Our experts at Weight Watchers suggest that a healthy weight loss is two pounds or less per week. Remember, it is not how many pounds you lose each week, but your average weight loss over time.
Quick fix, fast failure
"We live in a quick-fix society," says Dr. Debra Mandel, a psychologist who specialises in eating disorders. "When we want something, we want it right away." We are constantly presented with ways to lose weight fast through advertisements which try to convince us that we can lose inches by tomorrow, and be slimmer by next week. It seems like there's no harm in wanting to lose weight by yesterday. After all, it's possible. Isn't it?
"Those who crash diet tend to gain it back once they hit the wall and can't take living on the diet that had them lose all their weight to begin with," adds Larry Track, a Toronto-based fitness trainer.
Also, adds Mandel, "[with quick-fix diets], our metabolism slows down, and eventually we're eating fewer and fewer calories but not losing weight. This leads to anxiety, which prompts us to eat even fewer calories to try to lose. The body rebels against that even more."
So, it's a vicious cycle. Because if you don't get enough nutrients—which is a major risk when you're going for a quick fix—your brain, and then your body, will, well, insist that you eat. To your body, it's nothing more than survival. But to you, it will feel like you're giving into cravings and losing control. Then you'll feel shame and failure, which might very well send you to the fridge.
Why slow weight loss lasts
"I'm glad my weight loss was slow for me because I feel like I really have made lifestyle changes," says Lyn, a meetings member. "I just keep at it. I continue to see slow progress, but overall a great deal of success. Slowly but surely the weight comes off."
It's that kind of "through thick and thin" attitude that will take people from thick to thin for good, says Mandel. Losing weight slowly isn't just healthier, she says, it's a better investment. Not only are you shaving pounds, you're working on building habits that you'll be able to maintain. And those habits will help you maintain the weight you lost, so you can stay at your weight goal for good.
"Plus, you have more energy to live life in the present, because you're not starving and focusing on food," says Mandel. "You're creating a healthy relationship with food, so food will become your friend rather than your enemy." That's the key to lifelong success.
Exercise can help
If you're losing weight slowly, one thing to consider is increasing your physical activity. This can contribute to a greater and more consistent weight loss.
"People need to develop a healthy lifestyle of eating and exercising in order to lose the unwanted pounds and then maintain a healthy weight," says Track. "Those who choose to only diet and experience large weight loss (5-6 pounds/week) will not maintain a long healthy lifestyle."
Adding more exercise to your routine can mean simply tweaking your daily activity such as walking a little farther or longer, running a little faster, or trying new activities such as weight training. The greatest benefit of weight training is that your muscles continue to burn fat long after you have finished exercising—something that may boost your weight loss.