I get a lot of questions regarding How long does it take to lose weight. I mean a lot!
And you have one burning question. How long does it take you to lose weight? And how fast you can lose weight. The tough part about answering those questions is the number of variables involved.
Yes, we can generalize the sum and average of all situations. Which I’m obligated to do below.
But I would also like to follow up with the healthiest way to lose weight that’s realistic to most of our lives.
Takeaways That Won’t Fail You
- It’s true that calorie restriction is a major influencer behind many of the diet plans.
- It takes serious motivation to see numbers closer to 5 pounds a week in weight loss.
- A bigger number for a weekly weight loss is not unhealthy if you’re not undernourished.
- What you eat is far more important than the amount of exercise you do for weight loss.
- Intermittent fasting combined with a “Paleo like” meal plan is a great choice for the average person.
- For individuals who are obese, a ketogenic meal plan can have the most rapid effect for weight loss. But it’s all or nothing.
What have I experienced over the last three decades?
There are more people interested in “how to lose 10 pounds” than the big numbers. But this is a result of my sample group. That particular group is the individuals who have sought my help over the years.
But the change that stands out the most is the “label” on so many different diet styles. Everyone who comes up with a type of eating wants to give it a name. This is okay until the methods are used as a data collection means.
I found this to be the case in the military diet. I consider that unethical.
A lot of people fear being overweight. And fear is a powerful motivator. The only problem is the amount of long term motivation required to lose weight. It sets individuals out in search of the easiest method. This is why diet fads are so pervasive and continuously being copied and updated.
There’s very little new data that’s “breaking” when it comes to weight loss. But the diet industry and supplement industry would have you believe differently.
Factors that influence weight loss
This is a huge factor, period. If you’re not in a mindset that you really (and I mean REALLY) want to lose weight, the results will slow dramatically. If not take you backward.
These are things such as your food choices, eating times, social setting, sleep quality, socioeconomic status, exercise habits, etc.
These are factors such as hormone ratios and levels. This is an important and often overlooked consideration when addressing weight loss.
One other issue I have with weight loss
Just making the statement “I’m going to lose weight” is too arbitrary. It does not focus on the changes necessary to accomplish the goal. Instead, we need to focus on most of the behaviors that lead to being overweight.
For instance, the overconsumption of sugar might be the first thing to address. So, instead of focusing on something intangible, focus on minimizing your sugar intake.
Simply shouting from the rooftops, “I’m going to lose weight,” will not make it happen.
But if you shout from the rooftops, “I’m going to cut my sugar intake,” a symptom of that behavior change will result in weight loss.
Make sense? Now we can discuss some of the variables that influence weight loss. And some of the common dietary changes/fads.
Let’s break weight loss down to days, weeks, and months
Now, I could go with the old statement from academia. You know, the two pounds per week thing. I can still remember my old professors stating, you can safely lose two pounds a week. And then calculating out thirty-five hundred calories in a pound of fat. And then working the numbers of the deficit needed on the chalkboard (yes, we used chalkboards).
Being in the position I was already in, I would scratch my head and state I’ve experienced differently.
Yes, on paper that’s correct. And if you simply drop calories you will lose weight. But because of all the variables including hormones that dictate what is metabolized, it’s more complicated. This also means we have more control.
Regardless, let’s look at the absolute best outcomes I’ve ever experienced in my career for the following durations. And it may contradict the literature. I’m averaging males and females since there’s usually a slight difference. And it was always a combination of precise eating, strength training, and cardiovascular work.
- How much weight can you lose in a week? 5 pounds
- How much weight can you lose in a month? 16 to 19 pounds
- How much weight can you lose in three months? 50 pounds
- How much weight can you lose in a year? 100 pounds
Remember, the above numbers are based on actual people I’ve experienced lose weight. Most people did not share this experience. They experienced weight loss but to a lesser extreme. As I said, your motivation has to remain high and a priority.
Does sleep make a difference with weight loss?
I’m on the fence here. Most of the literature leans more toward the “inconclusive” response. This is not my field of expertise. But there is plenty of supporting research stating low sleep equates to lower glucose tolerance. This can lead to a diabetic outcome.
Historically speaking, Type 2 diabetics have a harder time losing weight and gain more easily.
But there’s another factor. Lack of sleep has also shown to increase one’s appetite. And let’s add to that statement that a lack of sleep diminishes willpower. Chances are, this circumstance will cause an increase in food consumption, i.e. weight gain.
Are there ways to lose weight other than a calorie deficit?
As far as a real weight loss goes, the only other option is surgery. I’ve seen it work. And then I’ve seen it go backward. Because the habits that initially brought on the weight gain returned.
Experience leaves me to personally advise against surgery for weight loss.
How long does it take to lose weight with exercise?
This is where one will see the least results in weight loss. It seems incorrect, but both research and experience have proven exercise alone to be the least effective.
Don’t get me wrong, exercise is super important for so many reasons. But it should not be your priority if you just want to lose weight. It pains me to say this because I don’t want to discourage anyone from exercising.
But your number one priority in weight loss needs to address what you eat. A well-structured meal plan and exercise together can do great things though!
How long does it take to lose weight running?
I know I’m encroaching dangerous ground. Because runners love their sport. I’m not a fan, so I have no business writing about it, BUT it’s not a good solution for weight loss.
Typically, when running, your VO2 is too high to burn fat. And if you’re undernourished in the right foods, you’ll burn muscle. Not a good outcome.
You can offset that outcome slightly by adding strength training into the mix and getting enough protein.
You can learn more about this in my article How To Lose Fat: When Does Your Body Burn The Most Fat?
If you love running, do it for the sake of the cardiovascular benefit. Seriously, I wish I enjoyed it. When runners travel, all they need are a good pair of sneakers.
How long does it take to lose weight on a ketogenic diet?
There’s a lot of value to a ketogenic diet for weight loss in heavier individuals. This of course is similar to the Atkins diet weight loss from the eighties. There are some subtle differences, but it’s pretty much relabeled with the appropriate term.
So, how long does it take to lose weight on keto? Well, when it comes to weight loss for individuals with a lot of weight to lose. I’ve not experienced a faster method. I’m guilty of not asking individuals in this position how much weight they’ve lost weekly.
But I will say this; the physical changes were always noticeable on a weekly basis. That’s powerful if you ask me.
I write this cautiously. A ketogenic diet is difficult to follow. And if you find yourself going in and out of ketosis because of going on and off the meal plan, it’s more dangerous. This is a circumstance where you end up with high VLDL and LDL levels. And low HDL levels. This is unhealthy. That statement does not apply if you maintain the course.
In other words, there’s not a lot of room for error!
I’ve seen up to five pounds a week come off on average. Again, this only applies to individuals with a lot of weight to lose.
How long does it take to lose weight on Paleo?
What about Paleo weight loss results? I feel like I’m dredging in the archives for this since Paleo was popular several years ago.
But because it advises the use of unprocessed foods, I can’t complain. This in itself eliminates all of the processed sugars. That alone will induce weight loss.
Two to three pounds a week on a strict paleo meal plan is not unrealistic.
Will intermittent fasting cause weight loss?
How long does it take to lose weight on intermittent fasting? This method might be slightly newer, but it’s not too new to have research on the subject. Muslims have participated in a lot of research during Ramadan. And there’s a lot more surfacing into 2020.
The data has come back positive. In fact, if you had asked me ten years ago if it would work, I would have said no. I stand behind intermittent fasting not so much for weight loss, but more for the health advantages.
Regardless, it’s almost a reset for many of your metabolic hormones in a positive way. It’s also a good plan to combine with clean healthy eating.
If you follow intermittent fasting but eat badly during your “feeding window,” don’t expect great results. Minimal weight loss or neutral changes. At least you’ll reap some of the other positives.
Follow this plan, eat a high protein, medium fat, and a low carb diet that is a caloric deficit, and up to 5 pounds a week is not unrealistic.
How long does it take to lose weight on a vegan diet?
I can’t give a definitive answer on this subject. I’m formally educated in vegan protocols. But I don’t practice the methods. By no means am I stating or will I state anything derogatory about a vegan lifestyle.
I believe everyone should pursue the lifestyle that best suits them. And if your microbiome deals well with a vegan diet and you’re well enough educated to make sure you’re getting enough protein, then all good.
But, I have seen some weight loss on this style of eating. But a lot of the time, it’s via muscle loss. And one might say, that’s weight loss generally speaking. But that’s seriously not the weight you want to lose!
Only approach this situation if you’re well versed in vegan protocols and your motivation is high.
What type of diet or combination of styles have I seen lose weight the fastest?
I would like to apply this to two groups. First, obese individuals and second, slightly overweight individuals.
Obese individuals who stick to any program will see results. But that’s not the answer you’re looking for. The fastest results in my experience have come from a strict keto meal plan.
For individuals looking to lose less weight, again, any realistic program that’s adhered to will cause some weight loss. But the answer you’re looking for involves a combination of two methods.
I’ve seen the fastest changes occur from a high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet mixed with intermittent fasting. There are health benefits to both along with weight loss. You can read more about intermittent fasting in my article Intermittent Fasting 101: All You Need To Know [The Definitive Guide].
What’s the healthiest way to lose weight?
Again, a combination of intermittent fasting and a high protein, medium fat, and low carb meal plan. Keep the vegetable intake on the high side. Just know that some veggies like carrots and peas are higher in sugar. Get to know your vegetables.
In fact, you may have to experiment with some different foods. Some may make you feel sluggish. That’s obviously a reason to avoid those foods.
Conclusion on How to Lose Weight
Let me first state the importance of NOT cutting your calories too much. This carries its own can of worms. The downregulation of your thyroid hormones and loss of lean muscle tissue are two very important factors to consider. So, please don’t starve yourself.
Another point I want to make involves calorie restriction. Yes, many plans are successful because of calorie restriction. But the point I’ve always screamed from the rooftops involves fat loss over muscle loss. The idea is to maintain as much muscle mass during the process while supplying your body with all the nutrients necessary for good health.
Trust me, you’ll lose plenty of muscle as you age without trying. It’s called sarcopenia. The more you take into aging, the more you have to lose without compromising mobility.
Just focusing on what you eat by following a particular diet, can lead to weight loss. Why? Because you’re making it your priority and likely eliminating the junk.
So whatever direction you choose, make sure it’s realistic. Then stick with it and you’re bound to see a change. And if there’s one thing you take away from this article, may it be that what you eat is more important than exercise for weight loss.
FAQs on Losing Weight
Does weight loss take time to show?
Yes, but if you do it right, results can be seen in weeks rather than months.
Weight loss time between meals?
Give yourself a minimum of 3-4 hours between meals.
Weight loss time frame?
For big goals, look to three months. For smaller goals 2-3 weeks is realistic.
References & Resources
Paul J. Arciero et al, Protein-Pacing Caloric-Restriction Enhances Body Composition Similarly in Obese Men and Women during Weight Loss and Sustains Efficacy during Long-Term Weight Maintenance, Nutrients 2016, 8(8), 476.
Laura Castello, et al., Alternate-day fasting protects the rat heart against age-induced inflammation and fibrosis by inhibiting oxidative damage and NF-kB activation, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 48, Issue 1, 1 January 2010, Pages 47-54.
Elfhag, K. and Rössner, S. (2005), Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss? A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain. Obesity Reviews, 6: 67-85.
Marion J.Franz MS, RD, Jeffrey J. VanWormer MS, A. Lauren Crain PhD, Jackie L. Boucher MS, RD, Trina Histon PhD, William Caplan MD, Jill D. Bowman, Nicolas P. Pronk PhD, Weight-Loss Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Weight-Loss Clinical Trials with a Minimum 1-Year Follow-Up, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 107, Issue 10, October 2007, Pages 1755-1767.
Elder, C., Gullion, C., Funk, K. et al. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. Int J Obes 36, 86–92 (2012).
Michelle R Jospe, Melyssa Roy, Rachel C Brown, Jillian J Haszard, Kim Meredith-Jones, Louise J Fangupo, Hamish Osborne, Elizabeth A Fleming, Rachael W Taylor, Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 111, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 503–514.
Larsen, S.C., Horgan, G., Mikkelsen, ML.K. et al. Association between objectively measured sleep duration, adiposity and weight loss history. Int J Obes 44, 1577–1585 (2020).
Obert, J., Pearlman, M., Obert, L. et al. Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 19, 61 (2017).
Pitt, Christopher E. Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet [online]. Australian Family Physician, Vol. 45, No. 1/2, Jan/Feb 2016: 35-38.
Sallinen B.J., Hassan F., Olszewski A., Maupin A., Hoban T.F., Chervin R.D., Woolford S.J.,
Longer Weekly Sleep Duration Predicts Greater 3-Month BMI Reduction among Obese Adolescents Attending a Clinical Multidisciplinary Weight Management Program, Obes Facts 2013; 6:239-246.
St‐Onge, M.‐P. (2017) Sleep–obesity relation: underlying mechanisms and consequences for treatment. Obesity Reviews, 18: 34– 39.