If time is no object then the guidelines for losing weight slowly and safely are pretty well understood. Maintain regular portion control, cut down on refined sugars and processed foods, eat plenty of fiber, drink lots of water and perform regular exercise. Pretty straightforward, right? But what if you have a pressing need to lose as much weight as possible within a two-week deadline?
Chances are that you may have come across a number of weight loss programs claiming that it is possible to lose around 10 pounds over that period. These plans tend to focus on severe calorie restriction combined with intense exercise – two things that will cause the majority of experts to raise a frown. While relatively fit and healthy people can usually ‘get away with it’, for many others they can prove dangerous.
So how do we lose weight safely over two weeks, and how much is realistically attainable by doing so? Read on and discover some results that may pleasantly surprise you.
Calorie Control Is The First Step
To conduct a safe and realistic weight loss target there are a few things we need to first establish. One pound of fat equates to 3500 calories. Very general guidelines suggest that men require on average 2500 a day, whereas females need 2000. However, activity levels can adjust your calorific requirements by hundreds either way. Sedentary individuals simply require enough calories to keep ‘ticking over’, while those more active need calories as essential fuel to keep their energy levels up. So this begs the question – how active are you?
Answer this question truthfully as it will play a large part in determining a realistic target for your weight loss over the next two weeks. Now grab your calculator!
1) Your weight in kilograms X 9.6
2) Plus 665
3) Plus your height in cm X 1.8
4) Minus your age X 4.7
1) Your weight in kilograms X 13.7
2) Plus 66
3) Plus your height in cm X 5
4) Minus your age X 6.8
This will provide your basic daily calorific requirement. Now decide what level of activity you perform on a daily basis. Allow for your workplace as well as any recreational exercise. Multiple your total by:
* Sedentary (no routine exercise) X 1.2
* Low activity (exercising once a week, eg long Sunday walks) X 1.375
* Medium activity (2/3 times a week or light daily, eg trip to the gym or half hour daily dog walks) X 1.55
* High activity (near daily/high energy employment, eg training for a marathon, physical labor) X 1.725
Now you ought to have your exact daily calorie requirement – or as close as we can estimate it at least! You may choose at this stage to exercise some discretion. Plenty of successful dieters decide to slice off a couple of hundreds just to reap some further rewards down the line. The choice is yours!
How To Lose Weight By Dieting Alone
Forget what any fad diet is going to tell you. The timeless and long proven rule is that if you take in less than what your body needs, it will burn its own resources. We’d much rather that it decided to burn fat than muscle, but we’ll come to that shortly. For now, the point is establishing how many calories can be removed from your estimated daily requirements safely.
The general opinion is that for short term weight loss, 1200 calories is the minimum that anyone (regardless of gender) ought to consume in order to maintain a healthy metabolic system. That figure ought to provide enough space to allow for full consumption of essential minerals, vitamins, and protein to keep everything working well enough to maintain a general daily lifestyle and perform some exercise.
Look to eat a diet that is split 50% greens/fibrous fruits, 25% lean proteins, and 25% wholegrain carbs. 1200 calories can stretch a surprisingly long way when you remove refined sugars, processed convenience foods, and of course alcohol.
So how much should we take off to diet safely? Well, the best way to estimate this is perhaps by an example:
Katie is moderately active and of a slightly larger than usual frame. She requires 1950 calories per day to get by. If she were to drop down to the absolute minimum recommended level – a drop of 700 calories – then she would be saving an impressive 4900 calories per week. That works out at around 1 and a third pounds per week just by using calorie control. Over a fortnight we’ll round that up to three because her busy job is going to keep her metabolism running at a high speed and demanding more energy.
Three pounds a fortnight may not sound like much, but if she kept that up for six months it would amount to 36 pounds, which most people would be happy with! Of course, Katie is taking it to the extremes and keeping to the sheer minimum over that length of time may well not be especially healthy. But that level of calorie consumption is fine for a fortnight providing you have no underlying medical problems.
Why Water Weight Matters
Before we move on to discussing how exercise can massively enhance short (and long) term weight loss, it is worth pointing out the importance of water weight. Much of what most people lose over the first 5-7 days is doing to water retained within the body. Some of this is necessary for effective muscles, but also a good proportion is unnecessary and a consequence of high sodium diets. When you begin dieting and exercising much of this will pass through the body.
How you approach water weight with your two-week dieting plan is really up to you. Sure, it is weight loss – just look at the scale! – but remember that when you return to your typical routine that will be replaced very quickly indeed. Water weight makes no difference in losing weight safely, providing of course that you drink plenty of water. Curious as it sounds, dehydration is what causes the body to retain water.
The best way alongside dieting and exercise is to drink a lot of water over this fortnight. Avoid drinking anything else besides the occasional cup of black tea or coffee – even diet sodas should be pushed to the side in place of water! Aim for between 2-4 liters as a minimum per day depending on your levels of exertion. If your pee is dark and musky then you need to hydrate, if clear/yellow then you’re good.
Depending on your frame expect to lose somewhere between 3-5 pounds of water weight. It tends to be more for heavier individuals and can be very little for petite frames. Returning to our ‘Katie’ example, if she lost four pounds due to water being flushed through her system then she could already be looking at losing around seven pounds safely over the fortnight. She hasn’t even started exercising yet…
Exercise Will Make The Difference
To enjoy the best results when looking to safely lose weight over two weeks it is sensible to hit the ground running (forgive the pun!). Starting a course of intense exercise from scratch and following it through successfully is sadly a fantasy – chances are that you will have a high risk of injury and your performance will fade significantly through fatigue after just a day or two. But, if you have already achieved a state of at least light fitness, there’s no reason why it cannot be upped up a level or two over the short term.
If using a gym then it is a good idea to consult one of the resident experts who will be well used to explaining the most effective machines for fast fat burning cardio. It is a good idea to try and ix up your sessions if you can, as the objective is not just to burn fat but convert it to muscle. Muscle weights a third the amount of fat, and will obviously make your overall physique more impressive!
Assuming you are relatively fit already, then you ought to be looking at performing a level of high-intensity cardio that matches your weight loss target. As a very general rule of thumb, a half hour (and be warned that is longer than many people appreciate!) will burn between 500-700 calories. To hit that level you really will be working hard, which is why if you aren’t in OK shape or have health issues you must look for something easier going, to begin with.
Let’s return to Katie. She hasn’t been to the gym for a couple of years and even then wasn’t too keen. But she’s interested in taking up boxing training. Two one hour sessions of this per week will burn around 2000 calories in total, and over a fortnight that works out to just over another pound of fat. More importantly, it will also tone her up fast so her weight loss will be accentuated by improved overall appearance and fitness.
Classes are a great way of being pushed to your limit if you haven’t been exercising much recently. Not only are they excellent for encouragement, but also they will be led by a trained expert who will call you aside when they think you are going to hard. Just make sure to inform them of your levels and goals – all good ones will ask anyway – and go with the flow.
So How Did Katie Do?
Not bad at all! Over just two weeks following a very restricted diet and punching the bags a couple of times a week, she will have lost – inclusive of water weight – around seven and a half pounds safely. Without water weight, it would be just shy of five, still an impressive feat by most people’s standards.
Looking past two weeks, she’d most likely be best advised to up her calorie intake a little in order to stay healthy, but that can be made up for by taking a little more – perhaps less intensive exercise – sometime over the five spare days in her routine. The point is that she has laid an excellent foundation to be able to do so by hitting her routine hard – but safely – over that first fortnight.
Eating a nutritious yet limited diet is perfectly possible, but just as with exercise it is something best eased into, and doing so will add to your weight loss target before you have even started! Sugar/fat cravings are the Achilles heel of most people failing to diet effectively. So before you intend on starting a healthy two-week ‘crash’ diet, do yourself a favor and spend a few weeks beforehand gradually tapering off from soda, alcohol, refined carbs and similar insulin spiking foodstuffs.
Anyone who holds any doubts over whether they can safely step up their exercise game while simultaneously stepping onto a restricted calorie diet must consult with a doctor first. In most cases, especially if you are already overweight, they will steer you towards a longer term plan along the lines of what we just talked about. They will be able to provide you with guidance on how to safely get back up and exercising though, as well as any potential ramifications a restricted diet may have for your circumstances.
For those who are in general good health and feel physically capable of performing regular exercise, then really it depends on how much you wish to exercise. Do factor in that conducting a lot of exercises is going to make your body feel even more hungry, and that your energy levels will likely become quite topsy-turvy on a restricted calorie scheme. It really depends on what your overall target is for losing weight over two weeks, and of course, doing so safely is always of paramount importance. Best of luck – and stay safe!