How To Lose 3 Pounds a Week

Are you looking to lose weight quickly, but wanting to do it the right way? It can be possible to lose up to 3 pounds a week, but it has to be done strategically and under certain circumstances. 

Get my expert tips on how to do it the right way. 

woman stepping on a scale with a measuring tape in front of the scale

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Why Aim for Losing 3 Pounds Per Week

Losing 3 pounds per week can be a healthy and achievable goal with the right approach and in certain (not all) circumstances. We know 1-2 pounds per week to be a safe rate of weight loss for most people based on numerous studies. 

The 1-2 pound per week recommendation has also been determined to be more effective than losing at a rapid rate when it comes to keeping the weight off. 

Losing at a faster rate is often discouraged because not only does it tend to lead to rapid weight regain down the road, but it can also cause health issues. 

But what if you feel like the 1-2 pounds per week is just waaaay too slow for you? 

When you’re ready to get started and make changes you want to see results and you want to see them quickly! 

That 1 or 2 pounds per week can feel painfully slow. 

Rest assured to know that there are circumstances in which losing at a faster rate can be okay:

  1. You have A LOT of weight to lose. We’re talking 50+ pounds. 
  2. You are ONLY losing at this rate (2+ pounds/week) for the first month or so of making dietary and lifestyle changes. 
  3. You and your doctor are monitoring your health during this time. 
  4. You have discussed this goal with your doctor and together have decided this is a good approach. 

Choosing to aim for 3 pounds of weight loss each week can still be an achievable goal.

It’s a bit of a stretch from the 1-2 pound per week recommendation, but not too far-fetched that it would increase your rate of weight regain or be damaging to your health.

How to Lose Weight from a Calorie Deficit

Whenever you’re trying to lose weight, the best place to start is to aim for a calorie deficit. 

A calorie deficit means that you are not taking in as many calories as you are burning. 

To lose 1 pound you need to be at a 3,500-calorie deficit. 

There are a couple of ways to reach this calorie deficit: reducing your calorie intake or increasing your calorie expenditure. 

Reducing your Calorie Intake

This means that if you eat 500 calories less than your body’s daily caloric needs and you do this every day for one week then you will lose 1 pound. 

You could do this by tracking your typical calorie intake for a few days to get a baseline of the amount of calories you normally eat. 

(Using apps such as Myfitnesspal, Baritastic, or Lose It can be great tools for calorie tracking.) 

Then subtract 500 from this number to get your daily calorie goal. 

Next track your calorie intake again to see if you can keep your food intake close to your calorie goal for weight loss. 

Lastly, check the results on your scale. If you’re losing about 1 pound per week then you’re doing it right!

Ways to Reduce Your Calorie Intake

  • Cut down or out all caloric beverages: soda, juice, milk, alcoholic beverages, other sweetened beverages
  • Reduce your portions by using smaller dinner plants and stick to just one plate of food at dinner
  • Add more vegetables to meals since they are super low in calories adding more can help replace some of the higher calorie foods
  • Skip the dessert or opt for fruit if you really need something sweet 
  • Limit the after-dinner snacking by choosing low-calorie foods or avoiding the snack altogether

Increasing your Calorie Expenditure

The other way to reach a calorie deficit without changing your eating habits is to burn more calories. 

Most commonly this can be done through exercise. If you exercise daily to burn 500 calories, you will lose 1 pound after a week. (7 x 500 = 3,500 calories)

Additionally, if you burn 1,000 calories per day – which would be a lot of exercise! – then you can increase that to a weight loss rate of 2 pounds per week. 

It’s a lot harder to increase your rate of weight loss solely from exercise. 

Consider that you could either give up a daily mocha to reduce your calorie intake by 400 calories or go for a 30-minute jog to increase your calorie expenditure by that same 400 calories.  

It’s a lot faster to give up that mocha. 

Ways to Increase Your Calorie Expenditure

  • Incorporate more walking and standing in your work and home days – walk while on the phone, stand while on the computer
  • Prioritize your workouts by putting them in your calendar as an appointment 
  • Try an infrared sauna, which claims you can burn over 400 calories per 30-minute session 
  • Become a fidgeter – yes all of those small movements throughout the day add up calorie-wise

Increasing Your Rate of Weight Loss to 3 Pounds Per Week

By doing both (reducing your calorie intake and increasing your calorie expenditure) you can increase your rate of weight loss. 

You could eat 500 calories less daily AND exercise to burn 500 calories daily. Then over the course of a week, you will be at a 7,000 calorie deficit allowing you to lose 2 pounds. 

Getting to a 3-pound-per-week weight loss would require a greater combination of exercise and eating less. 

This could be burning 1,000 calories through exercise daily while eating 500 fewer calories per day. 

Or it could be eating 750 calories less daily and exercising to burn 750 calories daily. 

All options would require a lot more work. So you definitely want to consider some of the following other factors that may contribute to a speedier rate of weight loss.  

Other Factors that Contribute to Weight

We don’t operate in an isolated bubble like a calorimeter (which is used to determine calorie values of foods).

Our body is an intricate piece of work and there can be other factors at play when it comes to weight. 

I’ve seen people lose weight even when they are not reaching a 7,000+ calorie deficit per week.

Increasing water intake. 

Did you know that your body holds onto water stores when you’re dehydrated? 

So when you start hydrating yourself you lose quite a bit of water weight the first 1-2 weeks. 

Aim for about 64 – 80 ounces per day and you could see some quick results. 

You may also notice that you have to pee a lot more the first week or so as your body lets go of some of those extra water stores.  

(Note that more water is not always better as too much could lead to hyponatremia. I generally recommend choosing electrolyte beverages if you are drinking more than 100 ounces per day). 

Remove Inflammatory Foods

Although I haven’t seen any great research studies on this, I’ve heard anecdotally (from clients, friends, and family members) about their ability to lose weight by removing certain offending foods. 

Maybe you’re thinking dairy could be an issue for you, or perhaps gluten or soy? 

In one case a woman was relieved to FINALLY be able to put on her wedding ring after giving up soy. She was able to recognize this was her culprit after following an elimination diet and the swelling in her fingers went away. 

It’s amazing the impact the wrong foods can have on our bodies. 

Try removing the possible offender to see how you feel.

Do you feel better? Did you lose weight just from that change?

If so, it could be a food intolerance causing inflammation in your body. Just make sure you find a way to get those missing nutrients (like calcium or B vitamin-rich whole grains, etc.) elsewhere. 

Give up Sugar

Of course, this is a recommendation any time you’re trying to lose weight but seems to have an added benefit beyond the number of calories you’re saving. 

I’ve seen clients lose a ton of weight from giving up sugary beverages or giving up sugary foods. Especially if this had been their norm for a while. 

So, while yes this means they are also decreasing their calorie intake, the weight loss is happening much more rapidly than if we were just accounting for the calorie deficit alone. 

This is likely due to some decreased inflammation, but also improved blood sugar control, which helps the body store less fat. 

Get More Sleep

Another thing to think about is your sleep. 

Are you getting 8 quality hours of sleep? Have you been evaluated for sleep apnea or other sleeping disorders? 

Our body is doing so much work during our sleep, to repair itself so it can function optimally. 

We all need to put in the effort to get to that sweet spot of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. 

It will help keep sugar cravings down, reduce hunger related to sleepiness, improve mood, and better balance blood sugar.  

More Ideas

Check out my previous blog: Busy Moms Diet and Health Guide, for a ton more actionable steps to get you on the path to weight loss success.

You can also find information from sites such as The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Tracking your Progress

Make sure you are tracking your progress weekly. You want to get feedback on your actions right away. 

People often weigh themselves as the best way to get feedback since the ultimate goal is weight loss. 

(Please note that if you suffer from an eating disorder or have in the past then this will not be the healthiest way to track your progress. Instead, seek out a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders).

I don’t recommend daily weigh-ins as I find this can be super discouraging and misleading. Weekly weigh-ins are usually a better balance. 

I’ve had clients blame a 1 pound weight gain on an entirely healthy day of eating. When realistically it was just natural fluctuations in day-to-day body weight to blame. 

Did you weigh yourself after downing a pint of water? Well then yeah you’re going to weigh 1 pound (16 ounces) more than before you drank that water. 

Has it been a day or two since your last bowel movement? Well, guess what? That also weighs something in your body. 

Sticking to weekly weigh-ins will help stay motivated and make sure you’re not losing weight too rapidly. 

Make time to track your progress by sticking to the same day of the week and the same time of day (say every Friday after getting up in the morning, but before eating). 

This will help you stay motivated and honest with yourself. I love this cute little journal to make it fun and rewarding to stay consistent with tracking and monitoring progress. 

And if the number on the scale starts to go the other way…then you’ll know right away that changes are in order. 

Things to Consider for Safety

Losing weight too rapidly can have negative implications on your health. 

Your body needs a certain number of baseline calories day in and day out for vital organs to function. 

Your heart needs to beat, your kidneys and liver need to filter and remove waste products, your lungs need to breathe, etc. This all requires energy 24 hours a day in the way of calories. 

Be sure to meet with a dietitian or doctor to figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, the amount of calories your body needs at rest). 

This will help you identify a safe calorie goal for weight loss. 

Red Flags that You’re Losing Weight Too Quickly

Be sure to pay attention to how you feel during your weight loss journey. 

Sure the first day or two may feel like a bit of a detox depending on your previous eating habits. 

But beyond that, you should be feeling better, not worse. 

There are some health concerns to be aware of with a calorie intake that is too low or with weight loss that is too rapid:

  • You could lose muscle mass
  • You could become deficient in certain nutrients causing other health issues
  • You could have gallstones and gallbladder issues
  • You could have some hair loss
  • You could have nausea, constipation, or diarrhea
  • You could lose bone density
  • You could become super fatigued 
  • You could suffer from headaches, dizziness, and irritability 

That’s why you always want to have your weight and health monitored by a health professional, like a dietitian or doctor, while you are making substantial dietary and lifestyle changes. 

Yes, YOU Can Do It

So there you have it. You can lose 3 pounds a week safely and sustainably if you’re doing it right. 

Be sure to monitor your progress, check in on your calorie intake and expenditure, and consider other factors that may be impacting your weight. 

Before getting started don’t forget to discuss your weight loss goals and efforts with a qualified healthcare professional. 

And if you need a concrete path with guidance and accountability, consider The Mastery of Habits for Weight Loss program

A 12-week dietitian-run program dedicated to helping you lose weight by making lifestyle changes so you can keep it off for good. 

For more tips, join my community in the Facebook Group: Weight Loss Support for Moms with (and without) Insulin Resistance.

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