Why Losing 2 Pounds/Week is a Bad Idea

Successful diet
“Yes! I can finally eat cheesecake again!”

I like goals, small & big.

But there is a certain type of goal I don’t like. And it’s one I hear often – “aim to lose 2 pounds a week.”

Why don’t I like this goal? Because it predisposes you to failure. Instead:

  • aim for 8-10 pounds in a month; or
  • aim for 4 – 5 pounds every 14 days

But wait – isn’t that the same thing as losing 2 pounds a week? 

No! It’s not. Especially not for women.

I’m not trying to mince words here, I swear.  There are psychological aspects to weight loss. And aiming to lose 2 pounds a week simply isn’t a smart goal.

Reasons

  • Weight doesn’t directly correlate to fat. You already know this.
    • So you CAN gain weight while losing fat.
    • When you’re working with such a small number as “2 pounds,” there is so much room for error that you are bound to get mixed up.
    • This makes it tricky for you to track what’s working and what’s not working in terms of reaching your goal.
  • A week is a LONG time. And yet it’s a short time.
    • When you diet all week long, and then you step on the scale to no results, or even to a higher weight than you started out, it can be deflating. Which is stupid, because if you’ve been doing the right things, then you probably ARE making strides towards your goal, even if those strides aren’t reflected by your weight this very minute.
    • On the other hand, if you go two weeks without losing any weight (and CERTAINLY if you go a full month without losing any weight) – then it’s likely there is either:
      • a problem with your plan (i.e., your numbers are wrong); or
      • a problem in the EXECUTION of your plan (ie..you’re eating more than you realize)
  • It’s not how weight loss works. When I was losing weight, some weeks I lost 3-4 pounds, and some weeks I lost none.
    • If I was a fool, I might have listened to people who said “losing 4 pounds in a week! that’s dangerous!” Or, I might have listened to someone who said “if you’re doing things right, but not losing weight, then you’ve probably hit a plateau.”
    • The truth is most likely this: as long as I stayed consistent, I WAS losing FAT steadily. I just wasn’t losing WEIGHT steadily. There is a difference! As long as I averaged out to 8-10 pounds a month, I was losing fat at a healthy pace. Even though my weight loss was staggered.

A lot of people have a lot of opinions on the right way to lose weight, the right pace to lose weight etc. Some of these people have advanced degrees. So what? Advanced degrees never stopped anyone from saying “Fat is bad! Eat more carbs!”

I say, don’t listen to anyone! Don’t even listen to me.

Losing 4 pounds some weeks, and zero pounds other weeks might make sense for you. Unless you’re doing a body fat analysis every week, then there is no reason to think this reflects anything other than a steady fat loss.

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5 thoughts on “Why Losing 2 Pounds/Week is a Bad Idea”

  1. Great post! I also think the emphasis should be placed more on other numbers like body measurements (chest, bust, etc), resting heart rate, blood pressure, etc. which are also signs that your fitness and health goals are aligned and working.

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  2. I can’t love this post enough. I found out the semi-hard way that the number on your scale staying the same doesn’t always mean that your body isn’t changing. Some weeks I would stay the same in weight but look less heavy than I was a the last time I weighed myself, but the next week I would find that I lost four pounds. I weigh myself a lot less and don’t have as much disappointment now that I realize that there is such a thing as non-scale victories. (yay for those)

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  3. Great post. It’s true our bodies are not exact machines and focusing on such a small and specific goal can cause a lot of stress and discouragement. Weight will always be up and down so focusing on a bigger time gap is a much better idea!

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  4. I would love to throw out my scale but I find that it challenges me. I also notice, though, that I avoid even looking at it when I have overindulged in foods that pile on the weight.

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  5. Thanks for this. I joined the gym nearly 3 weeks ago. I was determined that by the end of that first 3 weeks I would see a difference on the scales. But I don’t and rationalising why so I stay motivated to keep going back is so important right now. I am very hard on myself and very impatient when it comes to diet, exercise and weight loss. I have a lot to lose (by my standards) so I need to stay focussed. Your words will help me understand what’s going on. 😀

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