If you are trying to maintain your weight to improve your health, you probably value time and hope for the best results in the shortest amount of time.
Work smarter, not harder, right?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as waking up one day and magically finding that you weigh twenty pounds less.
Weight loss is a far more gradual process whose results rely on long-term patterns in order for the change to be noticeable.
Today, Able discusses how long it takes to see weight loss to help you feel good about yourself from now on — and for good when you achieve your goals and live a more well-balanced life.
To understand how weight loss works, you need to understand the largest contributing factor to your weight — calories. Calories are energy.
Derived from the food you consume, calories fuel your body to give you the energy you need to carry out your day-to-day functions.
However, just as everything is best in moderation, so too are calories; consuming too many calories and exceeding nutritional guidelines puts you at risk for unwanted weight gain and eventual obesity.
If you eat more calories than you burn and convert to energy, your body stores the extra calories as fat. Thus, if you reduce the number of calories you fuel your body with, you can burn more calories than you consume, resulting in weight loss.
One pound of fat comprises around 3,500 calories, which means that if you want to lose one pound of fat in a week, you will either need to eat 3,500 fewer calories weekly or burn off an additional 3,500 calories weekly.
A more feasible way to accomplish this goal is to divide your target calorie cut methods between eating fewer calories and increasing your physical activity levels.
However, if you try to lose weight too fast, you put yourself at risk for health complications and set yourself up for future failure.
You may initially see favorable results, but the truth is that the quicker you lose weight in the short term, the more likely you are to even more quickly regain that same weight down the line.
Rapid weight loss generally indicates that you are losing water weight, or even worse, muscle tissue — not fat. During rapid weight loss, your body recognizes that you are at risk for severe calorie deprivation and thus works to protect your fat stores similar to if you were in survival mode.
When you drastically reduce your caloric intake in a short period of time, your body ends up storing your fat and instead breaking down your muscle tissue as a source of energy.
The major calorie reductions that contribute to rapid weight loss can result in many health risks, including malnourishment, nutrient deficiencies, a decreased metabolic rate when at rest, and extreme dehydration.
Rapid weight loss does have a generally regarded caloric threshold that you should be careful not to drop below. If you identify as a female, you should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day, and if you identify as a male, you should not eat less than 1,800 calories a day.
A safe monthly weight loss goal should not exceed four to eight pounds of targeted weight loss. This is because an overall average of one to two pounds per week is the safest weekly goal to achieve healthy and productive weight loss.
You should burn anywhere between 500 to 1,000 calories more than you eat daily with this goal. You can do so by implementing lifestyle changes, including by cutting calories and staying active.
Aiming to lose one or two pounds a week, or four to eight each month, is a very reasonable, steady, and feasible goal. Because the goal implements a gradual rather than a rapid weight loss strategy, it is easier to achieve while sustaining a constant positive attitude throughout the process.
The goal also allows you to maintain your weight loss well into the future effectively. Compare this goal to one that asks you to lose 20 - 25 pounds in a couple of weeks: this is not a healthy goal to have and only sets you up for frustration, failure, and remorse.
Although four to eight pounds is a general weight loss goal that we recommend, remember that everyone is different! Just because your neighbor’s goal was to lose eight pounds a month does not mean that this goal will work for you. Each body type is different, and you should set your own monthly weight loss goal with this principle in mind.
There is no universal answer for how much weight loss you can expect to see after many months.
Your answer could depend on the one-month weight loss goal you set for yourself. However, you might decide to have a higher weight loss goal for the first few months (such as eight pounds), and then gradually lessen your goal as you come closer to your target weight in the following months (perhaps to four pounds a month).
Long-term weight loss predictions vary greatly from person to person and lifestyle to lifestyle.
Regardless of whether you lost weight rapidly or in a more sustainable, gradual way, it is common to tend to regain weight several years later if the amount you lost was significant.
In many cases, people can successfully lose weight over six months when they set their weight loss goal as eliminating 7-10% of their initial body weight. These people can also maintain their weight loss at a one-year follow-up, but when years two and three come around, they start to display weight regain tendencies.
Scientists are not fully sure why weight regain is so common, but they think it might be due to a lower calorie-burning rate. When you reduce your calorie intake, it is possible that the rate at which your body burns these decreased calories also decreases.
This hypothesis aligns well with an explanation for why long-term weight maintenance or loss is hard to keep up, especially when you return to your normal diet after you reach your target weight loss goal. However, many different studies likewise display results in which participants successfully sustain long-term weight loss.
In all of these studies, a common factor is that the participants keep up with the lifestyle changes they implemented at the start of their weight loss journey, even after achieving their target goal. These lifestyle changes include staying very active, eating a lower-calorie and lower-fat diet, eating breakfast, frequent self-weighing, and consistent eating habits.
You should continue to eat healthily and stay active when you reach your target weight; if you do so, you will receive many additional health benefits, including boosted energy levels, improved mood, and high self-confidence. You should not define your weight loss journey solely with numbers or strict diets. You are more than a number, and your body is more than your weight!
Rather, you should think of weight loss and weight maintenance as an ongoing goal and a long-term lifestyle change that you continue to engage with well after reaching your target weight. Weight is a multi-faceted concept, and weight loss journeys incorporate many different wellness habits.
Furthermore, everyone is different when it comes to weight loss journeys. What works for your friend or your neighbor might not yield the same results for you.
Regardless of how often you decide to weigh yourself to best fit your weight management plan, remember that stepping on the scale is not the only way to track your progress! You can also measure your waist or thighs to see if you are losing inches, thus losing fat.
Additionally, pay attention to improvements in your physical and mental wellbeing, which are great non-numbers indicators towards positive changes in your lifestyle and wellness habits.
Wherever you are in your unique weight loss or wellness journey, Able is here to support you.
We use a holistic weight management approach that personalizes and prioritizes your health and well-being to create achievable goals and produce visible results. Feel better from now on and for good with Able — the change starts today!
Losing Weight | Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity | CDC
What It Takes to Lose Weight | American Family Physician
Long-term Weight Loss Maintenance | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight? | Weight Loss Resources
Weight loss: 6 strategies for success | Mayo Clinic