Millions of people are struggling with weight loss, so you’re not alone. More than half of American adults attempt to lose weight every year. As it should be expected, the weight loss industry is worth a ton of money every year. Several weight-loss options exist—some with unrealistic promises—including pills, herbs, cleanses, detoxes, fat diets, and any number of other products. However, how quick are you supposed to lose weight?
What does it take to lose weight?
Generally, most health experts recommend that to lose weight healthily, and you should aim to lose about 1–2 pounds per week. Several factors, including gender, age, medical issues, medications, and the weight you want to lose, will affect the amount of time it takes to lose weight. I’d like to discuss how your body loses weight so we can decide how long your weight loss journey will take.
Weight loss must be achieved by eating fewer calories than you burn. This is what people refer to as a calorie deficit or deficit diet. Thinking in the opposite, if you consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.
Food calories are probably no stranger to you, but do you know how many calories your body burns in a day? Despite calorie counting, it’s hard to predict the number of calories your body consumes because so many different factors are at play, such as gender and activity level.
Have you ever known that being alive consumes energy? With each breath, the blood pumping to your heart, and the action itself, you burn a certain number of calories without even trying.
It is also known as your resting metabolic rate or basal metabolic rate. 60% of the energy that you use in a day comes from your resting metabolic rate. Energy left over from your meal is used to fuel your physical activity or digest and absorb your food.
Individuals’ resting metabolic rates can differ, as they may stay relatively constant over time. The resting metabolic rate for women tends to be lower than that of men. A person’s genetic makeup may also determine whether they tend to gain weight or not.
What else influences weight loss?
Weight loss is not entirely about your metabolic rate; other factors, such as diet, exercise, age, etc., are important as well.
Diets do not guarantee permanent weight loss. Simply stated, you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Ideally, your diet should strike the right balance between nutritional needs and calorie reduction without being too restrictive. The Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and the ketogenic diet are popular diet options.
- Intermittent fasting. This diet involves you following a restricted eating schedule and alternating between eating and fasting. Because you limit your calories, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. This isn’t the only diet that lowers your caloric intake but is at least something most people can do.
- Ketogenic diet. A keto diet is one of several “low carb” diet options available. This type of eating plan encourages you to consume mainly fat, some protein and minimize carbohydrate intake. Keto diets may lead to weight loss by causing your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates due to forcing your body into ketosis. It is difficult for some people to follow this type of diet since it is so restrictive.
- Mediterranean diet. These dietary guidelines are based on foods commonly eaten in Spain, Greece, Italy, and neighbouring countries. It recommends limiting red meat consumption and favors fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and monounsaturated fats like olive oil. Researchers have found that the Mediterranean diet helps people lose weight faster than “low fat” diets. Still, you lose about as much weight as you do with other similar diets.
By engaging in exercise, you burn more calories than diet alone, resulting in greater weight loss.
Although exercise improves your health and wellbeing, it is not just for shedding pounds. A current recommendation places an average adult’s physical activity at 150–300 minutes of moderate exercise or cardio every week. Lean muscle can also be increased by resistance training.
You can also increase your activity by participating in NEAT. NEAT is the number of calories burned physically while performing daily activities like fidgeting, singing, and cleaning. The NEAT can increase your daily calorie expenditure by about 350 calories.
Weight loss can be challenging for some people as they get older. It can be hard to determine exactly why, but it depends on the individual. Statistics suggest that your metabolic rates and resting metabolic rates decline as you age; however, that might be a factor.
In addition to changing your body composition, aging also tends to lose muscle mass as time passes. Conversely, other studies suggest that older people who start at much higher weights tend to lose considerably more weight than those younger. People over 40 may be more motivated to follow long-term programs. In addition to the above, some research indicates that staying fit doesn’t depend on your age.
It has already been mentioned that a woman’s resting metabolic rate tends to be slower than that of her male counterparts. Females lose weight more slowly than men because of these reasons. Yet, unlike everything else, weight loss is not the simple answer.
Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are also hormonal transitions that women go through. When you are pregnant, your fat distribution changes, and you tend to store fat around your abdomen. Menopause can make you gain weight because of aging and losing normal ovarian hormone levels.
Obesity and weight-related issues are a greater risk for people who have disrupted sleep. Sleeping too little may cause excessive hunger and weight loss difficulty. In one study, it was found that lacking sleep causes you to crave high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods.
When you encounter high levels of stress, your body can suffer as a result. Losing weight also appears to be associated with it. Increased stress causes weight gain and increases the difficulty in losing weight. Stress can also influence your desire for comfort foods loaded with calories, such as your favorite pint of ice cream.
Some medical conditions make weight loss more difficult or take longer, such as:
- Thyroid problems
- Pituitary dysfunction
- Cushing syndrome
- Hormonal changes in women
Most medications, such as corticosteroids, antipsychotics, and antidepressants, have side effects of weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Consider consulting your medical provider regarding your options if any of these drugs slows your weight loss rate.
Is it safe to lose weight too fast?
According to most experts, one to two pounds should be lost per week, and this is a good recommendation for several reasons. Weight loss too fast may lead to unpleasant symptoms and serious medical problems, including:
- Menstrual changes
Tips for successful weight loss
Understand that weight loss is more of a journey than a destination. You will feel overwhelmed several times in your journey, and other times you will just want to quit. Do not give up. Stay motivated by remembering why you started this weight loss journey. You don’t have to give up if you fall off the wagon. Take a deep breath and start over. Developing healthy habits is yours to keep for your entire lifetime.
Sometimes people lose weight rapidly, mostly water weight, and then lose weight seems to slow or plateau. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re not losing weight. Your weight may fluctuate, which is perfectly normal, so don’t stop exercising. For some people, it takes one year or more to lose weight long-term.
The best way to succeed is to self-monitoring or monitor your food intake, weigh-ins, calorie intake, etc. Maintaining your weight loss through accountability will keep you on track, hopefully for the long term.
Ask for help whenever necessary. Before you begin a weight loss plan, seek medical advice from your healthcare professional. Find someone who specializes in nutrition as well as a dietitian, a personal trainer, etc. Having support in your journey can let you know that you’re not the only one who feels this way.