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Weight Loss Reality Check-Why Losing 2 Pounds A Week May Not Be As Easy As You Think

By Meri Raffetto

Do you ever wonder why your neighbor seemed to drop weight in a few weeks on a fad diet but you are not seeing results as you begin making healthy lifestyle changes? Does this mean that healthy lifestyle changes don’t work? There is a misconception of how weight loss occurs and the diet society we live in has us believing that if we don’t see the pounds drop each week then the particular program or routine you have adapted isn’t working. This isn’t exactly true.

Here are the facts. Physiologically we know that it takes 3500 calories to lose one pound of body fat. So in order to lose 2 pounds a week, which is considered slow weight loss in the diet world, you have to make a 1000 calorie deficit every single day. For a few this can happen easily, but for most it really isn't that easy to make a 1000 calorie deficit and more often than not it means you have to make immediate and drastic changes to your diet and exercise every day. Many diet plans and programs will put you on a very low calorie level (1200 calories seems to be the magic number). This will most likely result in that 1000 calorie deficit but it also may decrease your metabolism and is a very tough calorie level to live with long term. We know this is true and the proof is looking at the percentage of people who regain their weight after dieting with these types of programs.

We also know that it takes about 6 weeks of consistent exercise before you begin to see changes in your body shape. This is just the starting point- 1 ½ months, not two weeks.

Think about the rate that you gained weight. We usually don't gain 50 pounds in 6 months. We gain weight gradually over time and the process works exactly the same for weight loss. Rest assure, when you don't see immediate results it doesn't mean your efforts aren't working. You may make a 200 calorie deficit each day which will still lead to weight loss but over a longer period of time.


Let's break this down and look at the true picture of weight loss:

1000 calorie deficit (2 pounds weight loss each week)

- Quicker results.
– Motivation is strong because you can see quick results.
– Have to work harder and make significant changes right away (to give you an example a 30 minute brisk walk will burn around 175 calories- you would still have a long way to go to reach a 1000 calorie deficit for this day).
– Requires an increased amount of focus.
– Long term compliance is significantly decreased- we know that when people make more than a 400 calorie deficit they are less likely to stick with the changes long term and end up regaining their weight.
– Doesn't allow time to change habits. It takes 30 days to change one habit. When you try to jump into new eating and exercise habits all at once, you have a higher probability of quitting all together because it is too overwhelming.
– Often leads people to be overly focused or obsessed about food, counting, and scales.

100 – 400 calorie deficit

- Results happen over months not weeks (this varies; some people may lose 1/2 – 1 pound per week but it is an overall slower process).
– Can be frustrating not seeing results right away when you are making positive changes. You have to find ways to self motivate other than the scale.
– Still requires focus but you can focus on a few things at a time instead of trying to adapt 10 15 change. This allows you to focus on bigger obstacles that continue to get in the way such as life long conditioning, food cravings, or emotional/stress eating.

Gives you time and space to change habits which results in better long term compliance. You can focus on a few things at once to build new habits.
– Significantly better long term results. More likely to stick with the changes and not regain the weight.
– Less obsessive about food and counting. It doesn't end up consuming your whole life.

Ultimately the choice is up to you but I think it is important to have awareness around how this works. There is no right or wrong answer. I can tell you that people who do find long term results where they don't have to obsess about dieting and food all the time are the ones who are making a 100–400 calorie deficit. You will find that every well researched professional program out there promotes a much slower process. If you want to see quicker results, just be prepared to work a little harder and commit to long term changes.

I saw a video on yahoo health the other day with a woman sharing her weight loss story. She said the first change she made was going to the gym for a half hour, 5 days a week. This is all she worked on in the beginning and over time she started changing her eating habits. She shared that her weight didn't budge for the first 2 ½ months but then she started changing shape, lost a significant amount of weight, looks fantastic and has kept it off. She is happy and content with her lifestyle – this is the true face of long term weight loss. It is committing to the lifestyle and allowing your body time to respond.

Learning about your body and making healthy lifestyle changes isn't a diet or plan. It is something that works every time, but you have to be patient and not give up when you don't see the scale move right away. This is a numbers game and it is all about making changes in your diet and exercise, that you can live with, that result in a calorie deficit.

(c) 2007, Meri Raffetto

Owner of Real Living Nutrition Services, Meri Raffetto is a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She specializes in weight management and offers online programs to help people reach their weight loss and health goals. For more information or to sign up for a free newsletter 

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Onevision wrote Jan 30, 2009
    • Do you have the 2-by-4 recipe? IT IS WW

      2 lbs. ground turkey
      2 cans (black label) chili beans-I get the ones with jalapenos in the bottom!
      2 cans rotel (you can pick mild or hot)
      2 cans progresso low sodium minestrone soup

      You cook the turkey, dump the rest in, heat and eat. I eat with low sodium crakers (5=1pt)

      1.5 cups = 4 points. It is so wonderful. Has become a staple in my house.


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