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How long does it take to lose weight?

Weight loss is something that everyone wants, regardless of whether it’s for a special occasion or to improve your overall health.

You may be able to set realistic expectations by knowing what a healthy weight loss rate looks like.

This article will explain the factors that can affect how long it takes to lose weight.

How to lose weight

When you eat fewer calories each day than you burn, you will lose weight.

Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than what you burn.

Every food and drink that contains calories contributes to your total calorie intake.

However, it is more difficult to calculate how many calories you have burned each day (calorie expenditure or energy).

Calorie expenditure consists of three main components ( 1Trusted source).

  • The resting metabolic rate (RMR). It is the number of calories that your body requires to perform normal bodily functions like breathing and pumping blood.
  • Thermic effects of food (TEF) refer to how many calories are required to digest, absorb and metabolize food.
  • Thermic effects of activity (TEA). These calories are used during exercise. TEA can also include NEAT (non-exercise activity temperature), which accounts for calories used for activities such as yard work or fidgeting.

You maintain your body weight if the calories you eat equal the calories you burn.

To lose weight, you need to create a negative caloric balance. This means consuming fewer calories than you burn and burning more calories through exercise.

Factors that affect weight loss

There are many factors that affect how fast you lose weight. Many factors are beyond your control.

Gender

How much fat you have to lose is a major factor in your ability to lose weight.

Women have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio man than women, so they have an RMR of 5-10% less than men of the same height ( 2Trusted Source).

Women generally consume 5-10% fewer calories at rest than men. Men tend to lose weight faster than women if they eat the same amount of calories.

A study of over 2000 participants who followed an 800-calorie diet for 8 weeks found that men lost 16% less weight than women. The relative weight loss was 11.8% for men and 10.3% respectively ( 3Trusted source).

However, although men lost weight faster than women, the study did not examine gender-based differences in weight loss.

Age

One of the many changes in your body that come with aging is the alteration in body composition. Muscle mass decreases and fat mass increases.

This, and other factors such as the decreasing calorie needs for your major organs, leads to a lower RMR ( 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

Adults over 70 years old can have RMRs 20-25% lower than those of younger adults ( 2Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

With age, this decrease in RMR may make weight loss more challenging.

Start point

How quickly you lose weight will depend on your initial body mass and composition.

It is important to realize that relative weight loss (in percent) can be correlated with different absolute weights (in pounds). Weight loss is complex.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Body Weight Planner can help you determine how much weight you can lose based on your initial weight, age, sex, as well as how many calories you consume and expend ( 7Trusted Source).

A heavier person might lose twice as much weight but a lighter person could lose the same percentage (10/250 = 4%) versus 5/125 = 4%)

A person who is 300 pounds (136kg) can lose 10 pounds (4.5kg) by decreasing their daily intake of 1,000 calories and increasing their physical activity for two weeks.

Calorie deficit

To lose weight, you must have a negative calorie balance. How quickly you lose weight will depend on how large your calorie deficit.

A diet of 500 calories less per day for 8 weeks will result in more weight loss than a diet of 200 calories per day.

Be careful not to make your calories deficit too large.

This would be not only unsustainable but could also lead to nutrient deficiencies. It could also make it more likely that you lose weight through muscle mass, rather than fat.

Sleep

Sleep is a crucial part of weight loss.

Chronic sleep loss can seriously hinder your weight loss efforts and slow down the rate at which you lose weight.

One night of sleep deprivation can increase your cravings for high-calorie, nutritional-poor foods like cookies, cakes, and chips ( 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

Participants were randomly assigned to a calorie-restricted diet for two weeks. They could sleep 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours each night.

People who slept for 5.5 hours less lost 55% more body fat and 60% more body mass than those who slept for 8.5 hours ( 10Trusted source).

Therefore, chronic sleep deprivation has been strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease ( 11Trusted source, 12Trusted source, 13Trusted source).

Other factors

There are many other factors that can influence your weight loss rate.

  • Medications. Many medications, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and others, can either promote or inhibit weight loss (14Trusted source).
  • Medical conditions. Illnesses, including depression and hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too few metabolism-regulating hormones, can slow weight loss and encourage weight gain (7Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
  • Genetics and family history. This genetic component is associated with obesity and overweight people ( 16Trusted source. 17Trusted Source).
  • Yoyo dieting. A decrease in RMR ( 18Trusted source) can make it more difficult to lose weight.
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