• Chris Steffanoni

How fast should you lose weight when dieting?

We see many clients who are motivated to reduce their weight to a healthy level. It's essential to set realistic weight-loss goals to keep the weight off in the long term.

A common mistake people make is setting overly ambitious weight reduction targets. People naturally want to lose large amounts of weight as quickly as possible.

Motivated dieters will often achieve early weight-loss success if they choose meal replacement diets or eating plans that remove certain food groups. Think, paleo, Atkins or "no-carb" diets.

Research shows that diets promising quick results are usually not effective in the long term. People lose weight quickly but tend to put the kilos back on within six to twelve months.

As a general guideline for setting weight loss goals, losing 5% of your body weight is an achievable target over about three months. A 100kg person should aim to lose 5kg in three months. Even if a 5% reduction is not enough to get you down to your ideal weight-range, this small loss can still provide an incredibly positive health benefit. Once you achieve the 5% goal, you can plan your next goal. Another way to set a sustainable goal is to shoot for a half kilogram weight loss per week. It sounds like a negligible reduction but if you think about it, losing half a kilo per week for a year, is 25kg! (Now please don't take that as permission to set a 25kg weight goal for the year, small increments are much more achievable).

Losing anything over 1kg a week puts you at a higher risk of regaining the weight later.

One frustration that people can run into is weight loss plateauing. You are doing all the right things, a healthy diet and an exercise regimen but for some unknown reason, you can't shed any more kilos. This experience is normal, so don't get disheartened. It's explained by a process called the set-point theory. Our bodies have an incredible regulation system when it comes to body weight. When you lose weight, your metabolism will slow down as your body tries to get back to its original weight. If you can lose that 5% body weight, with a bit of time that will become the new set-point that your body tries to maintain Your goal should be to maintain the 5% loss at this point whilst your body adapts. Research shows that people who lose 4-8kg per year are likely to maintain their weight loss compared to those who lose large amounts of weight.

Weight loss seems simple in theory. Consume less energy than you burn, and you will lose weight.

The first part of this equation is relatively simple. We can control our energy intake fairly well with discipline and meal planning, but, the "energy out" part is extremely complex. If you drop weight too quickly, your metabolism changes and burns less energy each day.

Oh, and while we are on the energy out thing, the best way to speed up your metabolism is to exercise. Shoot for at least 2.5 hours a week for minor weight loss and 3.5 to 6.5 hours per week for more active people.

There are many diets available that people follow. A group of academics have done some of the hard work for you here to figure out which diets are healthy and effective. The Australian dietary guidelines recommend that for a weight loss diet, 30% of your energy should come from fats, 15% should come from protein and at least 55% from carbohydrates. Emphasising nutritional adequacy and small portion sizes are usually more effective and sustainable than extreme diets. Weight loss requires long term changes to eating patterns that you are happy to continue with into the future.

So set your goals realistically. Half a kilogram per week is enough for your body's metabolism to adjust without thrusting the weight back on. And if you do pick an off the shelf diet, try to choose one that doesn't make you cut out whole food groups.

Happy eating.

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