How long does it take to lose weight? While the answer varies person to person, by following the guidelines in this article, you can expect to lose up to 2 pounds per week in a healthy, sustainable way.
If you’re trying to lose weight, and more specifically lose body fat, you aren’t alone. It’s a common goal for many people. But when you’re in the process and doing everything you can to meet your goals, the desire to shed those extra pounds quickly is likely at the forefront of your mind.
Given this, a few of common questions that often come up during weight management consultations at The Dearing Clinic is:
How long does it take to lose weight?
How much weight can you lose in a month?
Can I lose 10 pounds in a month?
While it is possible to lose 10 pounds in a month, it’s more important to focus on how you’re losing weight and make sure you’re prioritizing healthy weight loss. This means it’s absolutely essential to understand both how the process works and the factors that can influence weight loss. Only then can you accurately determine how long it will take to lose weight and meet your goals.
So, let’s dive in and uncover what really happens when you begin to lose weight, factors that impact how much weight you can lose in a given period of time, what’s a safe weight loss rate to aim for, and the best ways to lose that first 10 pounds and keep you on the road to reaching your goal.
What Happens When You Lose Weight
Before we can answer the question of how long it takes to lose weight, it’s important to understand what happens in your body when you’re losing weight. When you embark on a new weight loss journey, several changes occur within your body. You likely know that your metabolism increases, and your body starts burning stored fat for energy. And, as a result, you begin to notice a decrease in your weight.
But weight loss isn’t just about shedding fat. It also involves losing water weight and, potentially, muscle mass. And while losing water weight may provide a quick drop on the scale, it is crucial to focus on sustainable fat loss for long-term results.
Here’s what happens physiologically when you lose weight in a healthy way: Your muscles and liver release glycogen (a carbohydrate) known to bind to a large amount of water, so when you lose glycogen, you naturally release stored water, resulting in a loss of water weight. This is why some people see a larger drop in weight during the first week or two of beginning a new weight loss protocol, meaning you may start losing weight right away.
Next, if you’re losing weight in a healthy way (meaning you’re avoiding the body’s natural inclination to lose muscle mass by incorporating strength training and eating enough protein and other nutrients required to build and sustain muscle), you’ll build more lean muscle.
This is critical for your future weight loss and management success, as we know that muscle burns 2.5 times more calories than fat and helps to boost your metabolism.
If you choose to simply diet without factoring in the need to build lean muscle, you may lose that initial water weight, but you won’t proceed to the next step in healthy weight loss: increasing your metabolism.
As you clean up your diet and build lean muscle, your metabolism increases to keep up with your body’s growing energy demands. This means that your body becomes more efficient at burning calories, meaning it begins to break down excess fat to burn for more energy, even when it’s at rest. It is around this time when you’re in the stages of noticing weight loss — a satisfying and motivational point in your weight loss journey.
So, once your body breaks down the unwanted body fat, how does this fat leave your body? You may be surprised to learn that burned fat doesn’t just magically disappear nor does it all get converted into energy. Instead, when you lose body fat, it’s metabolized primarily through a process called oxidation. This process breaks down fat molecules into carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and energy. The carbon dioxide is released through your lungs as you exhale, and the water is eliminated through your sweat, urine, and other bodily fluids.
How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight?
Now that you have a foundational understanding of what happens in your body when you lose weight, let’s answer the question you really came here for: How long does it take to lose weight?
Here’s the truth of the matter: The amount of time it takes to lose weight can vary significantly from person to person. And it largely depends on various factors, such as your starting weight, your dietary choices, initial body composition, physical activity level, age, gender, genetics, and overall health.
The most important thing for you to do when starting your weight loss journey is to use these factors and your knowledge about your personal situation to make informed decisions and set realistic expectations for yourself.
What’s a Safe Weight Loss Rate?
For healthy, safe, and sustainable weight loss, it is generally recommended to aim for (and expect) a gradual rate of losing up to 2 pounds per week, if you’re in a healthy metabolic state, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, and exercising at least three times weekly. This means, considering these factors, you could safely plan to lose anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds per month.
Now, at this point, you may be wondering how some people lose 10 pounds in a month or less and whether or not that is safe. In those situations, here’s likely what’s taking place: The average body holds up to 2 pounds of glycogen, which binds with up to 8 pounds of water.
So, this leads us to another question: How long does it take to lose 10 pounds in a safe way, if we account for our glycogen and water stores?
By restricting calories by cutting simple carbs and focusing on optimal nutrition, the average person will deplete his or her glycogen stores within several days to a week, with the timeframe largely dependent upon energy expenditure through exercise and the amount of lean muscle mass the person has. Depleting all glycogen stores will result in losing 8 to 10 pounds, which is a combination of both water and glycogen loss.
Now, it’s important to note that if you return to eating more calories than you burn, you will replenish your glycogen and water stores and therefore regain that weight. The key to maintaining that initial weight loss is to keep your glycogen stores at a diminished level for at least two weeks in order to reset the natural balance of your body’s energy storage needs.
Just keep in mind that when it comes to weight loss, safety and long-term success should always be your top priorities. Rapid weight loss can put excess strain on your body and could even lead to various health issues. By setting realistic expectations and focusing on long-term habits, you can achieve your weight loss goals while prioritizing your overall well-being.
6 Ways to Safely Lose 10 Pounds
Looking to lose 10 pounds or more safely and sustainably? Here are a few tips to help get started on your journey.
1. Set realistic goals and create a plan.
When you’re first starting out, it’s important to set smaller goals to keep yourself grounded and to help manage your expectations. Trying to figure out a plan for how to lose 15 pounds in a month may not be totally realistic (and could be potentially harmful) for your situation. Instead, map out a plan to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week and focus on those smaller weekly goals. Write out what types of foods you’ll need to consume, what your meals will look like, and even plan set times for exercise.
2. Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet.
To set yourself up for long-term success, it’s critical to avoid crash diets and extreme calorie restrictions. Instead, focus on incorporating nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, staying hydrated, and limiting sugary and processed foods.
3. Cool your gut inflammation.
Keep in mind that when you’re setting a weight loss goal and determining how long it will take to lose weight, you want to make sure you’re supporting your gut health and limiting inflammation in your gut lining. Here’s why: Gut inflammation impacts your ability to produce the peptide GLP-1, and low levels of this peptide are correlated with obesity.
If you suspect your gut may be inflamed, you can identify the inflammatory trigger by beginning an elimination diet. You’ll want to eliminate things such as dairy, sugar, gluten, and oils while focusing on green leafy vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Do this for anywhere from five days to two weeks and then slowly reintroduce one food at a time. If you notice any bloating, abdominal discomfort, or other symptoms upon reintroduction, you’ll be able to identify the culprit.
4. Increase your daily physical activity.
To best support fat loss and boost your metabolism, it’s best to exercise four to five days each week. Three of those days should focus on strength training to help build and maintain healthy lean muscle. This will help you to stay on track for losing 1 to 2 pounds per week.
5. Get enough sleep for optimal recovery.
When you’re starting any new weight loss protocol, it’s critical to allow your body adequate time to rest and repair. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and allow yourself enough time to relax and decompress before you go to bed to help ensure better sleep quality.
6. Seek support from friends, family, or a healthcare professional.
It’s common to get discouraged or lose motivation a week or two into your new weight loss journey. If this begins to happen to you, it’s important to get the support you need to stay on track. Whether it’s getting your family on board with your new dietary habits, asking a friend to join you for your workouts as an accountability partner, or even joining a weight loss program with your doctor, consider your resources and come up with a backup plan should you feel yourself beginning to backslide.
Remember, with the right motivation and tools, you can create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that supports your weight loss efforts. And soon enough, you won’t be wondering, “How long does it take to lose weight?” Instead, you’ll be sharing, “Here’s how much weight I lost!”
FAQs About How Long It Takes to Lose Weight
How much weight can you lose in a week?
The amount of weight you can lose in a week depends on many factors, but aiming for a gradual rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered healthy and sustainable. By focusing on making long-term changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can achieve your weight loss goals while keeping your body and mind in optimal condition.
How much weight can you lose in a month?
The amount of weight you can lose in a month depends on various factors, including your starting weight, metabolism, and overall dedication to your weight loss plan. The recommended maximum monthly weight loss is 4 to 8 pounds.
Can you lose 10 pounds in a month?
While losing 10 pounds in a month is ambitious, it may be doable for some, depending on their starting weight, their weight loss plan, and whether or not they have other health conditions or considerations. Keep in mind that it’s essential to focus on your overall progress rather than solely relying on the number on the scale. Sustainable weight loss involves not just shedding pounds but also improving your overall health and well-being.
How long does it take to lose fat?
When it comes to losing fat, there is no specific timeframe that applies to everyone. Fat loss depends on several factors, including your diet, exercise, and individual metabolism. Consistency, patience, and building lean muscle mass are key when it comes to losing fat. By sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet and engaging in regular physical activity that includes strength training, you can gradually lower your body fat percentage and improve your overall body composition.
How long does it take to notice weight loss?
The time it takes to notice weight loss varies from person to person. Some people may see noticeable changes within a few weeks, while others may take longer. It’s important to “think beyond the scale” and celebrate non-scale victories, such as improved energy levels, better sleep, and increased confidence. These “wins” can often be observed before visible physical changes occur, so make sure to acknowledge these achievements along your journey.
How long does it take to lose 50 pounds?
Losing 50 pounds is a significant goal that requires time, dedication, and commitment. Remember that aiming to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered a healthy and sustainable rate. This time frame allows for gradual progress and ensures that your body adjusts to the changes in a balanced manner. Remember that weight loss is a journey, and every step towards your goal is a step in the right direction. Stay consistent, committed, and motivated, and you will steadily work your way towards achieving your target weight.
When you’re in the process and doing everything you can to meet your goals, the desire to shed those extra pounds quickly is likely at the forefront of your mind. This often leads people to ask, "How long does it take to lose weight?"
How long it takes to lose weight depends on different factors, but the average person can lose up to 10 pounds within a couple of weeks by depeleting their glycogen stores. But be aware that most of this is water weight and can come back quickly once you return to eating more calories than you burn in a given day.
Long-term, sustainable weight loss should be slow and steady — approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week or 4 to 8 pounds per month.
If you're looking to lose 10 pounds or more in a safe way, make sure to establish realistic goals and an actionable plan, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, cool your gut inflammation, incrase your physical activity, prioritize sleep, and seek support from those closest to you.
Staying consistent, committed, and motivated goes a long way in helping you achieve your target weight in a safe and timely fashion.