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how long does it take to see weight loss

How long does it take to see weight loss results from your efforts? In the weight loss world (and our entire world in general), most of my clients want quick results. But true weight loss (not water weight) can take at least 4-6 weeks on average, even if you’re doing everything you should be.

If you’re not losing weight right away in the first few weeks, don’t give up. Many factors go into your rate of weight loss, and we’re going to dive into them so you can have them work with you, not against you. And if you have a clearer and more realistic expectation of how actual fat loss works, you’ll experience less frustration and will be able to enjoy the process so much more.

Let’s unpack the science behind how quickly weight loss occurs and how you can map out your own personal weight loss journey to experience the biggest results.

Factors that affect your speed of weight loss

I know I say this all the time, but I want to shout it from the rooftops – everyone is an individual, especially regarding weight loss.

This means that you can be following the exact same diet and exercise program as someone else, and can experience entirely different results. This is why I encourage my clients to focus on their own journey, not someone else’s.

Here are the most significant factors that can affect your speed of weight loss:

Genetics

While not as big of a factor as initially thought, your genes can still impact your rate of weight loss. One study highlighted that at least 2.1% of weight loss variations are affected by genetics. 

This does not mean if you have a genetic risk of being overweight, there is nothing you can do about it. Quite the opposite!

Diet

Your daily eating habits can affect your rate of weight loss. As mentioned earlier, a low-carb style diet may result in faster weight loss in the beginning, but typically levels off after a few months. Everyone also responds to diets differently, and I’ve seen this with my own clients. 

I’ve had clients practice intermittent fasting with fantastic results, while others struggled to follow it and didn’t see the results they were looking for. Working with a dietitian to learn what diet is best for you (versus what worked for your friend) can help you see more results.

Exercise

Your overall exercise plan and frequency can affect your speed of weight loss. You don’t need to exercise every day (in fact I recommend at least 1-2 rest days for best results), but exercising 5 days a week will likely and bigger results than 2 days.

The type of exercise you do also matters – a combination of low and high-intensity cardio and strength training is best. It’s also essential to challenge yourself and push yourself when you start to feel stagnant or that it’s too easy. Your body adapts otherwise if you’re always doing the same thing, and over time, your results may slow.

Daily movement

It’s not just your scheduled workouts that matter – daily movement makes a difference, too! Otherwise known as NEAT activity (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) this daily movement helps you to burn more calories overall and supports a healthy metabolism.

Some ways to increase your daily movement include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away, cleaning, doing yard work, and doing lunges or stretches in between work calls. Just set a goal of getting up and moving every hour, and it’ll make a difference at the end of the day.

Sleep

My clients are always surprised to see how much their sleep impacts their weight loss results. Many times, you can be doing “all the things” during your waking hours, but are not getting quality sleep. 

Impaired sleep harms your hormones and increases cravings for high-calorie, sugar-laden foods.

I know it’s not always easy prioritizing sleep when you have a million things on your to-do list. Just start with getting to bed 30 minutes earlier and go from there. I promise it will positively impact your weight loss, and you’ll get more done with more focus!

Medical conditions

Certain health conditions such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), hypothyroidism, or diabetes can sometimes slow down your rate of weight loss. Getting to the root of the problem first and getting your hormones and condition under control is the first step.

This may be via personal diet, supplement, and medication recommendations from your healthcare team that can help you see better weight loss results. 

Medications

Certain medications such as those for depression and anxiety, diabetes, or high blood pressure may slow the rate of weight loss. Birth control is another one that may do this, especially in the beginning. 

If you are concerned your medications are affecting your weight loss, speak to your doctor to see if there are better alternatives.

Starting Weight

When you have more weight to lose, the pounds may initially come off faster. But as you get closer to your goal weight where maybe you only have 10-20 pounds to lose, the speed often slows down. This is all normal and expected as your body adjusts and starts to think this new weight is where you should be.

When my clients reach this point, we reassess goals and habits. We determine how to get to the goal weight by adjusting the plan, or reflecting and staying where they are if they already have the results they’re looking for.

How Long Does It Take To Notice Weight Loss?

On average, it takes at least 4-6 weeks to experience true fat loss vs. water weight weight loss.

To better understand how weight loss works and to set realistic timeframe expectations, it helps to break it down into two separate stages. 

Stage 1: Rapid weight loss (first 4-6 weeks)

Stage 1 is the stage where people feel the most motivated. This is where you may see an initial jump start of weight loss and a difference in how your clothes fit. Some people may lose weight right away in the first week or two, while others may not lose until 4 or 5 weeks (or sometimes more). 

Everyone’s metabolism and characteristics are different, and it’s important not to beat yourself up or feel like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t lose in those early weeks.

During Stage 1, most weight loss is from water, carbs, and protein. Many people who follow a low-carb or keto diet see faster weight loss in these first few weeks. This is because as glycogen stores (the storage form of carbs) are depleted, water is removed from the body as well. 

However, most of the research shows that after about 6 months, the weight loss on a low-carb diet slows and the long-term weight loss is the same compared to a low-fat diet.

So, during Stage 1, you’ll lose some weight, but most of it is not body fat loss. Actual body fat loss doesn’t occur until Stage 2 – at least after 6 weeks of consistent habits.

Stage 2: Slower, more steady weight loss (6 weeks and beyond)

If you’re wondering how long does it take to notice weight loss, you’ll start to see more changes after 6 weeks. This is why many people give up too soon and end up yo-yo dieting in my opinion – because of our society’s unrealistic view of the true speed of weight loss.

In Stage 2 of weight loss, you’ll continue to lose weight, but at some point, the rate of weight loss may slow down. But this is okay and to be expected – this is a result of your body adjusting. The good news is that this is when you start to lose actual body fat and will start to see more visible changes in your body.

The intended goal is to lose body fat and gain muscle simultaneously, to support a stronger body and faster metabolism over the long term.

Again, everyone is different here on when this happens or how quickly, but the point here is to give you an estimated range to set the expectation.

If you hit a weight loss plateau during this stage, try not to let it get you down. Weight loss plateaus are a time to re-evaluate your habits and goals and re-adjust your calories, exercise, or both to get things going again.

Bottom Line

While it takes 4-6 weeks on average to start losing weight, the exact speed and ease of weight loss can vary greatly from person to person. As a weight loss dietitian and coach, I help my clients approach weight loss with patience, consistency, and an understanding that progress may not always be linear.

If you need more help and guidance to achieve steady weight loss, contact me to schedule a free introductory call. And for more on the habits of my most successful weight loss clients, check out my blog “Permanent Weight Loss – Is It Possible?”

FAQs

  1. How long does it take to lose belly fat? With a consistent healthy diet and exercise habits, it can take 4-6 weeks on average to lose belly fat.
  2. How long does it take to lose noticeable weight? This can vary based on the person, but it can take 4-6 weeks to several months. It’s important to remember that quick weight loss doesn’t always lead to long-term weight loss.
  3. What are the first signs of weight loss? A few clear signs are your clothes feel looser, your face looks slimmer, or your muscles look leaner.
  4. Can I lose noticeable weight in 2 weeks? It is possible, but everyone is different. If you have less weight to lose, it is possible to lose 2-5 pounds in 2 weeks, where you can see a noticeable change.