How Much Weight Is Safe to Lose in 1 Week?

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To lose 2 pounds per week, you'd need to burn 1,000 calories more than you eat each day. You can do this through diet and exercise. However, this may not be healthy or ideal for many people. It's important to understand the risks and what your individual calorie needs are first.

During your life, your weight may have fluctuated and changed. This is normal and expected as many people experience times where their habits shift depending on current priorities and time constraints.

If you have made the decision on your own or with the help of a healthcare provider to lose weight, you may wonder how much weight is safe to lose in a week in order to set your rate of weight loss and reach your goal. In general, slow and steady weight loss is best for sustainability. Below you will find out more about a healthy rate of weight loss and what you can expect.

Weight loss discussions can be triggering for some, especially those who have experienced disordered eating. Weight loss is not appropriate for everyone.

Why Weight Fluctuates

Weight can fluctuate for several reasons. Shifts in your daily activity, exercise habits, eating habits, hormones, and other factors can increase or decrease your overall calorie intake or expenditure.

Even over a short timeframe, weight tends to fluctuate. Research on weight fluctuations in adults shows that weight tends to fluctuate by 0.35% over the weekend, with a slight gain to a subsequent loss on weekdays.

Weekend and holiday weight increased fluctuations can be due to increased sodium in your food choices if you eat out or indulge in something higher in sodium than your typical weekly diet. Sodium can cause water weight gain that will level out once your intake balances out. Be sure to drink lots of water to help flush out excess sodium and water retention and to stay hydrated.

Holiday weight gain such as over the Christmas period is shown to increase by a mean of 1.35% and that weight gain doesn't tend to come back off in the following months. For those who menstruate, weight fluctuations often occur in the week or days before your period and may continue throughout that week.

Others may see an increase during ovulation in the middle of the menstrual cycle. Likewise, hormonal shifts cause fluid retention during this time and weight usually levels out once it's over.

How to Know What a Healthy Weight Is For You

Knowing what a healthy weight is for you will help set appropriate goals that improve your health. You may even find that you do not need to lose weight to be within a healthy range. Everyone's version of a healthy weight is different due to individual body composition.

If you have more muscle mass, you will be heavier than someone with less muscle at the same height. You may even find that BMI charts indicate you are overweight when you have a healthy body fat percentage due to your increased muscle mass. This is why BMI is not a good indicator for several groups of people, including elderly or muscular individuals.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

You also can be healthy and overweight. Although obesity is linked to several chronic illnesses and diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, diabetes, cancer, stroke, sleep disorders, and more, it is not always the case that your body composition will harm your health.

It is vital to speak to a healthcare provider about your unique needs and health concerns. Below is a calculator you can use to get a general idea of what your weight loss calories might be. Consult your health care provider for more individualized advice.

How to Lose Weight Safely

Losing weight safely means working toward your weight loss goal with your physical and mental health as top priorities. Weight loss should never be your number one priority at any cost. When losing weight comes before your overall health, it is not safe nor sustainable.

Focusing on your nutrition and exercise as tools to support your weight loss goal is wise. A safe rate of weight loss is anything from 0.5 pounds to 2 pounds per week, with an average of 1 to 2 pounds per week being the typical recommendation. The leaner you are, the slower your rate of weight loss should be to help you preserve muscle mass and protect your metabolism.

Both exercise and nutrition play significant roles in supporting safe weight loss. Studies show that combining both strategies leads to better results in the long term.

Exercise for Safe Weight Loss

Adding exercise to your routine for safe weight loss is very effective. Exercise is excellent for your overall health and is more important than losing weight. In other words, even if you do not lose weight, exercise improves your health substantially, reducing your risks of illnesses and diseases.

Research shows that people with obesity can more likely reduce their risks of heart disease and premature death through adding exercise than they can by dieting or losing weight.

Exercise can improve your physical and mental well-being. It also can help you build strength, stability, and mobility, increase heart and lung health, reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, and boost self-esteem.

When it comes to weight loss, exercise helps you create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss to occur. Instead of requiring all of your calorie deficit to come from your diet, you can boost your activity levels to provide some of the deficit needed. Moving more during the day and intentional exercise are both ways to boost your total daily energy expenditure.

Nutrition for Safe Weight Loss

To lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories than you burn. As stated, adding exercise increases your calorie expenditure so if you are eating the same amount of calories, you will create a deficit through your calorie burn. In order to burn enough calories to lose weight consistently, this will take quite a lot of exercise. Experts recommend creating a deficit with a combination of diet and exercise.

To do this, you can subtract some calories from your maintenance amount. Using the above calculator will allow you to choose your activity level and factor that into what you should eat to support your activity while still accommodating weight loss.

It's essential to keep in mind that while any calorie deficit will work to induce weight loss no matter what you eat, it's much better for your health to focus on nutritious foods. Foods high in water, fiber, and protein are filling and nutritious, making it easier to lose weight. Getting a balance of carbs, protein, and fats are preferred over drastically cutting out carbs or fats.

Research consistently shows that cutting back drastically on one macronutrient does not lead to greater or more sustainable weight loss than simply eating a balanced diet in a deficit.

Not only will whole foods packed with water, fiber, and protein keep you feeling full longer, but they also provide you with the nutrients you need to feel energized and perform well, which is more of a challenge when in a deficit.

A Word From Verywell

Weight loss is not a goal that is appropriate for everyone and losing weight does not necessarily lead to better health. Losing weight safely by using sustainable, health-promoting habits and practices will better ensure your weight loss goal is achieved, maintained, and leads to overall improved wellness both physically and mentally.

If you are concerned about your weight, speak to a healthcare provider for advice. Nutrition and fitness professionals as well as a medical professional can help you create a plan toward safe, sustainable weight loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many calories do you need to eat to lose 2 pounds per week?

    To lose 2 pounds per week, you need to create a calorie deficit of 1,000 calories per day. This is only safe if a healthcare provider has approved it. Calorie needs depend on a variety of factors such as metabolism, current weight, height, and activity level, which are different for everyone.

  • How much should I exercise to lose 2 pounds per week?

    To lose 2 pounds per week, the amount of exercise you would need to do depends on your current calorie intake, metabolism, current weight, height, and activity level. This will be different for everyone. If you are using exercise alone to create a calorie deficit, you would need to burn 1,000 calories per day while consuming your previous maintenance calories.

13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.