People are impatient.
I’m guilty of that myself.
In the modern society, we’ve come to expect quick fix solutions, and are often unwilling to put in the time and effort required to achieve results.
If something is too hard or takes too long, chances are we’ll move on to something else.
Unfortunately, weight loss is one of those things that is both difficult and takes a long time.
How Long Does it Take to Lose Weight?
I get a lot of questions in comments and emails about how long it actually takes to lose body fat.
Many people think they can lose a significant amount of fat in just a few weeks.
This is simply not possible.
To lose fat, one must be in a negative energy balance, and body fat contains a vast amount of energy. A pound of body fat contains 3.500 calories, while a kilogram of body fat has 7.700 calories.
I’m definitely not a fan of calorie counting, because certain changes in food selection often lead to automatic weight loss. However, a calorie deficit is still required to lose weight. The first law of thermodynamics says so.
When you start to eat healthier and start working out, a deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day is an ambitious goal.
To show you how quickly this may lead to weight loss in the real world, I’m going to do a bit of math.
A Deficit of 500 Calories Per Day
If you have 30 pounds to lose, it will take: (30lbs*3500cal/lbs)/(500cal/day) = 210 days or 7 months.
If you have 100 pounds to lose, it will take: (100*3500cal/lbs)/(500cal/day) = 700 days, or 1 year and 11 months.
A deficit of 500 calories leads to a pound of body fat lost each week.
A Deficit of 1000 Calories Per Day
30 pounds: (30lbs*3500cal/lbs)/(1000cal/day) = 105 days or 3 and a half months.
100 pounds: (100*3500cal/lbs)/(1000cal/day) = 350 days, or 11 and a half months.
A deficit of 1000 calories leads to two pounds of body fat lost each week.
A Simple Formula:
Multiply the amount of weight (in pounds) you want to lose by 3.500, and divide by the calorie deficit you think you’re going to achieve. This is the time (in days) it will take you to lose weight, if you’re very strict on your diet, every day.
This is only a simple estimate, by the way. Your mileage may vary.
Think Months and Years, not Days and Weeks
When you look at those time frames, you start to appreciate how unrealistic quick fix “diets” are for most people.
You also start to understand how incredibly unsuccessful people are going to be if they expect to lose weight in a short amount of time.
The fact is that it can take months and years. The only weight you’re going to lose in a few days or weeks is water weight and a very tiny amount of body fat.
Now there are exceptions to this, of course. There are people who have been able to lose over 100 pounds in a single year, but this is extremely rare.
Then there are others who lose fat much slower than that, despite being very strict to themselves when it comes to eating healthy and exercising.
Don’t Focus on The Scale Too Much
There is a lot more in the body than just fat. There are organs, skin, bones and muscle as well, and muscles tend to grow larger when being pushed to their limits during exercise.
This is why I recommend that people don’t focus on the scale too much. Even if your weight goes down slowly, that doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fat, because you may be gaining muscle instead.
Given how incredibly long this takes, it is really impossible to get a “quick fix”. You must be in it for the long haul, and a lifestyle change is the only permanent way to achieve long term success.
Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be successful.