Q: There's so much conflicting information about how much weight someone can lose in 12 weeks. Where does the truth lie?
We've all seen marketing ads promising weight loss of 60, 70, or even 80 pounds in 12 weeks. For some people, that would be half their body weight! Maybe it's possible if you're locked in a room for three months without food and have enough body fat to burn to stay alive, but short of being kidnapped and starved nearly to death, that's a ridiculous amount of weight to aspire to lose in such a short period.
All you're doing is setting yourself up for failure, and in some cases, there are more serious downsides than failing to achieve 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 best avoided.
The better question is, how much weight loss is both healthy and attainable for the average person? For most people, 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy amount to lose. There is an exception, and it concerns the first week. An overweight, out-of-shape person who starts a healthy weight-loss diet and exercise regimen may get a bigger bump that first week, maybe up to 6 pounds—but that's fleeting. Even that person will quickly revert to 1-2 pounds per week. So, a realistic healthy weight loss for 12 weeks would be 22-24 pounds.
Doing What It Takes: Training
What types of things should someone do to achieve that 22-24 pounds in 12 weeks?
Perform a cardiovascular program for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 4 days per week. This activity could include walking or hiking outdoors, sprinting on a flat track, jogging on a treadmill, or exercising on an elliptical machine, stepper, or stationary bike. The best cardio pieces for the joints are the stationary bike and elliptical.
Lift weights 3-4 days a week, 20-30 minutes per session. Follow a full-body routine, including plenty of work for your legs, as leg training burns a ton of calories.
Nothing crazy here. If you add it up, we're talking about 3.5-4 hours of exercise per week. A lot of people waste that much time on Facebook in a day. So, no excuses. You can do it.
Doing What It Takes: Nutrition
For weight loss, I recommend a diet that doesn't exceed 2,000 calories per day, yet doesn't fall below 1,200. That may seem like a wide range, but it has to be. Numerous factors help dictate where you should fall on that 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 will go into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism to a crawl, a situation that will only be exacerbated when you start losing muscle tissue along with fat, water, and other resources.
While the quantity of calories is crucial on a weight-loss diet, so is the quality of calories. Here are some examples of high-quality foods that I recommend for weight loss:
- Proteins: chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, tuna, shrimp
- Starchy carbs: oatmeal, beans, pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole-grain bread
- Fibrous carbs: broccoli, spinach, corn, asparagus, carrots, peas, cucumbers, mushrooms, kale, garlic
- Fruits: apples, apricots, peaches, raisins, strawberries, pears, pineapple, watermelon
- Healthy fats: olive oil, peanut butter, almond butter, canola oil, sunflower oil, unsalted walnuts, almonds, olives
This sort of sustainable weight loss sounds fairly simple, and it is. The challenge comes in being disciplined and staying the course. In the end, your mind plays a pivotal role in determining how much fat your body loses.