Weight Loss & Diet

Painless Ways to Lose a Pound a Week

When you follow a crash diet, you may see results quickly, but the weight loss vanish at the end. Learn how to lose a pound a week, painlessly.
Painless Ways to Lose a Pound a Week
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Small changes can add up and which changes you can make without feeling deprived to help you lose a pound a week. The check-in got into the nitty-gritty of turning specific calorie numbers into weight loss, and you can keep reading for more help.

A Pound of Fat is 3,500 Calories

How many slices of cheesecake turn into an inch of belly fat? How much pizza is there in a dress size? There is no need for fuzzy math like that. Instead, you can work with real numbers. The magic number is 3,500. 

To lose one pound of body fat, you need to burn off (expend) an extra 3,500 calories over and above what your body needs, according to Mayo Clinic. That number is called a deficit.

By the way, you can gain a pound of body weight when you take in, or consume, an extra 3,500 calories compared to what your body needs.

Lark and most experts suggest trying to lose between one-half and two pounds per week. That means you need an average deficit of:

  • 250 calories each day to lose ½ pound per week
  • 500 calories each day to lose 1 pound per week
  • 1,000 calories each day to lose 2 pounds per week

You probably will not hit those numbers exactly every single day, and you will probably not lose exactly the amount of weight each week that you expect. Over time, though, your numbers will average out.

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Why “Just” a Pound a Week?

Some diet programs promise that you can lose 10 or more pounds in under a month, so why does Lark encourage you to “settle” for losing just one-half to two pounds a week? Is it even worth the effort? Consider the following if a pound a week does not sound like much to you.

  • In two weeks, your risk for diabetes could drop by over 15%.
  • In 2 to 3 months, you could lower your risk for diabetes by over 50%.
  • In a year, you could lose over 50 lb.

Losing weight at the rate of 1 lb. per week or less gives you an important advantage over losing weight too fast. Losing weight slowly helps you become less likely to be regain those hard-fought pounds. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) suggests making small changes that can be followed for the long-term.

When you follow a crash diet, you may see impressive results quickly, but your weight loss may evaporate at the end of the diet. That makes sense when you consider a rapid weight loss diet plan, such as a juice diet or cookie diet, that is unsustainable. When you stop following the diet, you are more likely to go back to your previous eating habits, which are the ones that cause weight gain in the first place. 

In contrast, you can lose 1 lb. a week with small changes and over time. During that time, you will have the chance to establish healthier eating patterns that involve sustainable changes. These changes can become habits so that you need never “go off” your diet. Instead, you eventually can naturally eat right for your right weight.

10 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

How exactly do you go about losing a pound a week? You need a deficit of 500 calories a day, on average. You can:

  • Reduce the amount of calories you take in (eat less) by 500 calories per day,
  • Increase your physical activity (calorie expenditures) by 500 calories per day, OR
  • Do any combination of the two to add up to 500 calories.

These are 10 ideas for how you can build a 500-calorie daily deficit to try to lose a pound a week. Mayo Clinic, NIDDK, and the American Heart Association (AHA) have additional ideas.

  1. Have plain coffee or tea with a splash of unsweetened almond milk instead of a large mocha or other blended coffee beverage, and have a whole-grain English muffin with low-fat cream cheese instead of a blueberry muffin.
  2. Order a side salad instead of medium fries and drink water instead of a 20-oz. soda.
  3. Have 2 slices of thin-crust cheese pizza with vegetable toppings instead of 2 slices of thick-crust pepperoni pizza, and munch on carrot sticks instead of breadsticks.
  4. Split a plate of pasta with a friend when you go out instead of eating the whole thing yourself.
  5. Build a salad with grilled instead of fried chicken, skip bacon, chow mein noodles or croutons, and cheese, and use half the dressing you are given.
  6. Have plain non-fat yogurt instead of flavored low-fat yogurt, and walk briskly for an hour.
  7. Take an hour-long zumba or kickboxing class.
  8. Walk uphill briskly for 30 minutes and hydrate with 32 oz. of water instead of sports drink.
  9. Finish your meal with decaf coffee and fruit instead of pie or cheesecake.
  10. Get the smallest size frozen yogurt or ice cream instead of the biggest, and top it with fruit instead of brownies, candy, or syrup.

Do It Your Way

You can make your own calorie-saving choices to add up to your goal deficit. Aim to cut back on calories and/or burn more to the tune of: 250 calories per day for a half-pound loss per week, 500 calories for a goal of losing a pound a week, or 1,000 daily calories to lose about 2 pounds per week.

These are a few additional examples of ways you can build up that deficit.

There is no question that weight loss takes work, but just as sure is that weight loss is attainable. Set realistic goals, such as losing no more than 1 to 2 lb. per week, and think about which small changes you can make that fit into your lifestyle. Lark DPP can help you build healthy habits that can get the weight off for good while lowering diabetes risk.