Ask the experts: How quickly should I lose weight?

A. Heal​thy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:

If you need to lose weight for health, then it’s important to make sure that the ‘weight’ you are losing is fat mass rather than muscle and/or water. While it can be tempting to follow a diet or detox plan that promises you’ll ‘lose seven kilos in seven days’, the reality is, when weight loss is that fast the seven kilograms you lose won’t just be ‘fat weight’ and when you go back to a more normal way of eating, the ‘weight’ you lost is highly likely to quickly return.

A slow and steady approach of around 1-4kg weight loss a month is likely to be the most effective and maintainable way to lose weight. But be realistic: even when you opt for a sensible, whole lifestyle approach by making better food choices, modifying your portions and being more active, the actual amount of weight you lose week to week is likely to vary.

People tend to lose weight more easily at the start when they initially make big changes to their lifestyle, or when they have got more weight to lose. Then they can reach a plateau where additional adjustments to food and activity are needed to keep weight loss going.

While not as exciting, the general theme of slow and steady weight loss is a good approach for most. Aim to make changes you will be able to maintain so you can keep off the weight you do lose.

Including weight training (resistance) exercise as part of your weight loss plan is a very good idea, as it is an effective way to up your metabolic rate, as well as helping you tone up.

If you have tried different approaches to weight loss and are still struggling or have reached a plateau that you just can’t get past, then it is worth considering reviewing the impact of your hormones on your weight. Hormonal issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome can make it challenging to lose weight and additional support maybe needed. (For more about hormones and weight gain, see It’s not me, it’s my hormones!)

First published: Mar 2017

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