Reality weight-loss television shows lead you to believe that dropping 60 pounds in four months is a doable goal. Unless you have a massive amount of weight to lose, though, a 60-pound loss isn't a safe goal to achieve in a scant 16-week period. To lose 60 pounds in 4 months, you'd need to lose an average of 3 3/4 pounds per week -- a rate that's not readily attainable even with medically supervised very-low-calorie plans. Use the four months to establish healthy habits that help you lose as much as 32 pounds and set you up to reach your goal in a more reasonable 7 to 8 months.
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The Route to Weight Loss
You lose weight when you consume fewer calories than you burn. A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so to lose 60 pounds, you must burn 210,000 more calories than you consume. To achieve this ins four months, you need to create a deficit of 1,750 calories per day with exercise and calorie reduction. Given that 1,750 calories can be a day's worth of calories for many people, and that it takes more than two hours of running at a 6 mph pace for a 185-pound person to burn that number of calories, it is a nearly unattainable goal.
To potentially achieve that deficit, you'd need to limit your food intake to near starvation. Consuming fewer than 1,200 calories per day leads to muscle loss and nutritional deficiencies, and it slows your metabolism. You'd have little energy left for the exercise required to meet this ambitious goal, either. Even if you could exercise and diet enough to create the 1,750-calorie per day deficit, losing more than 3 pounds per week for more than a couple of weeks greatly increases your risk of developing medical complications, such as gallstones.
A more reasonable, healthy rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, asserts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This requires a 500 to 1,000 calorie daily deficit achieved through diet and exercise. Although still challenging to maintain, this deficit is easier to adhere to for the long term and results in weight loss that you're more likely to keep off. When you lose weight too quickly, it usually returns quickly -- often with a few extra pounds.
How to Eat to Lose 60 Pounds
Trimming calories and limiting portions may help you lose weight, if you're eating exactly enough to maintain your current weight. A revision to your diet, though, creates new habits and fills your plate with foods that offer optimal nutrition and satiation. A mix of low-fat dairy and proteins low in saturated fats, such as fish, beans, tofu, poultry and lean steak as well as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, make up a satisfying diet plan. Limit your intake of empty calorie foods -- those with little nutrition -- such as sugar, white flour products and saturated fat.
Cook more meals at home, rather than eating at restaurants, which often feature inflated portions and calories you don't expect in added oils and sugar. Use cooking methods such as broiling, grilling, baking and stir frying. Ideas for home-created meals that don't take a lot of time or cooking skills include an egg and egg whites scrambled with spinach, mushrooms and a tablespoon or two of low-fat cheese with a whole-grain English muffin; stir-fried chicken breast with mushrooms and snow peas; baked fish with brown rice and steamed asparagus; and a lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread with mustard, lettuce and tomato with an apple. Snacks consist of mostly unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, woven wheat crackers with moderate servings of hummus and low-fat cottage cheese with grapes or blueberries.
Exercise Is Key to Weight Loss
Without exercise, weight loss is harder and results in a notable loss of muscle mass that slows your metabolism and diminishes your health. Moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity in excess of 250 minutes per week is required to lose notable weight, says the American College of Sports Medicine. This amounts to a minimum of 50 minutes, five times per week, of activities such as brisk walking, calisthenics, pushing a lawn mower, playing doubles tennis or flowing yoga. More intense cardio in the form of jogging, circuit training or cycling may be required to adequately raise the heart rate and break a sweat for some people.
Strength training at least twice per week helps you retain lean muscle despite your calorie deficit. You'll also build muscle, not body-builder style, but functionally, so that your metabolism stays revved and weight loss is easier. Aim to work all the major muscle groups, including the back, chest, arms, legs, hips, abs and shoulders. Do at least one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise using a weight that brings you to fatigue in the last two or three reps. Over time, add more exercises, greater weight and additional sets to continue to see change.
Weight Loss Plateaus
As you lose weight, you may need to adjust your calorie intake and exercise routine to continue to see results because your smaller body requires fewer calories to fuel. For every 5 pounds you lose, you'll need 25 to 50 calories fewer to maintain your weight. After 4 months and as many as 30 pounds lost, it takes as much as 300 calories fewer to maintain your weight than it did when you started. Step up exercise or reduce calories slightly more to keep losing weight at the rate that will help you reach your goal. Remember to not eat fewer than 1,200 calories, though.
Very Low-Calorie Diets
Very low-calorie diets are supervised by medical staff and provide just 800 to 1,000 calories per day. These are only warranted when a person's weight endangers their immediate health. Most medical providers won't put a person on such a low-calorie plan for longer than 12 weeks due to the potential for medical complications.
The possible weight loss is 3 to 5 pounds per week -- with an average loss of 44 pounds in 12 weeks -- but there's no guarantee you'll lose weight this quickly. Even if you achieve this weight loss in three months, you'd be hard pressed to lose another 16 pounds in one month to achieve your 60-pound weight-loss goal. The program consists of specific meal replacements, often shakes, that are developed to be nutritionally complete. You should never try such a low-calorie plan without a doctor's guidance.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Very Low-Calorie Diets
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Losing 10 Pounds a Week Safe?
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight and Weight Loss
- University of Illinois Wellness Center: What's Moderate-Intensity Exercise