Someone who is quite overweight can lose 15 pounds in one month, or almost 4 pounds a week. However, that type of rapid weight loss is difficult to achieve, and you're likely to regain the pounds more quickly than they drop. You’ll have better success if you lose 15 pounds over two, or even three, months. But if you're determined to give it a try, first calculate your daily goals to see if you can reduce calories enough to make it a reality.
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Determine Daily Calorie Deficit
You’ve heard it before, but it's true that the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. Creating this type of calorie deficit forces your body to burn stored fat for energy. The first step toward weight loss -- figuring out how many calories you’ll need to eliminate -- begins by determining the number of calories it takes to maintain your current weight.
The easiest way is to use an online calculator -- such as the one on the Baylor College of Medicine web site -- which computes your body mass index and daily maintenance calories after you type in your gender, height, weight, age and activity level. The body mass index, or BMI, indicates whether you’re at a healthy weight, overweight or obese. If your BMI comes in at 25 or less, you’re already a healthy weight, which means you should reconsider trying to lose 15 pounds, or at least realize that it will be harder for you to drop pounds quickly than for people who are overweight or obese.
You’ll need to eliminate 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of weight, so dropping 15 pounds requires a huge 52,500-calorie deficit. If you plan on 30 days in one month, you’ll need to subtract 1,750 calories from your daily diet -- every day, without fail -- for 30 days to lose 15 pounds in one month.
Healthy Weight Loss Plan
The real question is whether you can cut 1,750 calories out of your daily diet and still consume enough calories to keep your body going. Take your daily maintenance calories and subtract 1,750 to see how many calories you can consume each day to reach the weight loss goal. For women that means getting at least 1,200 calories daily, while men should consume 1,800 calories or more. If your daily calories are at or above those minimal levels, you’re good to continue with the diet.
If your calorie level after you subtract the 1,750 is below those minimum numbers, then you should not lose weight at the rate of 15 pounds in one month. Lower calorie levels don't provide enough food for you to get optimal amounts of nutrients. Plus, when you consume too few calories, your metabolism slows to a crawl, which ruins your weight loss efforts.
Most people can't subtract that many calories safely, so adjust your plan to lose weight at the gradual and healthy rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week by subtracting only 500 to 1,000 calories per day. If you lose just under 2 pounds a week, it will take you two months to lose the 15 pounds.
If you prefer not to calculate your calorie needs, ask a registered dietitian to help determine a calorie level.
Plan a Balanced Diet to Lose 15 Pounds
If you get back to basics, you won’t have to count calories or put a lot of time and effort into a meal plan. You won't have to abide by strict menus if you follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Plate guidelines and become familiar with a few rules about types of foods and portion sizes. For My Plate, simply envision a plate separated into fourths. At each meal, one-quarter of the plate should be filled with lean protein, one-quarter with whole grains and one-half with vegetables and fruits. Eat more leafy greens and other non-starchy veggies -- such as broccoli, bell peppers and green beans -- which are low in calories compared to starchy vegetables such as corn, peas and potatoes.
Lean proteins include fish, eggs, skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat such as tenderloin and sirloin, as well as vegetarian sources such as tofu and beans. Dairy products like milk and yogurt also contain protein.
Eat a variety of vegetables, choosing from all the color groups to maximize nutrients. Be especially careful with carbohydrates. For more fiber, choose whole grains instead of processed white bread and pasta, and avoid any foods with added sugar, such as soda, candy and baked goods. These refined carbs create cravings that make it hard to stick with a diet, and they don’t provide the nutrients or fiber your body needs to stay healthy.
Regular Exercise Supports Weight Loss
You’ll increase the odds of losing 15 pounds by combining diet with exercise. Exercise burns calories and may help blunt your appetite, making it easier to stick with the weight loss plan. When you follow a low-calorie diet for any length of time, the body resorts to burning muscle tissue for energy. Strength training offsets that problem by building muscles, while aerobic exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system. If you don’t currently exercise, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program to get a clean bill of health and the go-ahead to get active.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, plus muscle strengthening exercises two or more times weekly. But start slowly and remember that you can fill the recommended quota 10 minutes at a time as you build up your regimen. In addition to setting aside a regular time to exercise, choose activities that you really enjoy. Whether it’s a walk in the park, dancing, biking or jumping rope, you’re more likely to stick with it when you choose something you love to do.