Weight loss can be very challenging. If you want to lose 15 pounds in three months, it's a goal that is both healthy and perfectly reasonable. Reducing your calories, making changes to your diet and increasing your activity levels can all help you achieve your weight-loss goals.
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Healthy Weight Loss and Exercise
According to Harvard Health Publishing, it's safest to lose weight gradually. Weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds a week is considered healthy. If you're following these guidelines, this means you can safely lose a maximum of 8 pounds per month.
However, there's no need to try to lose the maximum. A realistic, healthy goal in which you lose 15 pounds in three months — the equivalent of 5 pounds per month — can be even better for you. When you lose weight gradually, you're less likely to gain back the pounds.
Your weight-loss goals can be achieved in various ways. If you don't want to diet, you'll need to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. Harvard Health Publishing says you'll need to burn 3,500 calories for every pound you want to lose.
However, burning 3,500 calories is a bit abstract. This number of calories is equivalent to walking 35 miles. If you're interested in slightly more vigorous activities, the USDA's website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, says that it's also equivalent to about 9.5 hours of hiking or 12 hours of slow bicycling.
If you're short on time, you could also perform less exercise. However, you'd have to make sure you're choosing vigorous activities. For instance, swimming burns about 510 calories per hour, while jogging and running burn around 590 calories per hour. So you'd have to swim for about seven hours per week, or run/jog for about six hours per week.
Obviously, this is quite a lot of exercise to suddenly incorporate into your routine. If you're trying to lose 15 pounds in three months, you'll likely find it easier to combine moderate amounts of exercise with dietary changes, like reducing your calorie consumption, in order to lose weight.
Calorie Consumption and Weight Loss
Most people consume around 2,000 calories per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that healthy daily calorie consumption can range between 1,600 and 3,200 calories. The exact number of calories you should consume is determined by your age, sex and how active you are.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends reducing your daily calorie intake by about 500 calories if you're hoping to lose about a pound each week. However, it's possible to reduce your daily calorie intake by up to 1,000 calories. This would result in a weight loss of about 2 pounds per week.
The exact number of calories you should eliminate from your diet will depend on how many calories you typically consume and your weight-loss goals. If you're hoping to lose 15 pounds in three months through a combination of exercise and calorie restriction, you may want to eliminate 350 to 500 calories from your daily diet. If you don't plan on exercising, you'll need to reduce your daily calorie intake by about 625 calories.
However, calorie reduction might not be suitable for people who already consume low-calorie diets. Consuming less than 1,200 calories per day for females or 1,500 calories for males can be unhealthy, as such low-calorie diets may not allow you to consume enough essential nutrients.
When reducing calories, you should also keep in mind that it's not only the amount of food you eat but the quality of the food you're consuming that's important. Consuming 1,200 to 1,500 calories of junk food and fast food won't have the same effect as consuming fresh and unrefined foods.
One particular nutrient that can help with weight loss is dietary fiber. According to the Food and Drug Administration and an August 2018 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary fiber intake can improve your satiety. Essentially, fiber consumption naturally reduces your calorie intake and helps you stay full for longer periods of time, thereby supporting your weight-loss goals.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary Fat, Fibre, Satiation, and Satiety—a Systematic Review of Acute Studies"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Statement From FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the Agency’s Efforts to Better Equip Consumers With Nutritional Information About Dietary Fiber in Their Food"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Physical Activity Calories Burn"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Tips to Help You Reach Your Exercise and Weight Loss Goals"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Combat the Fat