A person may be able to lose roughly 4–8 pounds (lb) in a month. Reaching and maintaining a moderate weight can play an important role in preventing various diseases, including coronary heart disease and stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who lose weight slowly and steadily have a better chance of maintaining a moderate weight.
With exercise and nutrition changes, a person can expect to lose weight. Exactly how much weight a person can lose, though, depends on many factors.
This article gives tips on how to lose weight safely, including dietary factors to avoid and exercise guidelines.
The CDC state that a person can safely and effectively lose about 1–2 lb a week. Based on those numbers, in a month, a person could safely lose 4–8 lb.
However, these are just estimates.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advise people to take a measured approach to their goals.
They recommend that people start by:
- assessing their general fitness level
- talking to a doctor about how any underlying conditions may affect their exercise or diet
- figuring out what activities they enjoy doing
- setting measurable goals
The AHA also state that if weight loss is a goal, a person should talk to a doctor about realistic expectations.
Everyone is different, and reasonable goals will vary, but getting a number in mind may help motivate a person to work toward their goal.
When making dietary changes, a person should avoid fad diets. The creators of fad diets often promise rapid, significant weight loss or other benefits. However, these diets are often hard to maintain, and some can be unhealthful.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advise people to avoid any diet plans or products that suggest or promise:
Rapid weight loss
When a person loses weight rapidly, they are also losing water, bone, and muscle. A person is also more likely to regain weight if they lost it quickly.
Specific food combinations, rigid menus, or limitations
A person can find it difficult to maintain this way of eating.
Even if they take supplements or multivitamins, they will not be consuming enough of some crucial nutrients.
Physical activity is important for maintaining a person’s health.
Eating a diet full of healthful foods is an important part of reaching and maintaining a moderate weight.
The CDC recommend that people adopt the following dietary habits:
- eating proteins from poultry, lean meats, beans, fish, nuts, and eggs
- eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy products, and whole grains
- avoiding trans fats, cholesterol, and saturated fats
- limiting foods with added sugar or large amounts of sugar
- reducing salt intake
People eating for weight loss or maintenance should also determine their caloric needs.
A person can work with their healthcare provider to determine a reasonable calorie intake for each day. Once they have this number, the individual can build their meal plans around staying within it.
People should focus on filling their plate with quality foods that will provide them with nutrients.
According to the AHA, adults should get the following amounts of exercise or physical activity each week to promote a healthful lifestyle:
- a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardio activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous cardio activity, or a combination of both spread out throughout the week
- moderate-to-high intensity muscle strengthening or resistance training on at least 2 days of the week
- those who are able should aim for 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardio activity
In addition, it is important to avoid sitting for extended periods.
For children, the AHA recommend the following:
- Parents and caregivers should provide young children between the ages of 3 and 5 plenty of time to run around and play.
- Children between the ages of 6 and 17 should get at least 60 minutes a day of active play.
- Children should aim to do intense cardio activity on at least 3 days of the week, as well as strength building on at least 3 days.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), aerobic activity is the most effective way to burn calories. The NHS also state that muscle burns more calories than fat. As a result, increasing muscle mass may help a person lose weight.
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise can include:
- water aerobics
- doubles tennis
- brisk walking
Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise can include:
- swimming laps quickly
- hiking uphill
- aerobic dancing
- jumping rope
- heavy yard work, such as digging
Resistance training can build lean muscle mass that can boost a person’s metabolism.
A study in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports states that just 10 weeks of resistance training can boost a person’s resting metabolism by 7%. An increased metabolism means increased calorie burn, which can lead to weight loss.
It is possible to lose weight too quickly.
The NHS state that an unintentional weight loss of more than 5% of a person’s weight over 6–12 months may be a cause for concern.
If a person finds that they are losing a lot of weight, particularly if they are not attempting to lose it, it may be the result of an underlying condition or a side effect of a medication.
Some conditions that may cause weight loss include:
- digestive conditions, such as celiac disease
- type 1 diabetes
- depression or other mental health conditions
A person should see their doctor if they notice rapid or unintentional weight loss and are experiencing additional symptoms that could indicate an underlying issue.
A person should talk to their doctor before setting weight loss goals. A doctor or certified nutritionist can help a person determine their unique needs and help them set reasonable goals.
A person should also talk to a doctor if they are either gaining or losing a large amount of weight without meaning to do so. An unexplained change in weight could be a sign of an underlying condition or a reaction to a medication.
They may also want to speak to their doctor if their reasonable efforts to lose weight are proving ineffective.
A person is most likely to lose weight if they commit to overall lifestyle changes, including improving their diet and increasing the amount of physical activity that they do each week.
These changes can help a person reach and maintain a moderate weight.