With the proliferation of fad diets promising rapid weight loss of up to 10 pounds in just one week, the desire to lose weight quickly has reached unprecedented levels. While the appeal of these diets is undeniable, succumbing to them often results in a harmful pattern of fluctuating weight loss and gain (known as yo-yo dieting), which ultimately hinders your weight loss goals.
Making a handful of lifestyle changes can improve your metabolism and help you lose weight, but there is no magic bullet or diet for instant, significant weight loss. In addition, losing weight too quickly can be unsafe and unsustainable. The aim of this article is to explore methods for losing weight quickly, but safely, to help you achieve your health and fitness goals this year.
9 Science-Based Strategies For Fast And Safe Weight Loss
- Keep a food diary to monitor your diet
- Eat a nutritious breakfast
- Reduce highly processed carbohydrates and sugary foods
- Maintain adequate hydration
- Consume plenty of fibre, protein and healthy fats
- Prioritise adequate sleep
- Consume food mindfully
- Exercise regularly
- Practice intermittent fasting
Is Rapid Weight Loss Suitable For Beginners?
Rapid weight loss is generally not recommended for beginners. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies, loss of muscle mass and other health problems. Slow, steady weight loss through a balanced diet and regular exercise is safer and more sustainable. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any weight loss programme.
How To Lose Weight Quickly And Safely
A healthy, safe weight loss rate of one to two pounds per week for six months can help you shed pounds fairly quickly. You need to reduce your calorie intake and increase your physical activity by 500-1,000 calories a day. To shed pounds and keep them off, it’s important to adopt long-term healthy habits that you can stick to consistently.
Keep A Food Diary
Keeping a food log can help you become more aware of your eating habits and trends, which can help you lose weight. One study looked at 142 overweight or obese people who took part in a digital weight loss programme where they recorded their food intake for six months. The results showed that those who regularly tracked their food intake lost the most weight. In addition, it only took the participants an average of 15 minutes a day to track their meals.
Build A Better Morning Meal
Fast weight loss is often achieved by eating a nutritious, balanced morning meal. A top choice for fast weight loss breakfasts is usually between 300 and 500 calories, with protein, healthy fats and fibre to keep you full until the next meal.
Some nutritious breakfast suggestions include:
- Hard boiled eggs with avocado slices and a bowl of berries Plain
- Greek yoghurt sprinkled with berries and a mixture of nuts or seeds
- Protein shake with almond milk, mixed frozen fruit, spinach, protein powder and plain yoghurt
Reduce Highly Refined Carbohydrates And Sugary Sweets
Ultra-processed foods are usually made up of many ingredients, such as added sugars, trans fats and various starches. They may also contain synthetic flavourings, colourings, preservatives or other artificial substances. Because of their affordability and ease of preparation, highly processed products are often an important part of many American diets. However, they can significantly hinder your weight management goals and put your health at risk.
For example, one study analysed 20 healthy male and female participants who followed either a minimally processed diet or a highly processed diet for two weeks. Each person experienced both diets for two weeks. The diets consisted of three daily meals and snacks with identical calorie, sugar, fat and carbohydrate levels. The participants were free to eat as much or as little as they wanted.
In general, people consumed about 500 extra calories a day from fats and carbohydrates (carbs) on the highly processed diet compared to the minimally processed diet. This resulted in an average weight gain of two pounds over the two weeks. In contrast, the minimally processed diet led to a weight loss of two pounds.
Foods to minimise in the highly processed categories
- Certain types of bread
- Energy drinks
- Packaged biscuits
- Ready meals
- Sausages and processed meats
Research suggests that staying hydrated and drinking water can help you lose weight through a number of mechanisms. For example, one study found that people who drank two glasses of water before meals ate 22% less than those who did not drink water beforehand. Water is also thought to help suppress hunger, increase the effectiveness of exercise and increase the metabolic rate. In general, a person should aim to drink an amount of water equivalent to half their body weight.
However, those who often work or exercise outdoors may need extra water. It’s important to note that increasing water intake alone is unlikely to result in significant weight loss. Proper hydration should be combined with reduced calorie intake and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Getting Enough Fibre, Protein And Good Fats
Instead of eliminating food categories, consider incorporating more natural foods into your meals. Not only are natural foods filling, but they are also packed with nutrients that provide a range of health benefits.
Vegetables are an important part of a natural food diet, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, and are particularly filling. Some of the best low-calorie options include non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, spinach, cauliflower and various leafy greens. While starchy vegetables such as corn, peas and sweet potatoes are nutritious and high in fibre, they are higher in carbohydrates and calories, so it’s best to eat them in moderation.
Protein is perhaps the most important nutrient for weight management. Research shows that a diet high in protein – 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight – can improve satiety, control weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As a guideline, aim for 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.
Excellent sources of protein include:
- Lean cuts of chicken, pork, turkey and beef
- Fish such as salmon, trout, tuna and prawns
- Plant proteins such as pulses, beans, quinoa and tofu
For decades, fat has been unfairly demonised in the American diet. In reality, good fats are essential and should be part of a well-rounded diet. Studies suggest that good fats are important for appetite control and can prolong satiety.
Good sources of healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Fish such as salmon
- Various nuts
- Nuts and seeds
The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat from sources such as butter, red meat and coconut oil should be no more than 5-6% of your total daily calories. This equates to about 11-13 grams of saturated fat in a 2,000-calorie diet.
Improve Your Sleep
Getting enough rest at night is an important step in supporting your weight management journey. In fact, insufficient sleep can hinder weight loss efforts and even lead to weight gain. For example, experts suggest that sleep deprivation during dieting can reduce weight loss and lead to overeating. To improve your sleep, consider reducing stress, avoiding eating just before bedtime, following a consistent sleep routine, and avoiding exposure to artificial light before bed.
Eating consciously means focusing on the food you eat. This includes the purchase, preparation and consumption of your meals. As our daily routines become more hectic, it’s common to develop habits such as eating at your desk, browsing social media during meals, or eating in your car. Here are some suggestions on how to start practising mindful eating:
- Start with smaller portions: Aim for a plate size of no more than 9 inches.
- Eat seated: Eating at a table helps you focus on and appreciate your meal and your surroundings.
- Eat in small bites: Eating in smaller portions allows you to enjoy the texture, flavour and aroma of the food. Try to put your plate down after each bite.
- Chew properly and eat slowly: Chewing your food properly helps extract the flavours for your enjoyment. It may take 20 to 40 chews to fully digest a bite.
Although not a prerequisite for weight loss, exercise alone cannot override a poor diet. However, incorporating aerobic and resistance training can make a significant difference to weight loss and body composition. Physical activity helps to burn extra calories and supports the maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass.
Strength training in particular is effective for faster weight loss. Lifting weights builds lean muscle, which burns calories more efficiently than fat, even at rest. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that healthy people get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week. They also recommend strength training at least twice a week.
Periodic fasting, or PF, involves choosing specific intervals between eating and fasting. For example, you might choose to eat during an eight-hour window each day and fast for the following 16 hours. A synthesis of 40 studies suggests that intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss of between seven and 11 pounds over ten weeks. However, it’s important to recognise that the studies in this synthesis varied in design, participant characteristics and methodology.
During the fasting intervals, insulin levels fall, causing cells to release stored glucose for energy. This cycle, when repeated as in PF, may contribute to safe weight loss similar to PF. In addition, PF often leads to a reduction in total calorie intake, which promotes weight loss.
Can Skipping Meals Help Me Lose Weight Faster?
Skipping meals may help you lose weight in the short term, but it’s not a sustainable or healthy approach. It can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight in the long run. It can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and increase the likelihood of overeating later because of increased hunger. A balanced approach with regular, nutritious meals and exercise is more effective for healthy weight loss.
What Can You Expect From A Nutritious Fast Weight Loss Programme?
Many people find that the number on the scale drops by a few pounds in the first week after starting a new diet. This typically reflects a mixture of actual weight loss and water weight loss. After the first week, a steady, safe weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is expected. If you consistently lose more than 2 pounds a week, you may need to change your diet or exercise routine.
Although rapid weight loss may seem beneficial, excessive weight loss beyond safe limits may expose you to health risks and nutritional deficiencies. Conversely, if you don’t experience consistent weight loss after a few weeks, you may need to change your diet or exercise plan. Modest weight loss, about 5-10% of your total body weight, can begin to bring health benefits such as
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased energy levels
- Improved self-confidence
- Reduced joint discomfort
- Improved insulin sensitivity
How Can I Maintain Muscle Mass While Losing Weight Fast?
To maintain muscle mass while losing weight quickly, prioritise protein intake as it’s essential for muscle maintenance. Include regular resistance training to stimulate muscle growth and maintenance. Include some aerobic exercise, but don’t overdo it as excessive cardio can lead to muscle loss. Stay hydrated and get enough sleep for muscle recovery.
Finally, consider a moderate calorie deficit rather than an extreme diet, as drastic calorie reduction can lead to muscle loss. Consult a health professional or fitness trainer for personalised advice.
What Are The Potential Risks Of Rapid Weight Loss?
Rapid weight loss can pose several health risks. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies because rapid weight loss is often associated with inadequate nutrient intake. This can weaken the immune system and affect general health. Rapid loss of muscle mass is another concern, as the body may break down muscle for energy. It can also cause gallstones and digestive problems due to abrupt changes in diet.
In addition, rapid weight loss can have a negative impact on mental health and may lead to eating disorders. It’s important to lose weight gradually and under medical supervision for safety and sustainability.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much exercise should I do to lose weight quickly?
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, along with strength training twice a week. More exercise can accelerate weight loss but should be increased gradually.
Are there any quick-fix weight loss solutions?
Quick-fix solutions like extreme diets or pills are usually not sustainable or healthy. Long-term lifestyle changes are more effective for lasting weight loss.
How important is water intake in losing weight fast?
Drinking plenty of water is crucial. It boosts metabolism, helps in digestion, and can act as an appetite suppressant. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses a day.
Is it safe to lose weight fast?
Rapid weight loss can be safe if done correctly, but it’s generally safer and more sustainable to lose weight gradually, about 1-2 pounds per week.
How can I stay motivated during rapid weight loss?
Set realistic goals, track your progress, find a support group, and remember why you started. Celebrate small successes to stay motivated.
Losing weight is a multifaceted journey that requires commitment, time and perseverance. By adopting healthier eating habits, minimising your calorie intake and incorporating more nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods into your meals, you can lose weight quickly without feeling deprived. Regular physical activity can also increase your daily calorie expenditure and support a low-calorie diet.
Although gradual weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is considered safe and beneficial, the rate of weight loss may vary from person to person. If you’re aiming for accelerated, rapid weight loss beyond the recommended limits, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor first because of the potential health risks.
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Jayson Peterson is an experienced pharmacist, naturopathic physician, medical examiner, and minister. After earning his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, Jayson Peterson completed clinical rotations at several prestigious healthcare institutions and has been affiliated with several pharmacy chains throughout his career. His main passion and zeal is focused on providing world-class patient care by giving precise details and thorough instructions to those who need it most.