Patients that I assist with weight loss are frequently disappointed that they may averaging only 1-2 pounds of decreased weight per week. They have a false sense of appropriate weight loss rates. I figure this is from the relentless false and misleading advertisements of most weight loss programs they’ve seen or read about.
When a person is changing their eating habits, weight loss should not occur faster than 1-2 pounds per week. There are good medical reasons for this. It may not sound like a lot weight but it’s an enormous amount of calories. Let me explain.
In order to lose weight, we have to decrease our calorie (a measure of energy) intake to a level below our body’s total energy needs. In doing so, our body will burn off fat (as long as we are eating enough protein) that is stored on our body as fuel. It is essential you eat less energy than your body requires in order for you to lose weight.
Now, every pound of body fat represents 3,500 calories of excess energy we ate that wasn’t burned by the body and therefore stored as fat. So for every 1 pound we lose in a week, a person has to be eating 3,500 calories less per week that they normally would of eaten when they weren’t losing weight.
If you are losing 2 pounds in a week, you are eating 7,000 calories less per week than you normally would of been eating if you weren’t losing weight. That’s enough food to feed 10 people at dinner! Visualize a table full of food for 10 people and figure out how anyone can reasonably decrease their regular food intake by any more than that in a single week. That 2 pounds doesn’t look so small now does it?
Many patients don’t get enough protein to eat when in a weight loss program. They seem so eager to lose weight that they will cut corners and eat as little as they can get away with. This can have a disastrous result on their bodies and frequently causes all sorts of problems.
I have seen many patients lose so much muscle because they are eating enough protein that they develop weakness and fatigue because they have burned off so much muscle to get at the protein. Others have developed nerve damage of pelvic pain when sitting because they burned off so much muscle that normally protects the nerves and bony structures of the pelvis and spine from pressure when sitting.
It’s not impossible to lose more than 2 pounds per week but medically the body cannot sustain that kind of rapid weight loss without needing to burn off valuable protein stored in our muscles and other bodily organs. It is also not a good health strategy since rapid weight loss is one of the greatest risk factors for regaining the weight rapidly.