How long will it take me to lose weight?

How long will it take me to lose weight? And is there anything I can do to speed it up?

15 min read


13 Aug 2019


I think we have all stopped and wondered at some point: ‘how long will it take me to lose weight?’ And it is the big question. It is what motivates and drives us to experiment with different diets, exercise regimes and pills. We want to know before we commit.

Yet, quite often it goes beyond this. From dealing with water retention and baby weight, to dramatically changing your diet – there will be times in your life where your interest is more specifically targeted.

Luckily, you don’t have to look far to find out the best ways to eat, maintain and shift any unwanted pounds. In this article, we will explore the question: ‘how long will it take to lose weight’ and how it applies in various situations.

How long does it take to lose weight?

Truthfully? When it comes to weight loss, most of us want to shed it as quickly as possible. Maybe that is why extreme diets and exercise regimes are so prevalent. They offer the shortest route.

But here is the thing: the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to do it slowly. Annoying, we know. Yet for long term maintenance it is the best solution.

Now in most instances you will begin to see some results in 1-2 weeks; however, weight loss doesn’t always have a precise timeline. The time it takes for you to see it will vary depending on your:

Starting size – if you’re classed as obese, then it is not uncommon for your weight to change by up 20lbs in a day (due to water retention). Although, due to your larger frame it may be more difficult to spot the difference.

This isn’t the case for smaller frames, as a loss of 20lbs will amount to you going down several clothing sizes. NOTE: it is practically impossible – and unsafe – for someone with a small frame to lose this amount of weight in a single day.

Another thing to note, is that if you’re smaller – and closer to being in the normal BMI range – you will lose weight at a slower rate (of 1-2lbs) than someone who has got more to lose. When your frame is larger, you will initially lose weight faster, before slowing down as you get closer to your recommended weight.

Your eating plan – your dietary choices can have a huge impact on the rate you lose weight. For instance, the Atkins diet is designed to help you to lose more weight initially i.e. 5lbs+ per week (in the first 2 weeks), before eventually slowing down. NOTE: this rapid weight loss at the start is often due to water loss (from restricting carbs) and not actual fat loss.

And that is another point…

Particular food groups can either speed up or reduce your rate of weight loss. For example, reducing your carb intake can encourage quicker water loss, as you’ll lose the water you need to store it.

TIP: for credible weight loss cut your calorie consumption by 500-1000 calories a day.

The amount you exercise – you can probably already guess the answer to this. The more you exercise, the easier it will be for you to create a calorie deficit – where you burn more calories than you consume.

This means, if you don’t exercise already, you should introduce it into your daily regime. Start out with regular walks, swimming or biking, and try to add high intensity interval training and cardio over time. These will jumpstart your metabolism and increase fat burn.

How you measure weight loss – you should leave at least a week in-between each weigh-in as your weight can fluctuate across the day depending on what you’ve eaten and how much you’ve drank. Aim to instead weigh yourself once a week at the same time of day and in the same clothes.

Similarly, should you choose to track your weight loss by measuring yourself; just be aware that you’ll see a difference on the scales before you see them in your measurements.

For instance, it can take weight losses of 10-12lbs before you notice a difference in your clothing. With trousers you need to lose 1.5 inches off your waist and hips before you can drop a size, whilst with your tops you will need to lose 1-1.5 inches off your bust and waist.

Sample Timeline

Now if you stick to a calorie controlled diet combined with regular exercise you can expect the following timeline:

  • Week 1 – losses of up to 5lbs, but no visible changes
  • Week 2 – your body will start to look and feel a little different. Exercise will feel easier and your clothes, looser.
  • Week 3 – this is the week you’ll witness a momentum in your weight loss of an easy 1-2lbs per week.
  • Week 4 – it is possible that if you have lost enough weight safely, that you may be able to drop a clothing size.

Things to note:

Dramatic losses of 10-20lbs a week are unrealistic, not maintainable and are unhealthy for your body as it needs a certain amount of calories per day in order to function.

Cut the amount of calories you have too dramatically and your body will start to panic and go into a state of starvation where it will try to store calories away. More worryingly, this rapid weight loss can increase your risk of gallstones, dehydration and malnutrition, as well as headaches, fatigue, irritability, constipation, hair loss, menstrual problems and muscle loss.

  • It is normal to have days where your weight loss slows or plateaus. This doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Your body is just recalibrating.
  • For safe, long term weight loss aim to lose 1-2lbs a week and set an attainable goal of losing 5-10% of your starting weight. This is more than achievable with the right diet, exercise and mindset.

How weight loss works

woman showing extra space in her jeans gained from weight loss

We’ve talked about this broadly in the section above. However, to truly understand how long it takes to lose weight, it is important that you know exactly how weight loss works.

Typically, you will start to lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn (per day) e.g. when you create a negative calorie balance.

Now for women it is recommended that you eat on average 2000 calories and men 2500 calories. This is enough to ensure your body remains healthy and functional.

To trigger long term weight loss though, you need to consider your calorie expenditure which is composed of 3 things:

  • Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) – this refers to the number of calories you need for healthy bodily functions such as breathing and pumping blood.
  • Thermic effect of food (TEF) – this refers to the calories that you digest, absorb (into your body) and metabolize.
  • Thermic effect of activity (TEA) – this refers to the calories you use during exercise, as well as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which covers the calories you burn during simple tasks e.g. fidgeting and tidying up.

Now like we mentioned before. There are a few things that can affect your rate of weight loss. And in most cases, by being aware of your frame and what you can eat, you can adjust them to increase your weight loss. However, there some of which are sadly out of your control.

  • Gender – your fat-to-muscle ratio can affect your ability to lose weight. For instance, women tend to have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio than men, as well as a lower metabolic rate of 5-10% (even if they are the same height as men).

This means at rest, women burn 5-10% fewer calories than men, enabling men to lose weight faster than women (even if they are eating the same amount of calories).

  • Age – it is a well-known fact that as we get older, we find it harder to lose weight. This is due to alterations in our body composition as we age e.g. we gain more fat mass, but lose muscle mass. Similarly, our organs require less calories as we age (resulting in a lower RMR), making it harder for us to shift excess pounds.

So how can you effectively lose weight when faced with such obstacles? The key is to remember the following:

  • The amount you lose initially is proportional to your body weight - e.g. the heavier you are, the more you will lose initially compared to someone lighter.
  • Calorie deficit diets – it is recommended that you don’t cut your calorie intake too dramatically, but start off with 500 calories less per day. If needed you can increase this calorie deficit, but it shouldn’t be cut by more than a 1000.
  • Get plenty of sleep – chronic sleep loss can affect your ability to lose weight and shed pounds. One night alone can increase your cravings for high calorie, nutrient-poor foods. In one study, participants who slept only 5.5 hours a night for 2 weeks lost 55% less body fat and 60% more lean body mass than those who had 8.5 hours sleep. For this reason, aim to sleep at least 8 hours per night.
  • Avoid yo-yo dieting – losing and regaining weight repetitively can make it harder for you to lose weight every time you try as it decreases your RMR. Instead, aim to improve your eating habits, exercise more and set realistic weight loss expectations.

Make sure you use a weight loss calculator

You’ve probably played around with a few weight loss calculators in your time, but the TDEE calculator differs from your average one, as it helps you to learn your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Alongside displaying your calorie burn, it can also show you your BMI, BMR, Macros and other useful stats.

How it works: first it calculates your BMR (the amount of calories you burn at rest) before multiplying this value by an activity multiplier. e.g. 10% thermic effect of food, 20% physical activity and 70% your BMR.

NOTE: you may have to adjust the numbers upwards to take into account the calories you burn during the day.

How long does it take to lose water weight?

It is important to remember that losing water weight is vastly different from losing fat. You normally lose water weight when you cut your carb intake, as your body doesn’t need to store as much water to absorb carbs. This means, you’re more prone to lose water weight at the beginning of your diet (during the first 2 weeks) or when you dramatically reduce your carb consumption.

Similarly, how long it takes to lose water weight will depend on what is causing this water retention in the first place. Aside from carbs (1 g of glycogen packs away 3g of water), consuming too much sodium and damaging muscle tissues, can both cause you to retain more water.

Now, given that the average person carries 1-5lbs of water weight at any given time; it comes as no surprise that you’ll start to lose water weight almost instantly – usually on the first day, although it will be more noticeable on days 2-3.

In fact, during your first week, 70% of your weight loss will be water (1-3lbs), before dropping to 20-30% per week over the following 2 weeks.

TIP: to lose water weight, eat less processed foods; opt for whole foods e.g. fruits, veg. and beans (good for restoring fluid balance) and exercise more.

How difficult is it to lose baby weight?

One of the biggest fears women have after having a baby – aside from wanting them to be healthy and happy – is how to lose baby weight.

Whilst many of us accept that our bodies have changed and that it will be difficult to get our pre-baby bodies back; we all dream of losing those extra pregnancy pounds. So how long does it take? Here are the facts:

FACT ONE: depending on the weight of your baby, and the weight of your amniotic fluid and placenta; most women lose 12lbs during delivery – which is good news given that on average most women gain 25-35lbs during pregnancy. It means you are already nearly half-way to your target!

FACT TWO: when it comes to the rest of this weight, it typically comes from increased breast tissues, blood supplies, fat stores and an enlarged uterus (NOTE: this can take up to 6 weeks to shrink back to its original size).

Add these facts together and it is clear that your body will need time to heal before you can start trying to shift the pounds. To help you on your way, it is recommended that you lose no more than 1.5 lbs a week by creating a calorie deficit of 500-750 calories per day.

Do that and you can expect to have shift most of your baby weight by the time they are 6 months old.

Another clever trick you can try to burn calories faster – without putting your body through the ringer – is breastfeeding. Whilst this is not for everyone – and it is okay if you don’t want to do it – breastfeeding can help you to burn an extra 500 calories a day, whilst stimulating the release of hormones that can help shrink your uterus and reduce the appearance of post-baby bellies. Plus, weaning is believed to decrease your own appetite!

NOTE: given that your body needs rest, and nutrition to recover, fend off infection and feed your baby; you should NOT think about going on a diet until your baby is at least 6 weeks old if not older. This is especially true if you’re breastfeeding as you need plenty of calories to make milk.

Does it take a while to lose weight on keto?

This popular low carb diet is designed to help your body to switch from glucose – its mains fuel source – to ketones (compounds that are made by breaking down fats).

Now it is important to note that going on a keto diet won’t necessarily help you to lose weight. Sure, it will increase your good cholesterol levels and lower blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels. And YES, by preventing excess glucose from being stored in your liver and muscles, this can stop weight gain.

However, keto diets and weight loss don’t always go hand in hand.

In many ways, losing weight on a keto diet will greatly depend on how dedicated you are and how long it takes you to enter ketosis. For instance, by simply cutting your carb intake by 50g a day, not only this will force your body to use up its glycogen stores for energy; eventually – by days 2-4 – it will begin using ketones (breaking down fats) as fuel instead.

When this happens, you may – MAY being the operative word – begin to lose body fat and some weight BUT this will eventually peter out. Long term, keto diets won’t make a difference to your weight loss.

How long does it take to lose weight on a vegan diet?

Here’s the thing about vegan diets. If you consume the same amount of calories that you did before switching over, you will NOT lose any weight. That’s right! Turning vegan doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll lose weight or become thinner.

Instead, you run the risk of losing muscle mass because of your reduced protein intake.

Truthfully, the only way you’ll lose weight on a vegan diet is if you consume fewer calories – the same you would do on any diet. Simply cut your calorie intake by 500 calories a day and you can expect to see some weight loss within a few days.

Another way to prompt weight loss whilst on vegan diet is to cut your salt intake, as this will reduce water retention.

Now this doesn’t mean this diet isn’t without perks. It will lower your cholesterol levels and rid your body of meat toxins. Plus over the course of a few months, it will eventually help to shift some fat. However, should you go vegan, it is important to remember that it is possible to lose AND gain fat, muscle and strength whilst on this diet.

How long should it take to lose weight with exercise?

The only time you won’t lose weight from exercise is if you grow bored, give up, or get injured. Otherwise, increasing your level of physical activity is a great way to encourage weight loss – especially if you combine it with a calorie controlled diet.

Now this doesn’t mean you suddenly have to run marathons or join the gym. As long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, then you can begin to see weight loss within your first week.

FACT: According to studies you need to burn 3,500 calories in order to lose 1lb. This means, if your average workout burns 300 calories, you will need to complete 12 sessions in order to lose a single pound. That is why it is so important to pair exercise with a calorie deficit diet, as combined they can help you to reduce the amount of time it takes to lose any weight.

TIP: start off small by going for a walk on your lunch break, swimming or riding a bike. When you are comfortable, you can start working out and experimenting with high intensity interval training.

Just remember to exercise for at least 3 hours every week (doing moderate intensity exercise) if you’re only relying on exercise to lose weight. If on the other hand, you’re planning to pair a diet with regular exercise, then you should exercise for at least 2 ½ hours.


So how long does it take to lose weight? Well, the answer to that partly depends on you.

You see, weight loss isn’t spontaneous or instant – like some diets suggest. It takes hard work, dedication and willpower. More importantly, it involves creating a negative energy balance that can only be achieved by combining exercise with a calorie controlled diet. Do that – whilst remaining realistic with your dietary goals – and it IS possible to lose weight, keep it off and achieve it safely.

This is even truer, if you add a proven support system such PhenQ to your plan. This natural fat burner has been designed to work in synergy with regular exercise and a healthy diet to help you lose weight and see results in your first week by suppressing your appetite, boosting your energy and burning body fat.