How much weight is safe to lose in a month?

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

Written by Chimene Richa, MD 

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

Written by Chimene Richa, MD 

last updated: Jul 25, 2023

5 min read

Losing weight can take time. It may take months (or even years) to attain your long-term weight loss goals, and then make the weight loss permanent—-more like a marathon than a sprint. However, when you’re kicking off a weight loss journey, you probably want to know how quickly you can expect to see results. 

Read on to learn how much weight you can lose in a month. 

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How much weight can you lose in a month?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a healthy weight loss program should help you lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week or about 4 to 8 pounds per month. But this number can vary a bit per person. The time it takes to reach your weight loss goals depends not only on the amount of weight you want to lose, but on several other factors like sex, age, existing medical conditions, medications, and more. 

Why does it take so long to lose weight? To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than your body uses daily (also known as a calorie deficit). Of course, if you eat more than you burn, the weight starts to pile on. Factors like biological sex, activity level, and metabolism all impact how many calories your body burns, and at what speed—this then affects how quickly you can lose weight. Your resting metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate) accounts for 60% of the total energy you use each day. This refers to the energy your body burns energy simply by being alive: breathing, pumping your blood, and other processes you don’t think about. The remaining energy fuels your physical activity, etc. 

While each person’s resting metabolic rate stays relatively constant over time, it can vary from individual to individual. For example, biological women tend to have a lower resting metabolic rate than biological men. And don’t forget genetics—your genes may also play a role in determining your resting metabolic rate, the tendency to gain weight, etc.

Other factors that can affect weight loss include:

Having said all this, it is not impossible to lose more than 1–2 pounds per week. However, you would have to drastically decrease your food consumption and increase your physical activity to accomplish this feat. Health professionals do not recommend extreme calorie restriction or overexercising. While these methods may result in quick, significant weight loss, they are not safe or sustainable and may negatively affect your health.

Why rapid weight loss can hurt your metabolism

Rapid weight loss may seem like a desirable goal, but it can make it harder for you to keep the weight off in the long run. This is because rapid weight loss can lead to a drop in your skeletal muscle mass and resting metabolic rate. Not only that, after losing weight your hormone levels may be imbalanced. For example, the levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for feeling full, may drop leading to an increased desire to eat and subsequent weight gain

Is it safe to lose a lot of weight in a month

Rapid weight loss can hurt more than just your metabolism. Remember, to lose more than the average 1–2 pounds a week, you likely must severely restrict your calorie intake and/or drastically increase your exercise regimen. Extreme diets tend to lead to weight loss and regain; when this is done repeatedly, it becomes “yo-yo dieting” (or “weight cycling”), which comes with risks. These methods increase the risk of developing not only unwanted symptoms but also medical problems, including:

Let’s dive a little deeper into the dangers of losing weight too quickly.

Malnutrition

Extreme calorie deficit diets often lack many nutrients your body needs to function. As time goes on, calorie reduction may cause people to develop nutrient and electrolyte deficiencies and, eventually, malnutrition. This leads your body to go into survival mode because you are not getting enough energy from your food to keep your systems running. In addition, the psychological stress caused by malnutrition can cause subsequent weight gain, trouble concentrating, and cognitive difficulties.   

Increased injury risk

Excessive exercise can have serious consequences. Studies suggest that while moderate exercise is recommended, very intense physical activity could negatively affect your heart health. Over-exercising may also decrease your immune function and increase your risk of physical injury. This is because the loss of body mass that accompanies rapid weight loss can affect your metabolism and how your muscles contract, making you more prone to getting injured.

Muscle loss

Studies show that calorie-restrictive diets, especially when not combined with exercise, can lead to a loss of muscle mass throughout the body, weakening the remaining muscles and slowing the resting metabolic rate. All of these factors together can slow your future weight loss.

Bone loss

Calcium is an essential nutrient that your body needs for healthy bones, strong muscles, and a robust heart. However, if you are not getting enough calcium from your diet, bone breakdown is the only other place your body can get it from.  

Heart problems

People who lose too much weight too fast are likely to regain the weight, leading to weight cycling. This chronic weight loss/gain pattern can lead to high blood pressure and cause heart rate and cardiac workload fluctuations. In addition, malnutrition from eating too little can lead to loss of heart muscle and potentially fatal arrhythmias or heart attacks.  

Mental health effects

Studies show that rapid weight loss can hurt mental health in addition to physical effects. Some mental changes that may accompany rapid weight loss include increased tension, anger, fatigue, and decreased vigor or stamina.

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How to lose weight the healthy way

Losing weight is about more than chasing the numbers on a scale. It involves lifestyle changes with healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity. Managing stress and sleep patterns can help too. Start losing weight healthily by setting realistic goals—check out Ro’s Body Program to help you navigate your weight loss journey. 

Experts agree that people with gradual, steady weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds per week are more likely to keep the weight off than people who lose weight quickly. You are also less likely to fall into the weight-cycling pattern that can be detrimental. While this method requires more patience, it will be better for you in the long run. 

One key part of this is diet. The amount of calories you consume needs to be less than the energy you use. Some healthy diet habits to incorporate into your daily life include:

  • Decrease your daily diet by 500 to 1000 kcal per day

  • Eat more high-fiber fruits and vegetables

  • Include low-fat protein in your diet

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Avoid foods with highly processed sugars and carbohydrates

Exercise is another important piece of the puzzle. Studies show you are more likely to lose weight by combining diet and exercise than just dieting alone. It not only promotes weight loss by increasing the number of calories that your body burns, but it also improves your overall health and wellness. 

Current physical activity guidelines recommend that the average adult perform 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or cardio (like brisk walking) per week—about 30 to 45 minutes 3 to 5 days a week. Adding resistance or strength training can also help increase lean muscle. NEAT (or non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is another way to increase your activity. NEAT refers to the calories you burn by doing simple movements like fidgeting, singing, cleaning, and other activities of daily living. You can burn up to an additional 350 calories per day with NEAT.

But there’s more to weight loss than just diet and exercise. Having a positive mindset can go a long way to ensuring your success. Your weight loss journey isn’t a straight line—you’ll have days when things feel great, and days when it seems like the path is too hard or you’ll never reach your goal. Ro’s Body Program can help you reframe your thinking and have a positive weight loss mindset. Some mindset goals to remember include:

  • Be proud of all your accomplishments

  • Practice small changes, and the big ones will take care of themselves

  • Don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day

  • Get past the stumbling blocks

  • Don’t listen to negative self-talk

  • Reframe your thinking to be positive

  • Be as kind to yourself as you’d be to a good friend

  • Keep a weight loss journal

  • Set a small goal for tomorrow

You don’t have to go down the weight loss path alone. Weight loss programs, healthcare providers, friends, and family can all be sources of support and inspiration. The important thing is to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes that will stay with you over time.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

July 25, 2023

Written by

Chimene Richa, MD

Fact checked by

Felix Gussone, MD


About the medical reviewer

Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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