An impending beach vacation, high school reunion or wedding may have you wanting a svelter body pronto. The best two-week diet plans advocate moderate portions of whole foods to support your health, energy and weight loss. Such a plan also helps you jump start long-term eating and exercising practices so you manage your weight for life. A healthy, sustainable rate of loss is just 1 to 2 pounds per week, which may be slower than the "quick" loss for which you hoped. However, in the first two weeks of making changes to your eating and exercise plan, you might drop weight more quickly as your body adjusts.
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Be realistic in your expectations, too. It took you longer than two weeks to become the size you are now, and it's going to take more than two weeks to slim down. Quick weight-loss schemes are hard to follow for any length of time. Even if they do work, you usually gain back the pounds you lost as fast, or faster, than you lost them. Choose a plan that's sustainable for you long-term, rather than one that has you tolerate extreme deprivation for a short while.
An Equation for Weight Loss
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories and burn more, so your body seeks energy from stored fat. A deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories daily yields a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, since a pound equals 3,500 calories. You may lose a greater volume of weight the first two weeks in the form of water weight as your body adjusts to a new eating plan.
Cut 500 to 1,000 calories by combining dietary revisions with increased physical activity. For example, eat 500 calories fewer per day and burn 500 calories by exercising to create a 1,000-calorie deficit that results in a 2-pound-per-week loss. Cutting a lot of calories without exercise often means you dip below the minimum 1,200-calorie per day intake level for women, or 1,600 for men. Eating too little may make it hard to get enough essential nutrients. You may also feel hungry frequently and may find the diet difficult to maintain for two weeks.
Aim for a Moderate Calorie Deficit
Losing weight at a rate faster than 2 pounds per week for a couple of weeks is OK, but the loss should eventually level off. If you continue to lose more than 3 pounds per week, you increase your risk of developing gallstones as well as other complications, including kidney failure, heart irregularity and thyroid problems.
If you cut too many calories to lose weight quickly, you also risk nutritional deficiencies and a slow-down of your metabolism, which makes losing weight harder. If you try to eat fewer than 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily, a loss of muscle mass can result. Since muscle is hard work for your body to maintain, it'll sacrifice it -- especially if it's not being used -- to hold onto fat when it senses extreme deprivation.
Remove Extra Calories
With a two-week deadline looming, eliminate all calories that aren't necessary, such as those from soda, candy, chips, cookies, alcohol and refined grains. These offer little in the way of nutrition, and their calories add up quickly.
Don't forget to examine your diet for seemingly minor sources of empty calories, too. Flavored coffee creamer, butter on your toast, maple syrup on pancakes, full-fat cheese on a sandwich or garlic bread with dinner all add significant calories without major nutrients.
If you eliminate all empty calories for two weeks, you'll likely lose weight, even without making other efforts. A two-week timeline makes these extreme changes necessary, but if you extend the diet and settle for a more gradual rate of loss -- you may still leave in a serving or two daily of the empty-caloried foods that you truly enjoy.
What to Eat to Lose Weight Quickly
Use the two-week plan to create healthy habits that you'll continue after the 14 days is complete. Choose lean proteins, including white-meat poultry, flank steak, fish and tofu. You need ample protein to help you maintain muscle mass as you reduce calories and strength-train at the gym. Although the minimum amount of protein required daily is 0.36 per pound of body weight, aim for a slightly increased intake of about 0.55 grams per day for every pound of your body weight to help keep you satiated and preserve lean body mass, suggests a review published in a 2012 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.
Embellish your protein choices with fresh vegetables, sans creamy dressings, butter and cheese. Roast them with olive oil, serve them as a salad topped with olive oil and lemon juice or steam them and flavor with fresh herbs. Just 1/2 to 1 cup of whole grains complete your plate. Stick to brown or wild rice, quinoa and barley, for example. The fiber that naturally occurs in whole grains, as well as fresh vegetables, helps fill you up so you don't feel overly hungry on the plan.
You also need small servings of unsaturated fats when trying to lose weight to help with proper bodily function, support brain health, absorb vitamins and feel satisfied. Optimal sources include raw nuts and seeds, nut butter, avocado, olive oil and salmon.
Meal Ideas for a Two-Week Plan
Breakfast meal ideas include: two eggs scrambled with spinach and mushrooms, a slice of whole-wheat toast and an orange; a bowl of oatmeal cooked in water and topped with fresh blueberries, a tablespoon of slivered almonds and a splash of skim milk; a smoothie made with frozen raspberries, a tablespoon of almond butter, almond milk and a scoop of whey protein.
Make a healthy lunch, such as a whole wheat pita halved and topped with marinara sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and bell peppers, with an apple on the side; a romaine salad with chopped radishes, tuna canned in water, grape tomatoes and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds, topped with a teaspoon of olive oil and balsamic vinegar; or corn tortillas filled with black beans, one-eighth of an avocado and salsa.
At dinner, bake a skinless chicken breast with Cajun spice and serve it alongside a sweet potato and green salad; top 100-percent whole-wheat pasta with chopped tomatoes, steamed zucchini and sauteed ground turkey; or serve broiled flounder topped with lemon alongside steamed broccoli and quinoa cooked in chicken broth.
Snacks can include a hard-boiled egg and whole wheat crackers; low-fat yogurt with chopped pear; a tablespoon of peanut butter with a small banana; romaine lettuce wrapped around deli meat and low-fat cheese; or a couple tablespoons of hummus with carrot sticks.
Cardio Exercise for Weight Loss
A two-week weight loss plan gets a calorie-burning advantage through exercise. Aim to fit in at least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week; this could entail a 35-minute brisk walk every day or more intense exercise such as jogging, cycling or aerobic dancing.
If you're an experienced exerciser, perform some of these sessions as a circuit -- meaning exercises such as jump squats, lunges, pushups and crunches are done in succession with no rest -- or as intervals of high intensity alternated with low intensity. These methods may help you burn fat more readily than exercising at the same pace every time, a paper in the Journal of Obesity in 2011 showed.
Take advantage of any opportunity to move, too. Pace while waiting for an appointment, choose the stairs instead of the escalator, or take your date dancing instead of to a movie. The more calories you can burn every day, whether through exercise or daily activity, the faster you drop pounds. These small, extra movements are particularly valuable if you're new to exercise. You can burn calories without wearing yourself out with too much time at the gym.
Support Muscle as You Lose Weight
Strength-training is also essential for good health and weight loss. Even over two weeks, you could lose considerable muscle -- 25 percent of every pound, reports the American Council on Exercise -- if you don't strength train while losing weight. This means that if you're able to lose five pounds, 1 1/4 pounds of it is lost muscle mass.
Strength training doesn't mean you'll bulk up like a body builder. It simply means you challenge the muscles to stay strong, healthy and functional. Aim for two sessions minimum per week -- that's four sessions over the two-week period -- on non-consecutive days. If you're new to exercise, use your body weight to perform one set of eight to 12 exercises, such as pushups, squats, lunges, triceps dips and crunches at each session. For more experienced exercisers, commit to two or three sets of an exercise for each major muscle group that includes eight to 12 repetitions. Use a weight that feels heavy by the last couple of repetitions. After the two weeks are up, continue your strength-training regimen and increase weights as the 12 repetitions becomes too easy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Go Ask Alice: Ideal Caloric Intake
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight and Weight Loss
- ABC News: 4 Confusing Weight Loss Concepts Cleared Up
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Losing 10 Pounds a Week Safe?
- American Council on Exercise: What are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Lost?
- Weight Watchers: When Doc Says You're Losing Too Fast