Is a Loss of 3 Lbs. per Week Healthy?

Woman's feet on weight scale
For tracking accuracy, measure your weight at the same time each day due to weight fluctuations. (Image: Bine Å edivy/iStock/Getty Images)

Being overweight isn’t uncommon in America. More than one in three adults are considered obese, and even more fall into the overweight category. A body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher defines a person as obese. Losing the weight takes hard work and dedication; there’s no simple solution. The first step is setting a weight loss goal. A weight loss target of 3 lbs. per week is an aggressive strategy that requires a consistent exercise plan and strict diet plan. In most cases, losing 3-lbs. per week is healthy, but always check with your doctor to ensure it holds true for you.

The Experts Suggest

Analog weight scale
A 1 to 2 pound weight loss is healthy for most people every week. (Image: Prapass Wannapinij/iStock/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that 1 to 2 lbs. per week is a healthy rate of weight loss for most people. Dr. Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D. states essentially the same thing but with percentages. He says that losing one-percent of your bodyweight per week, and possible slightly more, is healthy. According to this logic, a 300 lb. person may be able to safely lose 3 lbs. per week. A report by Massachusetts Institute of Technology agrees that weight loss of 2 to 3 lbs. per week is a healthy rate. Based on all this information, people considered obese who have a significant amount of weight to lose can safely target 3 lbs. of weight loss per week.

People who aren’t Obese

doctor with female patient
Consult your doctor before you begin your weight loss journey. (Image: Alexander Raths/iStock/Getty Images)

If you’re slightly overweight and looking to lose just 5 to 10 lbs., trying to lose weight at a 3-lb. per week rate is healthy but maybe a little aggressive. At this rate, you’d far exceed weight loss of about one-percent your bodyweight. If your goal is to lose a smaller amount of total bodyweight, up to about 10 lbs., you can safely target 0.5 to 1 lb. of weight loss per week. However, you can safely go the aggressive route and aim for 3-lbs. of weight loss per week, but be sure to discuss it with your doctor beforehand.

Doctor’s Orders

Slim girl with centimeter isolated on white
It is especially important to make sure you're losing weight at a healthy rate. (Image: belchonock/iStock/Getty Images)

Everyone’s body reacts differently to weight loss. While some people’s body easily adjust to 3 lbs. of weight loss each week, other people may not. Losing weight too fast may be the result of burning lean muscle tissue, which is definitely a bad thing when the goal is to burn fat. Rapid weight loss may also lead to weight gain in the not-so-distant future, sort of like the yo-yo diet effect of cycling through periods of weight loss followed by weight gain. Your doctor may prescribe that you lose weight at a 3-lb. per week pace or even greater. In cases of severe obesity, the potential dangers of losing weight fast don’t outweigh the dangers associated with being severely overweight, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It’s always best to start your weight loss plan by first discussing it with your doctor.

The Healthy Way to do It

Hand holding a pill
Avoid diet pills and other fad diet products. (Image: Iromaya Images/Iromaya/Getty Images)

Avoid diet pills and other fad diet products out there. While these rapid weight loss products may help you burn a few pounds in the short term, it’s not an effective long term strategy. Products high in caffeine and certain herbs may cause dangerous health issues in some people, such as rapid heartbeat or high blood pressure. By cutting your caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day and exercising for about 60 minutes per day, you can safely lose up to 3 lbs. per week. Women shouldn’t take in fewer than 1,000 calories per day, and 1,200 calories each day for men, unless otherwise instructed to do by a doctor.

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