How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Week?

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Hadley Mendelsohn

Published 05/23/2024

Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your body and can also help with self-esteem. If you’ve been trying to lose weight, it’s natural to want to see results quickly (what’s more motivating than seeing your hard work pay off right away?). But, like most good things in life, healthy weight loss takes time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), losing about one to two pounds per week will lead to long-term weight loss, which is much more sustainable than rapid weight loss. 

Technically, you could lose more than one to two pounds in a week, but how much weight you can lose is totally different from how much you should lose. In other words, extreme, fast weight loss is possible, but it’s not usually safe  especially when done on your own.

Fast weight loss is usually not the safest or most sustainable route. Instead, steady weight loss is the way to go.

Everybody is different, which is to say, the amount of weight someone can lose in a week varies a ton. Things like metabolism, starting weight, lifestyle changes, and stress levels all play a role in how fast you can shed extra pounds. 

Some people see significant weight loss as soon as they start making healthier changes (like an improved diet and exercise), while others may take longer.

If you’re wondering, how many pounds can you lose in a week, one to two pounds a week is a good aim. Losing more than that can result in muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, and other health issues. Plus, fast weight loss also often involves things like severe calorie restriction and over-exercise, both of which aren’t helpful in the long run and take a major toll on the body. 

Crash diets rarely lead to lasting change. They usually end in burnout or yo-yoing. 

How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Week by Fasting?

Research shows that fasting for five to 20 days can lead to weight loss of two to 10 percent. But about two-thirds of the weight lost is lean mass, rather than fat mass. 

It’s also likely that people are mostly just losing water weight, which returns as easily and quickly as it goes. On top of only leading to short-term weight loss, fasting often causes the following symptoms:

  • Hunger

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Accelerated heart rate

Not eating can be extremely dangerous. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, you can find help by calling 1-866-662-1235. You aren’t alone, and there are a lot of resources, tools, and people who want to help get you back on track.

Prescribed online

Weight loss treatment that puts you first

Weight loss medications are often recommended for weight management in people with excess weight and obesity who are having a hard time seeing results with exercise and diet alone. If you haven’t seen any changes in your weight week over week after making some healthy modifications, you may want to look into this as an option.

You’ve probably heard of some of the prescription brand names, like Ozempic®, but there are actually quite a few options these days. Some are FDA-approved for weight loss, and others are prescribed off-label.

Though they work differently, most weight loss prescription meds work by mimicking the hormones responsible for regulating appetite. 

Weight Loss Injections 

Common weight loss injections include semaglutide, tirzepatide, and liraglutide. In conjunction with a diet and exercise program, these medications may help you reach your weight loss goals. 

Semaglutide

Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy®. These once-a-week medications help treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, respectively. 

One study found that people taking 1 milligram of semaglutide lost an average of 13 pounds over 40 weeks. 

People taking a higher dose lost even more weight. 

A clinical trial looking at the effects of semaglutide on adults with obesity found that people taking a 2.4-milligram dose (once per week) lost about five pounds in four weeks. 

That’s about one and a half pounds a week.

Tirzepatide

Tirzepatide is a once-weekly injection typically sold under the brand names Zepbound® and Monjouro®. It mimics two of your hunger-regulating hormones, which may make it more effective for some people. 

A clinical trial of tirzepatide found that people lost on average 18 percent of their body weight over 72 weeks. People taking a higher dose lost up to 21 of their total weight.

Liraglutide

Liraglutide (Saxenda®, Victoza®) is a daily injection typically used to treat type 2 diabetes or used for weight management. It works like semaglutide to suppress appetite. But one clinical trial showed that weight loss rates were not as significant. 

Oral Weight Loss Medications

When used together with diet and exercise, oral medications may also support you on your weight loss journey. Your options may include:  

  • Metformin is often used off-label for weight loss. Researchers think it suppresses appetite by increasing the amount of GLP-1 hormone your body produces. One review found that those who took 2.55 grams of metformin a day lost about 13 pounds over 28 weeks. That’s about half a pound a week. However, metformin is typically prescribed in lower doses than this.

  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave®) is a two-in-one combination that can help with weight loss. Used together these drugs may help reduce appetite and help control cravings. Research shows that patients who respond to 32 milligrams of naltrexone and 360 milligrams of bupropion should lose at least five percent of their total weight within the first 12 weeks of treatment.

  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia®) is also a combination of two drugs in one. Together, they may help suppress appetite. Clinical trial data shows that about 70 percent of people lost five to 10 percent of their body weight over 56 weeks.

  • Orlistat is a lipase inhibitor, which means it reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs from the food you consume. Coupled with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, it can help with weight loss. One study found that people with excess weight who used 60 milligrams of Orlistat three times a day showed an average loss of 6 pounds over 16 weeks.

All said and done, weight loss medications seem to help speed up the weight loss process for those who need more support than just diet and exercise alone. But results often don’t happen within the first week of use.

Weight loss supplements could potentially help you see more results, but there isn’t enough research to say one way or the other. Still, you could consider adding one of the following supplements to your long-term weight loss plan:

  • Magnesium 

  • Caffeine

  • Green Tea

  • Vitamin B12

The key to healthy weight loss is thinking about it holistically. One study that tracked a year-long weight loss program for people with excessive weight and obesity found that a full lifestyle overhaul was the most effective strategy. So a lot of it has to do with changing up your eating habits and limiting calorie intake, but also making sure you’re getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and generally taking good care of your body and mind.

To lose about one pound a week over a longer period of time, experts recommend eating 500 fewer calories than you’re burning. In other words, you want to create a calorie deficit by eating less and getting more physical activity. 

Healthy Diet Tips for Weight Loss:

  • Limit foods high in calories, salts, saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugar

  • Eat more high-fiber foods, like whole grains, veggies, and legumes

  • Swap red meat for poultry and lean meats, nuts, and eggs

  • Keep healthy, protein-rich snacks around the house 

Exercise Tips for Weight Loss:

If you’re an active person, shoot for getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week. Brisk walking, running, swimming, and dancing are all great options. Then, try to add some strength training exercises to your routine a couple of days a week, since building more muscle can help burn fat.

If you feel like you need more direction, you could find a registered nutritionist to help you come up with a solid (and doable) course of action. They’re great at devising personal diet plans for steady weight loss! That’s their job, after all. 

If you’ve lost weight lately but you’re not sure why, and you haven’t changed your lifestyle or habits, you may be wondering what’s going on.

Unexplained weight loss usually involves losing 10 pounds or five percent of your normal body weight over 6 to 12 months without any apparent reason. If this is happening to you, it may be time to make an appointment with your doctor to determine if there are any underlying health issues.

There can be a lot of reasons for unexplained changes in metabolic rate. Some of them include:

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Loss of appetite due to depression

  • Certain medications

  • Chronic digestive issues (eating disorders, undiagnosed diabetes, and overactive thyroid glands)

  • Chronic illnesses, like Parkinson's disease

  • Cancer

  • Chronic infections

We’ll say it one more time: Healthy weight loss is slow, steady, and sustainable. Because experts say aim to lose five to 10 percent of your body weight within the first six months of a diet plan, it might help to shift your mindset from a weekly one, to a monthly one. 

And — this is going to sound counterintuitive — it’s also best to take it one day at a time. If you’re just starting your weight loss journey, think about why you want to lose weight. Then you can start identifying the best, actionable goals to help you see your vision come to life.

Last but not least, try to be patient with yourself. If you don’t see instant weight loss, celebrate other wins! Chances are you’re already doing a great job by squeezing in a few more steps or taking the time to stretch, for example. It’s important to celebrate the little things along the way.

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