How Long Does it Take to Notice Weight Loss?

Tracking your weight

How Long Does it Take to Notice Weight Loss?

Bathroom Scales

Noticing weight loss and feeling better in yourself is a big motivator to keep going. The time this takes varies from person to person. It will depend on numerous factors, such as your starting weight, the amount you exercise, and your eating habits.

Many see a notable drop on the scale in the first or second week, but this is usually water weight, not fat loss. The rest of the journey won’t be quite as fast! Let’s take a look at when, in general, you can expect to see those all-important changes.

How long to notice weight loss?

Feeling more active, looser clothes, less bloating, improved mood… There are many changes that living more healthily can bring about. It’s not all about the number on the scale!

If you stick to a healthy eating plan, work out more regularly and try and build healthy habits, it’s likely you’ll start noticing changes within 1-2 weeks.1

Water weight or fat loss?

For most of us, the first week of a diet is when we see the highest drop in weight, sometimes 10 pounds or more! However, this is largely due to the body’s release of its glycogen stores. Glycogen binds to 3-4 grams of water. When a person eats less, particularly fewer carbohydrates, the body burns through its glycogen stores, thus losing the water as well.2 This is known as water weight.

Not all weight loss will be this rapid. Also, you can lose fat without necessarily losing weight (as shown by the scale), particularly if you’re building muscle through exercise.

How fast should weight loss be?

Losing 1-2 pounds a week is considered healthy, sustainable weight loss.3 This is why you shouldn’t feel disheartened if losing weight isn’t as rapid as it was at the start. Don’t be discouraged if your weight loss stalls temporarily, it’s normal.

Bear in mind that you won’t always see changes on the scale. Pay attention to other differences also, such as an increase in fitness levels or being able to wear your belt tighter.

How long does it take for others to notice?

It usually takes around 4 weeks for friends to notice weight loss, and 6-8 weeks for you to notice significant changes.4 Bear in mind that those you haven’t seen in a while are more likely to notice than those you see often.

Couple on beach walk

What factors impact time it takes to see changes?

In general, it requires a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose a pound.5 Therefore, the time it takes to notice weight loss will depend on a number of factors:

  1. The amount of calories you consume
  2. The amount of exercise you do to lose weight
  3. Carbohydrates consumed
  4. Your starting weight (the lower your BMI, the more slowly weight will come off)

When dieting, people typically lose 5-10% of their starting weight in the first six months.6

However, many people then gain their weight back. This is why it’s recommended to aim to lose weight sustainably, rather than crash diet. You might lose weight faster initially, but you’re more likely to put it back on again.

Factors out of your control

Weight loss is also determined by a number of factors you can’t control, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height & weight
  • Genes
  • Medication
  • Medical conditions7

Runner in Richmond Park

How can you measure weight loss?

No two weight loss journeys are the same. This is why you can’t measure your success against others’, or follow someone else’s goals. Also, don’t obsess over the number on the scale – there are other (and sometimes better) ways to measure.

There are many changes, both physical and mental, to pay attention to, including:

Body measurements

Muscle is denser than body fat, meaning a pound of muscle will take up less room in your body than a pound of fat.8 It will also increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories, even while at rest.

This means that you can lose body fat, without necessarily losing weight. For this reason, don’t just look at what the number on the scale says. Instead, also pay attention to how your clothes feel, and your body measurements. These are great indications of whether or not you’re losing fat.

General mood

It’s not all physical. Leading a healthy lifestyle, fueling your body with more nutrients and working out regularly has countless benefits for your mental health too. Some changes to look for include:

  • Improved mood (thanks to endorphins)
  • Sleeping better
  • Better concentration
  • Boost in attitude9

Increase in fitness

Most of your weight loss will come from your diet. However, exercise will help you burn more calories and boost your metabolism, particularly strength training.

Starting to notice that you can lift bigger weights or go for longer, for example, are great signs that your physical fitness has improved. This improved endurance will prove that you’re living a healthier life and are hitting your goals.

Look at photos

You won’t always notice changes when looking in the mirror, especially day to day. But, looking at recent photos compared to past ones can be a good indicator of the weight you’ve lost.

Some people choose to take progress pictures, for example showing monthly changes. This can help show notable changes to your body, rather than relying on the scale alone.

Every journey is different

The bottom line when it comes to weight loss: you need to be in a caloric deficit. Taking this deficit to the extreme will demotivate you, slow your metabolism down and make you less likely to stick with it.

Weight loss takes time and patience. It won’t drop off in a matter of weeks, nor will it be a continuous, consistent decrease. It can be a journey full of fluctuations. What matters is that you stick with it, stay motivated and keep pushing. Follow your own goals, not someone else’s.

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