Telegraph feature: “How quickly can I lose my holiday weight?”

Chances are you’ve just over indulged: Easter weekend is jam-packed with family gatherings, food, and of course – chocolate. So having assessed the damage done, you’ve probably set some pretty good eating and training intentions out again – but what kind of rapid weight loss and return to peak performance is actually realistic?

The reality is that weight loss never happens as quickly as we want it to and for many of us losing excess body fat can seem like an arduous and frustrating process. We are all guilty of wanting the quick fix when it comes to getting into shape, but it is almost certainly never the best way to approach it. Despite the continued presence of the ‘lose weight in six weeks’ crowd, overall we are starting to see a more positive shift towards longer-term approaches that are less about radical interventions and more about adopting more sustainable habits, which we can keep up.
As a general rule of thumb, we should expect to lose no more than two pounds per week, if that is our goal is to lose fat and not valuable lean tissue, and we want to keep it off for good. Why two pounds?

In simplistic terms, a pound of fat equates to 3,500 calories, which means that to lose two pounds of fat, we need to create an energy deficit of seven thousand calories each week, or one thousand calories each day, which we can do by eating less, moving more, or doing a combination of both.

It’s not an exact science as all foods react differently in our body, but a thousand calories is a fairly significant deficit, which will require some pretty significant diet and lifestyle changes for many of us. The rationale is that if we go any faster than this, we are likely to have to adopt unsustainable behaviours, which yes, will get us quick weight loss results, but very often see us put it all back on once our resolve inevitably buckles and we go back to doing what we were doing previously, hence why so many of us yo-yo diet.
This is a pretty sensible approach and one that works well for many of us, but in truth, how fast we lose weight will vary depending on our starting point, our previous nutritional approaches, our exercise history and many other factors. It is common to see people have a fairly significant drop on body fat at the outset, before it settles into more conservative pattern, which is particularly true for those of us with more weight to lose.

A typical pattern that I see, and one that I describe to people when helping them set expectations is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1… example, which helps to demonstrate how weight loss works for many of us; it is not uncommon for those of us with more weight to lose to drop five pounds in the first week, four in the second, then three, two, and one per week thereafter.

It is of course never as linear as this, and the rate at which we lose and continue to lose fat will be hugely individual, but helps to show that we won’t continue to, and should expect to, lose weight at a radical rate over more than the first couple of weeks – we need to be patient.
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