Published on March 11, 2021
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I get that question a lot, and, being that I don’t have a crystal ball, my answer is always the same: “It depends.”
I realize that’s not what most people want to hear, but the rate at which a person will lose weight depends on a lot of things. It’s like a road trip. You can look at the map, determine how many miles you have to travel, figure your average speed and then estimate how long it will take you to get there. That works sometimes. But maybe you come across a traffic jam or a detour. Maybe you drive through a town you’ve never been to and decide to stop a while.
Many factors should be taken into account. Metabolism and genetics certainly can play a very small role in the rate of weight loss; as well as, of course, one’s medical issues and associated protocols. However, in the end, the most important aspect is the number of calories someone takes in versus the number of calories one expends through movement.
One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. An average weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered safe. Although 3,500 calories may seem like a lot to burn in a week, we can break it down into one day: Burning 500 calories per day will yield the 1 pound loss per week. A 1,000 calorie difference per day would be necessary to lose 2 pounds per week.
Losing “only” 1 to 2 pounds per week may make weight loss seem like a slow process, but it’s a rate at which individuals are more likely to keep the weight off. Although it is possible to achieve a weight loss goal more quickly, this is generally associated with radical forms of dieting which are not possible, and even harmful, to continue over extended periods of time . . . and certainly not for a lifetime.
So, just like that road trip, you can make a rough guess as to how long it will take you to reach your goal. But you need to accept that it’s only that—a guess. If you consistently cut 500 calories from what you need, then yes, you should drop about a pound per week. But just like when you drive your car, you may not go at a consistently steady speed or burn through your fuel at a perfectly consistent rate. And just like traffic jams and detours, things get in the way to slow us down or get us off track. But eventually we get back on the road and keep going.
Be less concerned with how fast and more concerned with how you get there!
Take the time to do it right, safe and healthy, and avoid the frustrations of no results and yo-yo dieting.
If you’re clamoring for an absolute and finite answer as to how long it will it take to lose weight, I encourage you to focus instead on all the positive changes that are made along the way. Because in the long run if you improve your diet and get more active, the weight will take care of itself—in its own time. And just like a road trip, sometimes it’s best to focus more on the trip and less on the destination.