Short answer is it’s complicated.
It’s believed that if you lose weight slowly and steadily over the course of several months, you’ll be able to keep that weight off for longer. There are also less health risks involved.
However, studies that have been published in recent years say rapid weight loss might be just as healthy and effective.
Where do we stand?
A quick search will tell you that to lose weight fast you need to exercise a lot, but not only that. You also need to drastically change your diet, since it’s much easier to shed extra pounds with a low-calorie diet of less than 800 calories per day (the number of calories you need to survive depends on age, weight, activity level and gender, but most people need a minimum of 1,200 calories per day).
The standard rate experts can agree on is losing between 1-2lbs / 0.45-0.9kg per week. Anything more would be considered too fast for the first weeks of weight loss. However, it’s completely normal to lose more than 2lbs / 0.9kg in the first week alone, especially if you start exercising much more than you used to and manage your diet carefully.
These are estimates, of course, and will vary from person to person.
Is it worth it?
Sadly, losing weight is only one step in a long journey. If you are successful in shedding those extra pounds, either slowly or fast, you’d want to keep them off for good.
That’s where the argument for slow weight loss comes in. Developing a steady strategy for losing weight that focuses on smaller weekly or even monthly achievements and long-term benefits, will have you developing better eating habits, exercising more regularly, and creating routines that will help you keep the extra weight away for much longer.
Besides, fast weight loss is only as effective as you set it up to be. It entails higher health risks if you go at it alone, without medical and professional guidance, putting yourself at risk of not only gaining all the weight back, but also damaging your overall health.
What are the risks?
While fast results and magic diets might sound appealing, they’re usually not recommended.
Losing weight does not always equal losing fat. You may lose muscle mass as your body struggles to pull energy from somewhere other than your calorie intake. If you lose weight too fast, your body might adjust your metabolism so you burn less calories a day, meaning no matter how much you work out, you’ll be eating less and seeing even poorer results.
You can also be at risk of a nutritional deficiency if you have less calories than your body needs a day. Some of the worst effects of this are hair loss, extreme fatigue, poor immune functions, and brittle bones.
Besides the health risks involved, your mental health will most likely suffer as well, as you’re depriving yourself of foods you’d normally enjoy, seeing little to no results, and feeling stuck in a loop of doing more for less.
So, what should you do?
If weight loss is your goal, and keeping it off is what you want to achieve in the long run, aim for the recommended rate of losing between 1-2lbs / 0.45-0.9kg per week.
But don’t feel bad if you lose less than that or don’t even lose any weight on a day-to-day basis. Our body is constantly changing and adapting to what we put it through, so it’s normal to see different results every day. Our best advice is to monitor your progress weekly instead and then adjust your diet and exercise routines accordingly.
Slowly losing weight and steadily changing your eating habits might not sound as appealing as getting fit in less than a month, but it will help you keep the weight off in the long run.Don’t be afraid to reach out to a personal trainer, a nutritionist, or even a friend that’s been looking into being more active. While your weight loss journey is essentially yours to take, there’s no reason you have to do it alone.