How Many Calories Do I Need to Lose 2 Pounds Per Week?

Plenty of fad diets claim to help you lose weight quickly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a slow, balanced weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. People who take this approach tend to be more successful in maintaining their weight loss goals compared to those who lose a lot of weight quickly. Take the time to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods and incorporate an exercise routine into your day to shed extra pounds and keep them off.

Woman measuring waist. (Image: Bambu Productions/Taxi/Getty Images)

Caloric Needs

The number of calories you need per day varies by height, weight, age and activity levels. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult women should consume 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day. Adult men require 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day. The minimum targets sedentary individuals, while the higher end targets active adults. Older adults tend to require fewer calories than younger adults. To make your meals and snacks count, replace high-calorie foods containing few nutrients with low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat and added sugar.

Cutting Calories to Lose 2 Pounds

One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, which means you need to cut out 1,000 calories a day for one week to lose 2 pounds. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute advises a 1,000- to 1,200-calorie-a-day diet for women trying to lose weight and 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day for men. The latter is also advised for women weighing 165 pounds or more who are on an exercise routine. If you're constantly hungry consuming this amount of calories, add another 100 to 200 calories. Don't consume fewer than 800 calories unless you're under a doctor's supervision. To help you succeed, switch to low-fat dairy products and opt for lean protein sources, such as poultry and fish. Reduce saturated and trans fats found in fatty meats, baked goods and fried foods. Follow the Nutrition Facts Label to make sure you're eating the correct serving size, and replace sugary drinks, such as soda and sweet tea, with water. Increase your consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which have a lot of nutrients, but not many calories.

Exercising to Lose Pounds

In addition to reducing calories, start an exercise routine to lose a couple of pounds each week. The CDC recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as fast walking, per week just to maintain your weight. If you're new to exercise, start by exercising in 10-minute increments and then gradually increase the amount of time. Choose from aerobic activities, such as walking or swimming, muscle-strengthening activities or stretching. Make sure you get in some moderate-intensity exercise to lose weight. An hour of aerobics or stationary cycling can burn 520 calories in a 155-pound adult. An hour of swimming expends 446 calories, while a brisk walk burns 372 calories for the same-sized adult. To lose 2 pounds in a week, opt for exercising in longer increments or exercise for an hour and cut out 300 to 500 calories, depending on the amount and type of activity you're performing

Tips for Weight Loss Success

If you're overweight, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight over six months. Keep track of the number of calories you're consuming each day to help you stay on track and determine where to reduce your caloric intake. Cut back on the number of times per week you eat out. Restaurant portions tend to be bigger than you need, and you can't control the ingredients they're using. Be wary of situations in which you mindlessly snack, such as in the car or watching TV.

Monitor your physical activity and weight loss to help keep you inspired and try exercising during your lunch break some days. Park farther away in a parking lot and take the stairs whenever you can to increase the calories you're expending. Not only will losing weight help you look and feel better, it will improve your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Exercise will go even further by strengthening your heart, lungs, joints and bones, helping you sleep better and giving you more energy.

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