There are a lot of factors on how long you will be using a meal replacement shake. The most basic factor is how much weight you want to lose.
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Most experts agree that it is best to lose, at most, around 2 pounds per week. Some people will want to go faster than that, which is understandable, but if you really want to lose weight enough to keep it off, you will need to change your lifestyle. It would be easy to starve yourself for a few weeks and run an hour a day during that time, and you will most definitely lose weight quickly, but without a developing a habit of eating healthier and developing a more active lifestyle will you sustain your weight loss.
If you want to lose 30 pounds, and you have set a goal of losing 2 pounds a week, then your personal weight loss program will take 15 weeks, or a little over 3 months. You will need to be using shakes for at least that much time.
After reaching their goal weight, many people will continue using meal replacement shakes as a way to maintain their weight. This can be very helpful, especially if you have gotten into the habit of replacing a meal for a shake, or you really enjoy the taste. If you are using a more expensive shake, this might not work for you (or you can try substituting for a cheaper option as you are in “maintenance mode”).
It is important that during the time you are losing weight, whether using shakes or not, that you develop important eating and fitness habits that you can sustain for a lifetime. The secret is not to deprive yourself of foods you like, but just keep things in moderation. If you go 3 months without eating ice cream, then once you hit your goal weight, you gorge yourself, and then you aren’t going to be able to sustain weight loss. A balanced diet while still including all the foods you like is going to be much more successful than binging on baby carrots and celery. The same goes for exercise. It is critical that you find exercise you enjoy, whether that is jogging, playing basketball, swimming, or whatever. Even as simple as taking a walk each day will help you long term if you can keep doing it.
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Remember too, as you lose weight, your body uses less calories to keep you alive. It takes a lot more energy to move a heavy body than a light body. This means once you finish your weight loss goals, you won’t be able to increase your caloric intake by much, since your BMR will have reduced. Continued use of a meal replacement shake can help with adjusting to a new body type.
These are just a couple of things to think about as you enter your weight loss journey. What other ideas or questions do you have?