Losing 1 stone, or 14 pounds, in one month is an ambitious goal that's only remotely possible if you have a lot of weight to lose and commit to a strict eating and exercise routine. Even if you can't quite lose a full stone, you can use a month to jump-start your weight loss, look better, feel stronger and improve your health markers, such as blood pressure and heart disease risk.
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Determine If One Stone Is a Reasonable Goal
The more weight you have to lose, the easier it is to lose a lot in the first month. If you also eat a lot of processed foods and are quite sedentary, drastic changes to your diet and exercise plan may cause you to lose weight rather dramatically during the first two weeks, as you drop water weight. This means you could technically lose a stone in a month. If, however, you already eat healthfully, exercise regularly and are just 1 stone away from your ideal weight, you'll need to settle for a slower rate of loss.
You'll need to average a 3.5-pound weight loss per week to lose a stone in a month. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, which means you'll need to create a 1,750-calorie deficit every day for the four weeks by eating fewer calories than you burn. Many people, especially older sedentary women, don't even burn 1,750 calories a day, and many older men and adult women barely burn 1,800 to 2,000 calories daily. Reducing caloric intake by 1,750 calories is thus an unrealistic target for much of the population.
Even if you can afford to cut this large amount of calories, losing more than 3 pounds per week after the first couple of weeks is not recommended as it may result in serious side effects, such as gallstones. A manageable, sustainable and healthy rate of loss recommended by most health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Reduce Your Calorie Intake Sensibly
A daily 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit is a more reasonable strategy for weight loss. You may drop weight a little more gradually, but it's also more likely to stay off, and you'll be eating enough calories to provide adequate nutrients for good health.
Determine how many calories you burn daily using an online calculator that takes into account your age, size, gender and activity level. From that number, subtract the 500 to 1,000 calories to estimate how many you should eat each day to achieve a 1- to 2-pound-per-week loss.
However, if this reduction in calories has you eating fewer than 1,200 calories as a woman, or 1,800 as a man, you'll need to re-evaluate your strategy. Too few calories can lead to nutritional deficiencies and stall your metabolism, so it's actually harder to lose weight. Either settle for a lower calorie deficit so you lose weight more gradually, or add more physical activity so your calorie burn rate increases.
Focus Your Diet Plan on Quality Foods
Healthy, whole foods, like fresh produce, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains, support weight loss. Choose foods that have lots of nutritional value and few calories per serving. For example, leafy greens -- including spinach and kale -- peppers, berries and tomatoes help fill you up, without filling you out. Lean proteins provide you with this important nutrient that helps you maintain lean muscle as you drop pounds. Go for options such as tuna canned in water, flank steak, chicken breast, eggs and tofu. Whole grains are slightly denser in calories, so stick to 1/2- to 1-cup servings of grains such as brown rice, quinoa and barley.
Your exact serving sizes depend on your target calorie intake. Examples of quality meals that assist with weight loss are oatmeal with skim milk and berries; poached eggs on a whole-grain English muffin with an orange; a large green salad topped with raw vegetables, grilled chicken, olive oil and red wine vinegar alongside a whole-wheat roll; corn tortillas wrapped around black beans, red onions and salsa; a 90-percent lean ground beef patty with a sweet potato and steamed spinach; or a turkey breast cutlet with mushrooms and sauteed kale.
Physical Activity Is Key to Losing a Stone
Eating high-quality foods and modest portions are big steps toward your weight-loss goal. Moving more is also essential. If you don't exercise with both cardio to burn calories and strength training to maintain muscle, a quarter of every pound you lose will be lean muscle mass. That's 3.5 pounds of lost muscle if you lose a stone through diet alone. Muscle burns more calories at rest than does fat tissue, so this loss of muscle makes it harder to lose weight. Having toned muscles from working out also helps you look healthy and fit.
Cardio exercise involves moving the largest muscles of the body, raises the heart rate and helps you break a sweat -- think brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Aim for at least 250 minutes per week to lose significant weight. Perform strength training at least two times per week on nonconsecutive days. Target every major muscle group with at least one set of eight to 12 repetitions that uses resistance heavy enough to fatigue the muscles by the last couple of reps. Continue your exercise habits after the month has passed, to help you maintain your weight loss, lose additional weight if needed and bolster your overall well-being.