‘Lose 7lb in 7 days’. ‘Drop a dress size in a fortnight’. We all know the tempting promises, but sadly they don’t stand up long term.

What weight should we aim for, and what is a sensible and realistic rate of loss?


The good old bathroom scales are the traditional way to keep an eye on weight. They cannot show if that weight is right for us, which is a reason to move beyond the scales.

Body mass index relates weight to height, with the important point that the correct weight is a range rather than an absolute figure. However modern thinking is that the crucial measurement is waist circumference. Too much fat round the waist is a risk to health as well as to appearance.


For those in normal health, it really is a matter of calories in versus calories out. Exercise certainly helps (not least because most of us don’t eat while we exercise) but it is almost impossible to out-exercise a poor diet due to our efficient bodies.

As a guide, moderate activity uses around 300 calories per hour. Vigorous activity such as running, cycling, or swimming uses around 500 calories per hour. 


Studies and experience have repeatedly shown that there is no quick fix. Rapid weight loss almost always results in the weight being regained again.

A good target is a weekly loss of half to one kilogram, which equates to using 500 more calories per day than you take in. This needs a combination of regular exercise and planned sensible eating.

The good news is that there are plenty of tasty foods that won’t destroy your calorie allowance. Whether it is a healthy office lunch , a simple evening meal or some good seasonal veg, losing weight need not mean depriving yourself of taste. 

Don’t be downhearted if you have weight to lose. Stick to a realistic plan and look at the scales again in a few months for a pleasant surprise.


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Michael W.
19 September 2018

Michael W.

I would say ditch the scales completely and just rely on how you feel, and measure your waist.

Dan M.
16 September 2018

Dan M.

while I was never the old 'seven stone weakling' I actually weigh more since I started training properly. That's fine, I feel better, am stronger and fitter.

Ashley C.
13 September 2018

Ashley C.

I believe that if you eat a wholefoods diet with no processed food and exercise regularly, properly, then you will stabilise at the weight that's right for you within a few months anyway,.

Hugh M.
10 September 2018

Hugh M.

I don't own scales and it's never worried me how much I weigh, it's more about how I feel. That's good to know about the waist/height measurement though.

Lucy C.
9 September 2018

Lucy C.

aha - is that how you tell? Love it! it is quite scary how much calorie deficit is needed to lose even a pound or two - but as the article says, it is the way things are.

Sarah B.
7 September 2018

Sarah B.

1lb a week is sensible and sustainable... until you've lost enough and then you plateau. That's when you know you've found your ideal weight!

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