Q: There is so much conflicting information out there about how much weight someone can lose in 12 weeks. Where is the truth?
We have all seen marketing ads that promise a weight loss of 60, 70, or even 80 pounds in 12 weeks. For some people that would be half their body weight! Maybe if you’ve been locked in a room for three months with no food and have enough body fat to burn to stay alive, it’s possible, but if you’re not kidnapped and nearly starved, that’s a ridiculous amount of weight, to strive for a short time.
All you do is prepare for failure and in some cases there are more serious downsides than not reaching a goal. Here are some of the dangers of losing too much weight too quickly:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Hair loss
I think we can all agree that these are things that are best avoided.
The better question is how much weight loss is both healthy and achievable for the average person. For most people, 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy amount to lose. There is one exception that affects the first week. An overweight, out of shape person who begins a healthy weight loss diet and exercise program may develop a bigger lump, maybe up to 6 pounds, in the first week – but that’s fleeting. Even that person will quickly return to 1-2 pounds a week. So a realistic healthy weight loss for 12 weeks would be 22-24 pounds.
Do what it takes: exercise
What kind of things should someone do to get those 22-24 pounds in 12 weeks?
Do a cardiovascular program for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week. This activity can include walking or hiking outdoors, sprinting on a flat track, jogging on a treadmill, or exercising on an elliptical, stepper, or stationary bike. The best cardio pieces for the joints are the stationary bike and the elliptical trainers.
Lift weights 3-4 days a week, 20-30 minutes per session. Follow a full body routine including doing lots of work for your legs, as leg training burns a lot of calories.
There’s nothing crazy here. When you add it up, we’re talking about 3.5 to 4 hours of exercise per week. Lots of people waste so much time on Facebook in a day. So no excuses. You can do it.
Do what it takes: nutrition
For weight loss, I recommend a diet that does not exceed 2,000 calories per day, but does not fall below 1,200. This may seem like a broad spectrum, but it has to be. Numerous factors determine where you should fall on this spectrum.
Sometimes eating less doesn’t necessarily mean losing more. Anything below 1,200 calories a day is no longer safe and sustainable. For one, your body goes into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism down to a crawl. This situation will only get worse when you start losing muscle tissue along with fat, water, and other resources.
While the amount of calories is critical in a weight loss diet, so is the quality of the calories. Here are some examples of high quality foods I recommend for weight loss:
- Proteins: Chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, tuna, shrimp
- Starchy carbohydrates: Oatmeal, beans, noodles, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread
- Fibrous carbohydrates: Broccoli, spinach, corn, asparagus, carrots, peas, cucumber, mushrooms, kale, garlic
- Fruit: Apples, apricots, peaches, raisins, strawberries, pears, pineapples, watermelon
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, peanut butter, almond butter, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, unsalted walnuts, almonds, olives
This type of sustained weight loss sounds pretty simple and it is. The challenge is to be disciplined and stay on course. In the end, your mind plays a vital role in determining how much fat your body is losing.