A reasonable average weight loss in six months is 10% of your initial weight. To achieve this, aim for 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week. Adjust your plan based on your progress and health.
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We’ve all seen the ads promising fast weight loss. The headlines scream that you can lose unwanted pounds quickly if you invest in the latest diet, workout program, or supplement. This type of marketing has created false weight loss expectations in the minds of many.
This unrealistic weight loss expectation can set you up for failure. That’s why it’s essential to understand what a realistic average weight loss is. Knowing what is safely and consistently achievable will let you set realistic goals and monitor your progress accordingly.
As a veteran personal trainer, I’ve been helping people temper their weight loss expectations for decades. Most people who come to me have unrealistic weight loss expectations. It’s only when we reset those expectations to something more reasonable that they start making progress.
In this article, we’ll explore a realistic average weight loss in six months. I’ll also provide tips and guidance on consistently achieving an excellent average weight loss as you close in on your weight loss goal.
What is A Good Average Weight Loss in Six Months?
According to the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a healthy rate of weight loss is one percent of a person’s body weight per week. For a 100-pound person, that would equate to one pound per week, while a 200-pound person can safely lose about two pounds per week. 
It’s important to understand that weight loss tends to fluctuate. So, it is unlikely that you will manage to hit the one percent goal week in and week out. Some weeks will be higher than the others. Over six months, however, it should balance out.
Based on these guidelines, a 100-pound person might lose 26 pounds in six months. A 200-pound individual achieves a 52-pound weight loss over that same period, so long as they are consistent.
Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
Weight loss covers everything on your body and is measured by a drop on the weighing scale. It includes muscle, water, blood, bone, and fat. That is what most people measure when trying to lose weight.
The only thing you want to lose from your body is stored fat in the form of excess calories. The last thing you want is to lose muscle mass. Muscle gives your body its shape. It is also much more metabolically active than fat, requiring about five times as many calories to sustain it.
When you stand on the bathroom scale, you have no idea what sort of weight you have lost. It could be muscle, water, and bone tissue, or it could be fat. To find out, you need to use a BMI scale, which uses electrical signals to measure your body fat percentage. You can also use body fat calipers and a tape measure to take the measurements around your hips, waist, arms, and legs.
If you lose weight faster than one percent of your body weight per week, you risk losing muscle tissue, water weight, electrolytes, and bone tissue. Losing these things puts you at risk of gallstones, malnutrition, and dehydration.
Read more about weight loss vs fat loss here.
Determining Your Rate of Weight Loss
Though some of the factors that control your rate of weight loss, like nutrition and exercise, are within your control, others are not. Here are half a dozen variables that help determine your average weight loss:
Certain physiological changes occur in men and women from about the age of 30, making them more likely to gain weight and more challenging to lose it.
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) will gradually decline from the fourth decade onward. That means you will need fewer calories daily to meet your body’s energy needs. However, as we age, most of us tend to eat more, not fewer calories. As a result, we build a storage of excess calories in terms of body fat.
A 2015 meta-analysis showed that older adults over 70 may have a resting metabolic rate that is 20-25% slower than people in their 20s. 
Our bodies also produce less of the anabolic hormones testosterone and growth hormone as we age. This makes it harder to build muscle. At the same time, we naturally lose 3-8% of our muscle mass every decade after age 30. The less muscle you have, the less active your metabolism will be. This will contribute to fat accumulation.
As we age, we also become less active. This reduces the opportunity to burn off the extra calories we are consuming.
Women will generally find it harder to lose weight than men. That’s mainly because they naturally have a lower RMR. The average woman has a resting metabolism that is 5-10% lower than the average man. That’s primarily due to the extra muscle mass that men carry on their frame.
A 2018 study tracked the weight loss results of over 2,000 people who followed an 800-calorie diet over eight weeks. The men lost an average of 11.8% of their body weight, compared with 10.3% for the women. 
Your starting body weight will have a significant impact on your rate of weight loss. Heavier people tend to have a higher rate of weight loss. This is due to a number of factors, including:
- Higher RMR
- Greater energy requirement
- Larger caloric deficit
- Higher water weight loss
Genetics partly control your ability to lose weight. There is a genetic component to our metabolic rate. People with a faster metabolic rate will be able to burn calories more efficiently than a person with a slower metabolism.
Genetics also influences where and how our bodies store excess calories as fat. Some people may be genetically inclined to store fat in certain areas, such as the sides of the waist or hips. They will also find it harder to lose weight in those areas.
Hormones that control hunger and satiety are also partly controlled by genetics. This can affect how hungry you get, your tendency to have cravings, and your ability to digest and absorb food.
The gut microbiome is also partly controlled by genetic factors. This impacts your body’s ability to process nutrients and manage weight.
Losing weight requires that you maintain a caloric deficit consistently. This means consuming fewer calories than your body needs each day. This will result in your body not having enough energy to meet its daily requirements. The extra will have to come from stored body fat.
The greater your caloric deficit, the greater your rate of weight loss will be. A single pound of fat contains around 3,500 calories. So, if you maintained a deficit of 250 calories daily, losing a pound of fat would take you two weeks.
However, if you doubled your daily deficit to 500 calories, you would lose that pound of fat in one week.
Exercise is another way to help create a daily caloric deficit. Cardiovascular exercise consumes calories more efficiently than resistance training, so it is the best direct form of calorie-burning exercise.
The greater your calorie burn through exercise, the greater your weight loss will be. A good daily calorie burn through exercise is 250-300 calories.
Three of the best forms of cardio for weight loss are:
Most people don’t appreciate how important sleep is to the weight loss equation. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the desire to eat food.
In a 2010 study, 12 men were subjected to eight hours and then four hours of sleep. Their caloric intake over the next 24 hours was then monitored. The men ate, on average, 22% more calories following just four hours of sleep than they did following eight hours of sleep. 
6 Hacks To Lose Weight Faster
Here are half a dozen fat-burning tips that will help you establish a higher average rate of weight loss.
1. Throw Away Your Scale
Most people gauge their fat loss results from the scale. As a result, they become obsessed with getting it to go down. However, the scale does not differentiate between muscle and fat.
If you exercise correctly, you will gain some muscle as you lose body fat. Because muscle is five times heavier than fat, a five-pound fat loss accompanied by a one-pound muscle gain will show up as zero change on the scale. However, the changes on your body will be noticeable.
The best way to see what is going on with your body is to use a tape measure to record your measurements (upper arms, thighs, waist, chest). Do this every two weeks. If you can access body fat percentage calipers, you should also check your body fat percentage.
Monthly photographs of yourself in a bathing suit will also allow you to gauge the changes in your body from month to month.
2. Lift Weight to Lose Weight
Want a secret ingredient to allow you to totally transform your body and put your fat-burning efforts in hyperdrive? Well, it’s not so secret, but it is still hugely underappreciated.
Most people connect lifting weights with building muscles. Sure, they’ll do that. But they’ll also burn fat.
Resistance training also releases hormones, such as testosterone and human growth hormone, that promote fat loss.
Weight training will allow you to add muscle to your frame. And, because it is so much more dense than fat, a pound of muscle requires a lot more energy to sustain it than a pound of fat. That means that every ounce of muscle that you add to your body will allow you to increase your rate of metabolism so that you burn more calories, even while at rest.
Contrary to what many women have been told, weight training will not make a person look all bulky. Instead, you’ll be able to sculpt a toned, tight, and lean physique.
3. Carry Snacks with You
Being able to anticipate and be ready for episodes of hunger or cravings is an important strategy in your weight loss efforts. Preparing snacks at home and taking them with you will give you another option when hunger pangs affect you in a public setting.
A vending machine or cake shop is always handy when you need to fill your stomach. Having a healthy snack at your fingertips will keep you on track.
Get into the habit of preparing a couple of snacks in addition to your normal meals to carry with you when you go to school or work. Here are five healthy snacks that work well:
- A small tin of tuna (packed in water)
- Apple chips
- A healthy smoothie
- A hard-boiled egg
4. Drink More Water
It is very easy to mistake thirst for hunger. That’s why staying hydrated is essential to a healthy weight loss plan. Taking in more water can also help boost your metabolism. In a 2003 study, participants saw a 30% increase in their metabolism simply by drinking 16 ounces of water daily. 
You should take a water bottle with you wherever you go. Sip from it regularly to keep yourself full. Sipping water will also help you to satisfy your thirst, rather than mistaking the sensation for hunger.
Have a full glass of water with your dinner meal. Continue to drink water as you eat your food.
Set a target of drinking 64 ounces, or two liters, of water per day. That equates to eight 8-ounce glasses or four regular-size water bottles.
5. Fill Up on Fiber
For the last decade, we’ve been exposed to a propaganda campaign designed to convince us that, when it comes to fat gain, carbohydrates are the devil.
Wherever we look, we see low-carb diets promoted as the panacea for weight loss.
It simply isn’t so.
Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient that supplies our bodies with energy. They are, in fact, the body’s primary fuel source. What’s more, carbohydrates are the only source of fiber that we have — fats and proteins don’t contain them.
It’s not that carbs are bad but rather that the wrong types of carbs are bad.
So, what type of carbs should you be eating?
That’s easy — ones that are packed with fiber.
Here are six ways fiber will help you lose weight faster:
- Fiber helps control blood glucose levels and insulin secretion.
- Fiber takes up bulk in your stomach, filling you up.
- It acts as a natural gut cleaner, promoting the elimination of waste products.
- Fiber regulates the release of your hunger and fullness hormones.
- High-fiber carbohydrates are low in calories.
- Fiber reduces your levels of LDL cholesterol.
Best Fibrous Carb Sources:
- Vegetables — Go for bright, colorful vegetables that are full of micronutrients.
- Fruit — Choose high-fiber fruits like blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, and oranges.
- Beans, Lentils, and Legumes.
Related: Find your daily fiber intake.
6. Have a Cheat Meal
Planning a cheat meal into your week is an essential psychological strategy. We’re all human, and the allure of temptation foods lies in their delicious taste. So, give yourself a controlled meal to look forward to. You will be able to eat what you like. Of course, you don’t want to eat until you are bloated, but take the opportunity to have a moderate guilt-free indulgence.
The key to success is to ensure that your cheat meal is controlled. This is not a cheat day — it is just one meal, ideally one that you eat earlier in the day.
As you progress in eating healthy foods for the 20-plus other meals you have each week, you will find that your desire for unhealthy foods naturally diminishes.
A safe and realistic average weight loss in six months is 26-52 pounds. A loss of 1% of body weight per week is realistic and safe.
Your goal should be to lose weight and keep it off over the long term. The most effective way to do that is to make gradual, small changes. Rather than jumping in with all six of our tips in the first week, work through them gradually.
This slow but sure approach will ensure not only that you lose the weight you want but that you keep it off.
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January 30, 2024
Steve Theunissen, PT
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