The amount of weight you can lose in seven weeks really depends on each individual. Genetics, age, starting weight, nutrition and your amount of physical activity all play a part.
One thing is for sure, though — you have to create a calorie deficit to lose weight.
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Keep reading to find out how to do just that, and how to keep the weight off in the long run.
7-Week Weight Loss
It's recommended to lose weight slowly. Most people can safely lose about 1 to 2 pounds weekly, which translates to about 7 to 14 pounds in seven weeks, according to obesity medicine and nutrition expert Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH.
How to Lose Weight in 7 Weeks
Unfortunately, there's no magic drink or pill to get your body to safely shed unwanted pounds and fat, so you have to put in the work.
And if you have a lot of weight to lose, understand that you won't be able to hit your goal in seven weeks. But with dedication and consistency, you can lose up to 14 pounds — give or take a few.
1. Safely Cut Calories
Your first step is to figure out how many calories you should be cutting from your daily diet. Use an online calculator like LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate app to figure out an appropriate calorie intake target based on factors like your age, sex and current weight.
You should be taking in fewer calories than you burn daily to start torching fat — about 500 to 1,000 calories fewer — in order to lose those 1 to 2 pounds per week, per the Mayo Clinic. That calorie deficit allows you to burn fat, but it shouldn't trigger "starvation mode" that could eventually lead to muscle loss.
In order to cut or burn that many additional calories every day, you'll probably need to rethink your nutrition as well as get a workout plan going.
2. Focus on Nutritious, Unprocessed Foods
Not all calories are created equal, so what's actually in the calories you're eating? Because in terms of eating healthfully and for weight loss, it's all about where your calories are coming from and how those calories affect you metabolically, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
A balanced diet to help you lose unwanted fat and support a healthier body includes a variety of foods from all the food groups, and little to no refined carbs, saturated and trans fats or processed foods.
Watch your portion sizes, too, as too much of any food can hurt your weight loss if you consume more than you burn.
"Stay focused on foods that aren't processed," Dr. Stanford says. "I would focus on lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, since we know that the consumption of processed foods can cause weight gain."
And just stay away from fad diets — the ones that promise too-good-to-be true results, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Most of those diets don't offer balanced nutrition and can actually be dangerous. Not to mention that you usually gain back whatever you lose once you stop following the diet.
Talk to your doctor before changing your nutrition. If you choose a low-calorie diet (fewer than 1,200 daily calories for women or 1,500 daily calories for men), your doctor should monitor your progress to ensure your health and safety.
3. Add Exercise
According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity weekly, along with at least two days of muscle-strengthening activity to reap maximum health benefits.
Remember that the object is to burn more than you take in, so physical activity can help you reach a calorie deficit. For instance, if you want to cut 700 calories from your daily intake, 250 of those calories can come from working out, and the other 500 can come out of your diet.
And there's so much you can do! Walking and jogging, swimming, biking, hiking, group fitness classes, strength training, HIIT workouts — the sky is the limit on physical activity. You just have to find what you enjoy and are willing to do long-term.
"Do what your body can do that you enjoy and won't harm you — activities that you can sustain," says Dr. Stanford. "If you like dancing or hula-hooping, then you should be doing it. Whatever really brings you joy and excitement that will reduce stress."
Each person's rate of weight loss is different. What works for one person may not work for another. The key is to be patient and consistent.
4. Get Enough Sleep
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but getting adequate sleep is important for weight loss. And by adequate, we mean aiming for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When you don't spend enough time between the sheets, you may crave more calorie-rich foods, have less willpower around food and have less energy for exercise — all of which can sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
Do you struggle with sleep? Follow this seven-day kickstart plan for better zzzs.
5. Manage Stress
Stress and weight gain are linked, so it's important to take steps to manage your stress levels on a daily basis. Stress can ruin your motivation to work out and eat healthy, mess with your sleep, slow your metabolism and even prompt your body to store more fat.
To tame stress, follow these tips from the Cleveland Clinic:
- Get good quality sleep consistently
- Exercise regularly
- Take a balanced approach to food
- Practice relaxation-focused activities like meditation, breathing exercises or yoga
- Don't take on extra responsibilities that make you feel overwhelmed
- Connect with loved ones
- Find a therapist who can help
How to Maintain Healthy Weight Loss
While losing weight can be challenging for many people, keeping it off is even more difficult. This is why fad diets don't really work, and healthy eating and exercise should become a part of your lifestyle.
After losing the weight you wanted to lose, whether it be in seven weeks or seven months, John Hopkins Medicine suggests a gradual 200-calorie addition to your diet of healthy, balanced foods. If you still continue to lose weight, additional calories should be introduced until the right balance of calories to maintain your new weight is determined.
Continue to choose healthy food, stay active with activities you enjoy, get enough sleep and reduce stress to help with weight maintenance. And of course, if you need extra support, seek the help of peer/support groups or a medical professional.
- Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA
- Mayo Clinic: "Fast Weight Loss: What's Wrong With It?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "There's No Sugar-Coating It: All Calories Are Not Created Equal"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Nutrition for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know About Fad Diets"
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: "Active Adults"
- John Hopkins Medicine: "Maintaining Weight Loss"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Stress"