To lose 5 pounds in two weeks, you will need to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen. This goal — a 2.5-pound-per-week rate of weight loss — is a bit more than the generally recommended rate, which is 1 to 2 pounds a week.
While it may be possible to lose 5 pounds this quickly, it's a better idea to take a slow-and-steady approach to losing weight, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), because people who lose weight rapidly are much more likely to regain it. Plus, you could end up losing muscle and bone density, and it puts you at risk for digestive issues, gallstones and gout.
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Losing weight this quickly is also not safe for everyone, so talk to your doctor about it, especially if you have a medical condition.
Tips for Losing 5 Pounds in 2 Weeks
First, consider adjusting your goal just slightly to losing 3 or 4 pounds in two weeks. Although this may not seem like a big difference, aiming to lose a maximum of 2 pounds per week is a safer approach to weight loss that puts you in a better position to achieve your desired weight and stay there for the long run.
1. Cut Calories
To shed 1 pound of fat, you need to eat about 3,500 fewer calories than your body uses. So to lose 5 pounds, you'd have to eat 17,500 fewer calories than what you need, which, over two weeks, translates into a 1,250-calorie daily deficit. For most people, cutting that many calories each day is unhealthy and unsustainable — you'd be left feeling hungry and likely be deprived of important nutrients.
Instead, aim to cut up to 750 calories from your usual daily intake and exercise to burn up to 250 calories most days. This will give you about a daily 1,000-calorie deficit, which would help you lose about 2 pounds per week.
Not sure how many calories you're currently eating? You can estimate how many you need to maintain your current weight by taking a look at the chart by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which breaks it down by age, sex and activity level.
A calorie tracker can give you a more precise estimate because it takes more variables into account.
The reason you want to create a deficit through both diet and exercise is because you don't want to eat too few calories. Eating fewer than about 1,500 calories could leave you with nutritional deficiencies and may slow your metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight, according to a May 2013 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
2. Eat to Lose Weight
To make it easier to adhere to your weight-loss plan, be sure to follow a diet that's filled with low-energy-dense foods (this is also called volume eating). These types of foods allow you to eat large portions, which help fill you up on fewer calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Fruits and vegetables have the lowest energy density and should make up the bulk of your meals and snacks, per the CDC. Fill half your plate with veggies and fruits at each meal. Lean proteins, such as chicken breast and fish, also have a low-energy density, as do whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal. Proteins and grains should each take up a quarter of your plate.
To cut 750 calories from your diet, make a few substitutions:
- At breakfast, trade your bagel for a two-egg-white omelet filled with 1 cup of spinach and served with a slice of whole-wheat toast to save 250 calories.
- Swap your fried chicken sandwich at lunch for grilled chicken on a bed of greens with low-fat dressing to cut more than 400 calories.
- For a snack, eat carrot sticks with 1 tablespoon of hummus instead of a bowl of pretzels to cut another 80 calories.
3. Exercise Most Days
Adding aerobic exercise is a good way to burn additional calories so you can drop close to 5 pounds in your two-week time frame. Higher-intensity aerobic exercise burns more calories in a shorter period of time than low-intensity exercise.
For example, a 155-pound person has to walk for 90 minutes at a pace of 4 miles per hour to burn 500 calories, but would only have to run for 50 minutes at a pace of 5 miles per hour to burn the same number of calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
A low-impact step aerobics class can help a 185-pound person burn 500 calories in 50 minutes, but a high-impact class can burn those 500 calories in 35 minutes.
Just don't overdo it. Especially if you're just starting out with exercise, go slowly and listen to your body to prevent injury. And always stop an exercise if it's causing pain.
4. Try Intermittent Fasting
Diets that include fasting can lead to quick weight loss, per the NLM, and there's some research that shows fasting has benefits for people with diabetes and obesity.
Intermittent fasting restricts eating to certain hours of the day or days of the week, depending on which plan you follow, and research has shown that it can be just as effective for weight loss as cutting calories.
Some popular IF plans include 16:8 fasting, which has you eat your meals during an eight-hour window (say, 12 to 8 p.m.) and fast for the other 16. Another is 5:2 fasting, which has you eat normally five days per week and then restrict calories to 500 or 600 calories the other two days (these fasting days shouldn't be consecutive).
Keeping the Weight Off
It takes a strict diet and exercise plan to lose 5 pounds in two weeks or even a month. Once you've reached your goal, making a few tweaks to your diet and workouts may help prevent you from regaining the weight.
Many people have a hard time keeping weight off because they have trouble sticking to a restrictive diet. Adding 250 to 500 calories back into your weight-loss diet plan may help make the diet easier to follow long-term, so you continue to lose at a slower rate, with a better chance of keeping it off.
Also, to maintain, and even build, your muscle mass, add strength-training to your workout routine. Work your muscles twice a week using free weights, exercise bands or body-resistance exercises. (Not sure where to start? Check out our beginner's guide to strength training.)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Finding a Balance"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Low-Energy Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Eat More, Weigh Less"
- Harvard Health Publications: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Diet for rapid weight loss"
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Weight loss, weight maintenance, and adaptive thermogenesis"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight"
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
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