are tied together because sleep deprivation can rev up your hunger hormones and encourage your body to store more fat, among other effects. If quality slumber doesn't come easily, take steps to get better sleep.
- Stress: Yes, stress and weight gain are linked. If you're constantly stressed out, you're less likely to find the motivation to exercise, get quality sleep (see above) and eat nutritiously. Stress may also slow your metabolism and prompt you to store more fat. That's why stress-management practices like meditation, deep breathing or journaling can be helpful when you're trying to lose weight.
- Support: Social support for weight loss is key. Having someone in your corner can help you stay motivated, keep you accountable to your goals and teach you how to better handle any challenges that come your way.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- CDC: "Losing Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: "Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour"
- Oklahoma State University: "The Health Risks of Fad Diets"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Many Carbs Do You Need to Lose Weight?"
- Cedars Sinai: "Know Your Macros—Why Macronutrients Are Key to Healthy Eating"
- Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome: "Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- Feel Good Foodie: "Veggie Omelet"
- Eating Bird Food: "Easy Spinach Salad"
- Real Food Whole Life: "Slow Cooker Flank Steak"
- National Capital Poison Center: "Are Weight Loss Supplements Safe?"
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: "Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial"
- Health Status: BMR Calculator / Basal Metabolic Rate