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How much weight should you try to lose each week?

How much weight should you try to lose each week?

Should it be a dozen pounds? Twenty pounds like contestants on The Biggest Loser?


How about trying for a consistent pound or so each week? That’s plenty.

When you lose lots of weight every week without the help of drugs, and with crash dieting, you’re probably losing mostly muscle and water.

Two things happen when you lose muscle and water: 1). The weight will return almost instantly when you stop crash dieting. 2). Your metabolism will be negatively impacted by the loss of muscle and the likely hormonal shifts you’re causing.

This means that it’ll be even harder to lose weight next time, and sets you up for disaster.

I get it. You want to lose 50 pounds in a week. We all do. But for long-term, permanent weight loss, it’s gotta be slower than that for almost everyone.

In America, we’re used to having what we want, when we want it. We can watch an entire season of our favorite show in a weekend on Netflix. We can order anything on the Internet, and expect it at our doorstep quickly. Any food, any time of year, even if it’s out of season (some people don’t know that most food grows seasonally anymore), is available to us. Why should weight loss be any different?

Because it is.

The body isn’t a machine. It’s more than a machine. It is affected by stress, hormones, toxins, sleep, and calories.

Moreover, many scientists think of our bodyweight as having a “set point” that changes over time. If you have been overweight for a while, your set point is reflected in the scale weight, and it is guarded by hormones and appetite and a dozen other things that you aren’t aware of hour by hour. It wants to stay where it is right now, and it won’t budge quickly.

When you try to change your set point quickly, it’s almost as if the body isn’t taking you seriously. Yeah, you can change the scale weight temporarily with grit and radically low-calorie diets. But eventually, it’ll snap back to its set point.

It seems that the only way to durably change the set point to a lower weight is to do so slowly. I may be oversimplifying it when I say this, but it’s as if the body is persuaded that you really mean it when you change things little by little. Radical shifts just don’t result in permanent, long-term set point changes. Slow shifts do.

This means that you need a whole new mindset. One that is at peace with slow, steady results.

Our culture has forgotten the fable of the tortoise and the hare. We’ve becoming a Hare Culture, and no matter how many times it fails us, the promise of quick results always seems to seduce us.

Some of us have spent literal decades trying to accomplish things quickly, when a couple of years of slow-and-steady, sustainable progress would have gotten us across the finish line long ago. “Quick” often takes longer than slow, in that case. The failed quick-fix efforts have caused us to lose confidence. Maybe they’ve damaged our physical bodies after endless yo-yo dieting. They’ve made us cynical.

It is well past time to get back to basics, and re-learn the wisdom of the ages telling us that slow and steady wins this race.

Shoot for a half-pound to a pound per week. Two pounds per week is bonus. Twenty pounds per week is a disaster.

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