How Long Will It Take Me To Lose Weight?

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If you’re on a weight loss journey, you may be wondering how long it will take you to lose weight and reach your goal. There’s generally no way to accurately predict how long it takes to lose weight, and many factors impact it, including age, genetics, and sex.

Experts generally advise a steady, sustainable weight loss rate. Losing one to two pounds per week can help you keep weight off. It would take you about 10 to 20 weeks, for example, to lose 20 pounds.

Focusing on healthy, realistic lifestyle changes that you can maintain in the long term is key to a successful weight-loss plan. Read on to learn how long it generally takes to start losing weight and what factors affect weight loss.

Weight loss and how quickly you may lose pounds aren’t straightforward. Several factors can impact weight loss, many of which you can’t control. These factors include age, genetics, and sex.

Age

It’s normal for your body composition to change as you get older. People typically gain fat and lose muscle mass with age. Body composition can affect resting metabolic rate (RMR), or the amount of calories you burn at rest.

Research has shown that the RMR of adults older than 70 can be as much as 25% lower than in younger adults. A lower RMR can make it more difficult to lose weight.

Genetics

Research has shown that genetics contribute to overweight and obesity. Certain genes can affect appetite and satiety, or how full you feel. Genes can also affect metabolism, or the processes that convert food into energy.

Sex

Research has found that biological females generally have more fat than muscle than biological males, causing them to have a lower RMR. Females can burn as much as 10% fewer calories at rest than males of the same height. As a result, it can be more difficult for females to lose weight.

Starting Weight

Research has shown that there’s no single best strategy for weight management, but an energy or calorie deficit is the most important factor in weight loss. You may lose weight faster if you have more weight to lose, simply because changing your diet may result in a larger calorie deficit. 

A 40-year-old woman who’s five foot four inches tall and 200 pounds with a light activity level, for example, would need to eat 2,190 calories per day to maintain her weight. A woman of the same age, height, and activity level who weighs 150 pounds would need to eat 1,873 calories to maintain her weight. The 200-pound woman will have a larger daily calorie loss if they both begin eating 1,500 calories per day.

The deficit shrinks as you lose weight, which is why the rate of weight loss tapers the closer you get to your weight goal, regardless of where you started. You may need to decrease your calorie intake or increase your exercise time or intensity to lose those last 10 pounds.

Type of Calories

The quality of the food you eat can play a role in weight loss. Focusing on eating whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, plus lean meats and low-fat dairy products, and limiting processed and ultra-processed foods can support weight loss goals.

Other Factors

Metabolism, which is how your body burns calories, is an important factor in weight loss, and it’s complex. Appetite-regulating hormones also play a role in weight loss. Both can be affected by factors like poor sleep, stress, and the makeup of the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a collection of bacteria and other microbes that reside in the digestive system.

Research has shown that the gut microbiome can actually influence both sides of the calorie balance equation. It impacts how the body utilizes calories from foods and how it burns or stores them.

Getting started with weight loss doesn’t have to be difficult. You can build a healthy diet by:

  • Determining your starting points with height, weight, risk factors, diet, and lifestyle
  • Finding a type of exercise and routine that you enjoy
  • Finding ways to educate and support yourself
  • Investigating your lifestyle
  • Learning ways to manage stress
  • Making a commitment to yourself to lose weight
  • Monitoring and reward your progress over time
  • Setting specific, realistic goals that leave room for forgiveness

Everyone wants a quick fix, but slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss. Quick fixes are usually the result of fad diets that aren’t sustainable in the long run. The best approach to weight loss is a method that builds long-term healthy habits as part of your lifestyle and doesn’t require drastic measures. Fad diets can leave you hungry and negatively impact your health.

It’s important to know that weight loss isn’t always linear. Your weight can shift from day to day, even hour to hour, which is normal. You’re measuring everything that has weight when you step on the scale, including bone, body fat, muscle, waste, and water volume.

Don’t get discouraged if you see your weight go up a few pounds. You might see the scale go up, for example, if you’re strength training and gaining muscle mass. Don’t be so caught up in the number on the scale, but instead, gauge how you feel in your clothes.

The rate of weight loss may predict the type of weight you lose. Gradual weight loss has been shown to result in the loss of more pounds of total fat and a lower body fat percentage compared to rapid weight loss. 

Many people would like to lose weight faster, but people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more likely to keep the weight off. Experts advise losing about one to two pounds per week for sustainable weight loss. Even modest weight loss (i.e., 5% to 10% of total weight) has been shown to result in health benefits. These benefits can include improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar.

A very low-calorie diet (VLCD) is likely to be less nutritionally complete and isn’t suitable for most people. A VLCD typically provides 600 to 700 daily calories per day. This type of diet is usually done clinically supervised and is meant to be short-term.

These restrictive diets may result in side effects, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Gallstones, or hard pieces of material that form in the gallbladder
  • Gout, or a type of arthritis that causes stiff, painful joints 
  • Increased risk of disordered eating
  • Nausea
  • Nutrient deficiencies

Too few calories can hinder weight loss efforts. When the body doesn’t have enough energy to fuel itself, it kicks into starvation mode and starts to hold onto every calorie.

It’s also important to be conscious that restrictive diets can increase the risk of disordered eating. It may be a good idea to work with a healthcare provider if you want to decrease your calorie intake.

Weight loss is complex, and nobody can realistically forecast exactly how much weight you’ll lose within a given time frame. The truth is that focusing on healthy, balanced habits you can stick with is far more important.

Talk to a healthcare provider if you need help developing a safe weight-loss plan. Losing one to two pounds per week is generally advisable, which is a steady, sustainable weight loss rate. 

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