It's tempting to want to make drastic changes in our bodies in a short amount of time, especially when an important event or a vacation is coming up. A healthy, calorie-controlled diet and a regular regimen of cardio and strength-training exercise will whittle away lower back fat and love handles, and in two weeks' time, you may start to see a difference.
But you can't target specific areas of your body for weight loss, and no specific exercises for your lower back and love handles will make them disappear. Keep your expectations realistic, and set your sights on long-term weight loss instead of quick fat fixes.
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How Much You Can Lose in Two Weeks
A variety of factors needs to be considered when determining fat loss potential in a given amount of time. The biggest one is safety. Losing too much weight too quickly is unhealthy, and a safe rate of weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Losing more than that comes with health risks, such as slowed metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, muscle loss and digestive problems. And if your goal is to lose fat not only in the short-term, but also for the long haul, losing weight slowly and steadily predicts long-term success at keeping the weight off, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You also have to keep in mind that where you lose weight from can't necessarily be determined. Although some research has shown certain diets and exercise plans to be more effective for targeting midsection fat than others, it's not an exact science. In two weeks' time, you might notice your face is slimmer, but your lower back fat and love handles haven't budged.
Read more: The Best Cardio Exercise to Lose Belly Fat
The Skinny on Fat Loss
Your body burns fat in the form of energy, or calories. Energy expended equals calories burned. Your body burns calories each day just maintaining itself and carrying out functions such as breathing and digestion.
Any activity you do on top of that, from cleaning house to running sprints, burns extra calories. Typically the more intense the activity, the more calories you'll burn. Energy consumed from foods and beverages needs to stay below your expended calories in order for fat loss to occur. Keep your calories consumed below your calories burned each day for two weeks and you'll burn fat.
Targeted Diet and Exercise Plan
If you're committed to losing 2 to 4 pounds in two weeks, here's what you need to do:
Reduce your calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day - Determine your daily calorie needs, then carefully monitor your calories consumed to make sure you don't go over your limit.
Engage in cardio exercise most days - Running, swimming, biking, dancing or any activity that gets your heart rate up helps you burn more calories and increase your calorie deficit. Daily exercise is ideal, but fit in as much as you can.
Do high-intensity cardio exercise - Up the intensity of some of all of your cardio sessions to burn more fat around your midsection. A study published in 2009 in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders found that high-intensity exercise burned more abdominal fat than moderate-intensity exercise even when total calorie burn was the same.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a type of high-intensity cardio that may help you torch even more calories in a shorter time. Alternate periods of intense exercise, such as sprinting, with equal periods of recovery such as walking or jogging.
Start a strength-training regimen, or increase the frequency or intensity of your current program - Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which takes up less room than fat, lending a slimmer appearance around your midsection. It also increases your metabolic rate. Engage in total-body strength training two or three days a week. If you've been training for a while, remember your body responds to new stimulus; changing up your routine, increasing resistance or adding in another training day can garner increased results in as little as two weeks.
Eat a clean, whole foods diet - Step away from the cupcakes. If you really want to lose fat around your midsection in two weeks, cut out all sweets. With them, banish refined and processed foods and sugary beverages (including juice). Really, all of them. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, vegetable oils and low-fat dairy.
Get plenty of sleep and reduce stress - Lack of sleep and high levels of stress cause your body to produce more cortisol, a hormone linked to obesity and, specifically, abdominal obesity. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night and practice stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep-breathing. Even two weeks is enough time to change poor lifestyle habits that may be sabotaging your midsection fat-loss goals.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Weight Watchers: Losing Weight at a Safe Rate
- Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders: Influence of Exercise Intensity on Abdominal Fat and Adiponectin in Elderly Adults
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: 8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life
- Sleep: Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.
- University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight
- Obesity Research: Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women.