Whether it's a wedding, vacation or reunion, big events tend to creep up on us, especially when we want to shed some unwanted pounds. This can leave us wondering how much weight we can lose in three months or other tight timeframes. While it's good to have a goal, cutting extreme amounts of weight in just a few months can be unhealthy and potentially risky for your body.
To lose 40 pounds in three months, you'd have to lose more than 3 pounds a week, which is probably too aggressive. Instead, prioritize building healthy habits so that you can lose weight before the big date and keep it off in the long run.
Set a Realistic Weight-Loss Goal
Most health experts recommend you lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. Losing weight too quickly usually requires an unsustainably low level of calorie intake. Extremely high calorie deficits (when you burn more calories than you consume) can lead you to feel deprived or frustrated.
Eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day as a woman, or 1,800 as a man, tends to slow your metabolism as your body compensates for what it perceives as starvation, according to Harvard Health Publishing. This can even lead to nutritional deficiencies down the line.
Eating too few calories may also cause your body to burn lean muscle mass, especially if you don't exercise. When you lose muscle, which requires more energy for your body to sustain when compared to fat, your metabolism drops further and weight loss becomes even harder to achieve.
In three months, you can safely lose 24 pounds, and maybe as much as 30 pounds. You may lose more than 2 pounds per week in the first few weeks, because diet and exercise lifestyle habits cause you to drop extra water weight.
Manage Your Calories to Meet Your Goal
To lose 2 pounds per week, you'll need to eat about 1,000 calories fewer than you burn, as there's about 3,500 calories in one pound of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. But in order to create a calorie deficit, you need to know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight (your maintenance calories).
You can find your maintenance calorie value by tracking your food for several days using either a food diary or tracking app. Then, assuming you don't gain or lose any weight, you can use this value as the baseline for your calorie deficit.
To lose the 3.3 pounds per week you'd need to reach your 40-pound weight-loss goal, you'd have to make this deficit equal to 1,650 calories. Very few people can achieve that deficit and still take in the necessary calories for good health and feel energized. As you think about how to lose 40 pounds, know that taking a long-term, moderate approach is both safer and more sustainable route.
Eat Wisely to Lose Weight
While fad diets can help you cut calories quickly, they'll probably do more harm than good. Building healthy habits you can keep up for the longer term is a better idea. Keep these tips in mind:
- Prioritize whole foods. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables in a wide range of colors. Veggies are rich in vitamins and fiber, a nutrient that helps keep your digestion regular, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Include carbohydrates. Despite what current diet trends dictate, carbohydrates are another part of a healthy diet. While you should enjoy a croissant (or two) every now and again, you'll want to eat mainly whole grains or healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes or whole grain pasta.
- Make sure you have enough protein. Eating enough of this macronutrient will help you retain muscle mass and keep your energy up while you're in a calorie deficit, according to the Mayo Clinic. To keep your overall calories low, prioritize lean protein sources such as poultry, fish or low-fat dairy.
Adopt an Active Lifestyle
To torch more calories, and further your quest to lose body fat quickly, incorporate exercise as well as dietary changes. The more active you are, the greater your daily calorie burn. This helps you lose weight faster, and will help preserve lean muscle, too.
Work up to a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio weekly, which includes brisk walking or water aerobics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Or if you prefer shorter workouts, opt for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, like high-intensity interval training.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Truth About Metabolism"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Walking"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition Rules That Will Fuel Your Workout"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Getting Back to the Weight-Loss Basics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Why do Doctors Recommend a Slow Rate of Weight Loss? What's Wrong With Fast Weight Loss?"