How Much Fat Can You Lose?

The faster you are losing weight, the less fat you're likely to be losing.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #394

How Much Fat Can You Burn with Exercise?

At that rate, it’ll take most of us about 15 hours of moderate intensity exercise to burn a pound of body fat. Exercise for one hour a day, and you can hope to lose about 2 pounds (or about 1 kilogram) of fat per month. Exercise for longer than 60 minutes a day and you could hope to lose more. You can also get your body to oxidize fat by eating less, which forces your body to convert some of its fat stores into energy.

As Dr. del Coso Garrigós confirmed, it is theoretically possible to lose more than a kilogram of fat per month. That said, he and I both agree that losing more than a couple of pounds of body fat per month is both difficult and rare.

The faster you are losing weight, the smaller the percentage of actual fat loss is likely to be. 

Of course, most diets promise that you’ll lose 8-10 pounds a month or more. And if you follow any of those diets faithfully, you probably will. But how much of that weight loss is actually fat loss? Probably no more than 25%. The rest is water and muscle tissue, which is the last thing you want to be losing. In fact, the faster you are losing weight, the smaller the percentage of actual fat loss is likely to be. And the harder it will be to sustain that weight loss over time.

I think the reason that a majority of dieters regain the weight that they’ve lost is that they lose weight too quickly. Instead of trying to lose 1-2 pounds a week, we should aim to lose 1-2 pounds a month. When we lose weight slowly, we preserve more muscle tissue and keep our metabolism from slowing down. We also are more likely to develop long-term habits and behaviors that will support long-term success. We avoid the yo-yo dieting cycle that sabotages both our health and our self-esteem.

Of course, when you’re losing weight very slowly, it’s hard to see the results on the scale, especially because your weight can fluctuate by several pounds from day to day without reflecting actual fat loss or gain. That's why I recommend tracking your weight using a moving average, as described in my episode on Weight Fluctuation (#199).

How to Lose Two Pounds a Month

So, what would it take to lose 1 to 2 pounds a month? The good news is that it doesn’t require anything nearly as drastic or unpleasant as it takes to lose 2 pounds a week! Small changes in your daily routine will do the trick. You just need to be consistent and patient.

Here are some of the slow weight loss strategies I’ve suggested in past episodes, each of which has lots more.

You don't need to do all of these at once. Start with a couple that seem easy and one that seems like a bit more of a challenge. Add more as you get the hang of it.

Don't think of it as dieting. Think of it as right-sizing. And, please, let me know how it's going.  

Post your comments and questions below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.