How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight and Keep It Off? Insights and Tips

Weight loss duration

If you’re on a weight loss journey, predicting how long it will take to reach your goal can be challenging due to the many factors involved. Here are some insights into how weight loss works and why predicting the speed of weight loss is tricky.

Recommended Weight Loss Rate

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend losing weight gradually and steadily, about one to two pounds per week. This approach is more likely to result in long-term weight maintenance. Rapid weight loss, defined as losing more than two pounds per week for several weeks, often results in a greater loss of lean body mass and a higher likelihood of regaining the weight. Gradual weight loss, on the other hand, tends to result in more fat loss and a healthier body composition.

Even modest weight loss, such as 5-10% of your total body weight, can lead to significant health benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.

Starting Weight and Weight Loss Rate

People with a higher starting weight may lose weight faster initially because a larger calorie deficit can be achieved more easily. For instance, a 200-pound woman may have a higher calorie maintenance level compared to a 150-pound woman. If both reduce their calorie intake to 1,500 calories per day, the heavier individual will initially experience a larger calorie deficit and thus, a faster rate of weight loss.

As weight loss progresses, the calorie deficit shrinks, and the rate of weight loss slows down, regardless of the starting point. This is why the last few pounds are often the hardest to lose.

Impact of Calorie Quality and Timing

The type and timing of calories consumed also play crucial roles in weight loss. Simply cutting calories while still consuming processed foods or eating late at night may not yield the best results.

  • A 2017 study found that replacing refined grains with whole grains increased resting metabolic rates.
  • Another study showed that consuming the recommended amount of protein improved metabolism and insulin sensitivity, especially in postmenopausal women.
  • Eating late dinners was found to worsen blood sugar tolerance and reduce fat burning, depending on factors like sleep quality and timing.

Risks of Very Low-Calorie Diets (VLCDs)

Eating too few calories can actually hinder weight loss. A 2021 study found that very low-calorie diets (600-700 calories per day) did not prevent the loss of lean mass or a decrease in resting metabolic rate. Moreover, the National Health Service (NHS) warns that VLCDs are often not nutritionally complete and can lead to side effects such as hunger, low energy, headaches, dizziness, cramps, and hair thinning.

Influence of Genetics and Other Factors

Metabolism, appetite-regulating hormones, and factors like sleep, stress, and gut microbiome composition all influence weight loss. Gut microbiota can affect how calories are utilized and stored, making weight loss a complex process.

Normal Weight Fluctuations

Weight loss is rarely linear. Daily weight fluctuations are normal due to changes in muscle, bone, body fat, water volume, undigested food, and waste. Factors like water retention can also temporarily increase weight, masking fat loss.

Patience and Persistence

Starting a weight loss journey involves a commitment to long-term lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes. The CDC recommends setting specific, realistic goals, monitoring progress, and rewarding yourself for milestones achieved. Building sustainable healthy habits is key to lasting weight loss.

Weight loss is a complex process influenced by many factors. While it’s hard to predict exactly how long it will take to lose weight, focusing on gradual, sustainable changes is more effective and healthier in the long run. Remember, slow and steady wins the race, and the ultimate goal is to develop habits that support long-term health and well-being


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