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How long does it take to lose weight?

Whether you’re trying to lose weight for a special occasion or just want to improve your health, losing weight is a common goal. To set realistic expectations, you may want to know what a healthy weight loss rate is. This article explains the factors that affect how long it takes you to lose weight.

How Weight Loss Happens

Weight loss occurs when you consistently consume fewer calories than you expend each day. Conversely, weight gain occurs when you consistently consume more calories than you expend. Any food or drink that contains calories counts towards your total calorie intake. However, the number of calories you burn each day, known as energy or calorie expenditure, is a bit more complicated.

Calorie consumption is made up of the following three main components:

The resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the number of calories your body needs to sustain normal bodily functions like breathing and pumping blood.

The thermic effect of food (TEF). These are the calories used to digest, absorb, and metabolize food.

Thermal activity effect (TEA). These are the calories you expend while exercising. TEA may also include non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which accounts for calorie expenditure for activities like gardening and fidgeting.

If the number of calories you expend equals the number of calories you burn, maintain your body weight. If you want to lose weight, you need to create a negative calorie balance by consuming fewer calories than you burn or burning more calories through increased activity.

Factors affecting weight loss

Several factors affect the speed at which you lose weight. Many of them are beyond your control.


Your fat-to-muscle ratio has a big impact on your ability to lose weight. Because women generally have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio than men, their RMR is 5-10% lower than men of the same size. This means that women typically burn 5-10% fewer calories than men at rest. Men tend to lose weight faster than women when eating a balanced calorie diet.

For example, an 8-week study of more than 2,000 participants on an 800-calorie diet showed that men lost 16% more weight than women, with a relative weight loss of 11.8% for men and 10.3% for women. Although men tend to lose weight faster than women, the study did not analyze gender differences in the ability to maintain weight loss.


One of the many physical changes that occurs with age is the change in body composition: fat mass increases and muscle mass decreases. This change, along with other factors such as reducing the calorie needs of your major organs, helps lower your basal metabolic rate. In fact, adults over 70 can have 20-25% lower RMRs than younger adults. This decrease in RMR can make weight loss increasingly difficult as you age.

starting point

Your starting body mass and composition can also affect how quickly you can expect to lose weight. It is important to understand that different absolute weight loss in different people can correspond to the same relative weight loss (%). Ultimately, weight loss is a complex process. Although a heavier person can lose twice as much weight, a lighter person can lose the same percentage of their body weight (10/250 = 4% versus 5/125 = 4%). For example, a 136 kg person may lose 4.5 kg after reducing their daily intake by 1,000 calories and increasing their physical activity for 2 weeks.

calorie deficit

You have to create a negative calorie balance to lose weight. The size of this calorie deficit affects how quickly you lose weight. For example, eating 500 fewer calories per day for 8 weeks is likely to result in greater weight loss than eating 200 fewer calories per day. However, be careful not to go into a large calorie deficit. Not only would this not be sustainable, but you would also risk suffering from nutrient deficiencies. In addition, you can lose weight as muscle mass and not as fat mass.

The sleep

Sleep is an often overlooked but crucial part of weight loss. Chronic sleep deprivation can significantly impact weight loss and the rate at which you shed pounds. A single night without sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cravings for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods like cookies, cakes, sugary drinks, and chips. In a two-week study, participants on a low-calorie diet were asked to sleep 5.5 or 8.5 hours a night. Those who slept 5.5 hours lost 55% less body fat and 60% more muscle mass than those who slept 8.5 hours a night. As such, chronic sleep deprivation is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

other factors

Several other factors can affect your weight loss, including:


Many medications, such as antidepressants and other antipsychotics, can promote weight gain or interfere with weight loss.


Illnesses, including depression and hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid produces too little metabolism-regulating hormone, can slow weight loss and promote weight gain.

family history and genes

There is a well-established genetic component associated with being overweight or obese that may affect weight loss.

yo-yo diet

This tendency to lose and regain weight can make it harder to lose weight with each attempt due to a decrease in RMR.

The best diet for losing weight

With the myriad of weight loss diets available, all promising impressive and fast results, it can be difficult to know which is the best. However, while the creators and promoters of these diets consider their programs superior to others, there is no single best weight loss diet. For example, low-carb diets like the keto diet can help you lose more weight initially, but studies show no significant difference in long-term weight loss.
What matters most is your ability to stick to a healthy, low-calorie diet, but sticking to a very low-calorie diet for an extended period of time is difficult for many people and is why most diets fail

To increase your chances of success, reduce your calorie intake only moderately, customize your diet based on your preferences and medical condition, or work with a nutritionist. Combine diet and exercise, including aerobics and resistance training, to maximize fat loss and prevent or minimize muscle loss.

By eliminating highly processed foods and incorporating healthier, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins, you can further support weight loss and your overall health.

Safe Weight Loss Rates

While most people hope for quick weight loss, it’s important not to lose too much weight too quickly. Rapid weight loss can increase your risk of gallstones, dehydration, and malnutrition.

Other side effects of rapid weight loss include:

hair loss
menstrual irregularities
muscle breakdown

Although weight loss can be faster early in a program, experts recommend losing 1 to 3 pounds per week, or about 1% of body weight. Also remember that weight loss is not a linear process. Some weeks you may lose more, while other weeks you may lose less or not at all.

So don’t get discouraged if your weight loss slows down or plateaus for a few days. Using a food journal as well as regular weighing can help you stay on track. Research shows that people who use self-monitoring techniques, such as such as keeping track of food intake and weight, are more successful at slimming and losing weight than those who don’t.

Weight loss occurs when you take in fewer calories than you burn. Many factors affect your rate of weight loss, including your gender, age, starting weight, sleep levels, and the extent of your calorie deficit. Aiming for weight loss of 1 to 3 pounds per week is a safe and sustainable way to achieve your goals.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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