How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight? Things You May Not Know In 2024

how long does it take to lose weight
Losing weight takes about two to four weeks with effort. Photo: Alina Troeva/Shutterstock

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In the U.S. and globally, obesity has become an epidemic. Lifestyle factors have progressively changed since the second half of the 20th century.[1] The changes in food production and composition combined with the decrease in daily activity have contributed to the increase in obesity.

Losing weight is challenging, and how long it takes to see weight loss is variable. Lifestyle changes required to lose body weight require a consistent effort. Learning how to implement a balanced calorie-deficit diet while engaging in regular exercise is challenging.

Due to the health complications associated with obesity, decreasing body weight is a choice toward self-efficacy. So, you may ask, how long does it take to lose weight? The answer is complicated. Your body’s response to initial efforts may be losing water weight, but more is required for long-term weight management. Continue reading for details.

How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight?

Losing weight requires effort to manage a healthy, nutrient-dense, low-calorie diet and exercise regularly. It is a complex and challenging process, especially if you have any medical conditions, are taking medications, or lack the proper knowledge and tools to attain your goals. You can start seeing results in about two to four weeks.

How Long Does It Actually Take To Lose Weight?

how long does it take to lose weight
How long does it take to lose weight? Photo: Photoroyalty/Shutterstock

Numerous factors need to be addressed when you want to lose weight. A question many ask is how long will it take for me to lose weight? Considering all the variables involved in how long weight loss takes, the answer is approximately two to four weeks.

It is possible to lose weight quickly, i.e., more than two pounds in one week. Rapid weight loss is not recommended, however, and often does not last. You are probably wondering how long it takes to lose fat mass. Fat loss requires a complex physiological process[2] that will not be achieved unless you eat fewer calories than you need.

 Also, hormonal changes can affect your body proportion and lead to bloating. In those times, you may wonder how to get rid of a hormonal belly.

But the main answer is the same. It is much more challenging to lose and maintain weight loss over time. A weight loss plan should include lifestyle changes involving improving your diet and incorporating regular physical activity. Daily changes and consistent effort toward your goals are essential to lose body fat and keep the lost weight off.

Weight Loss Plan And Planner

A realistic goal for gradual weight loss is one to two pounds per week.[3] Another alternative is to focus on decreasing a percentage of your body weight over time. Initial weight loss is likely water weight followed by stored fat loss. To maintain normal bodily functions, a long-term focus on weight loss is ideal.

Utilizing a body weight calculator may be helpful with your weight loss planning. The body weight planner[4] is an online calculator to understand how long it takes to lose weight. It factors in your biometrics, height and weight, your activity level at work and during recreation, and your projected weight loss targets.

However, it is important to give realistic answers to the questions of this tool and set an achievable and sustainable weight loss goal.

Signs Of Weight Loss To Look For

Following a one to two-pound-per-week gradual weight loss program, you will likely see changes after a couple of weeks. One of the most satisfying points during a weight loss journey is when you begin to notice your clothes becoming looser and fitting better. A few other signs to look for may be a thinner-looking face, feeling less hungry, and increased energy.

Your overall body composition will change. You may notice decreased waist circumference. With the inclusion of resistance training, you will see increased muscle mass and body fat loss over time. An improved sense of self-confidence and a feeling of accomplishment is a bonus.

Later on, you will see improved health markers[5] like improved blood work with decreased cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as lower blood pressure. Also notable with prolonged weight loss maintenance are decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, decreased joint pain, and improved overall quality of life.

Factors That Affect Weight Loss

Research indicates several elements that affect weight loss,[6] such as internal factors. This includes self-efficacy and motivation. A weight loss journey begins with a decision to create a healthy lifestyle involving an understanding of calorie intake and improving exercise habits.

Interventions to achieve your weight loss goals. like the type of diet program chosen and the supervision and accountability available are key factors for a healthy weight loss program. Lack of proper information and guidance to initiate an exercise regimen and manage a calorie-restricted diet can affect your weight loss goals.
Research participants[6] reported during their study, they felt more capable of adherence due to supervision and having a plan to follow. Afterward, while on the maintenance program, they felt it was more difficult to continue through self-management.

Social And Environmental Factors

Other factors, such as social support from family, friends, or co-workers, can help or harm your weight loss efforts. Research shows social support[7] and support groups improve long-term weight loss maintenance.

Environmental factors[6] such as geographic location, availability of recreational areas, or lack of transportation or healthy food options available can affect diet adherence. Socio-economic status can contribute to food or transportation access problems.

Places known as food deserts[8] that lack healthy food options have a positive association with obesity. Low-income communities may be unable to access transportation to another area with healthy options due to the cost involved.

Things That Can Make Losing Weight Harder

Eating nutrient-poor foods because they are more convenient is detrimental to your weight loss goals. Also, maintaining a sedentary lifestyle instead of increasing physical activity can sabotage your weight loss plan.

A list of factors that may challenge[3] your weight loss efforts, including some previously noted, are:

  • Age; It becomes more difficult to lose weight as you age due to decreasing muscle mass, activity levels, and slower metabolism.[9]
  • Sleep quality; An imbalance in the sleep-wake cycle[10] affects hunger hormones and is associated with obesity.
  • Medical conditions such as Cushing syndrome,[11] thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome,[12] and digestive and kidney diseases. Hormone-related weight gain can be managed with some tips in this article.
  • Genetics includes rare conditions like Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.[13]
  • Medications. Drugs[14] used for mental health treatment and corticosteroids can increase weight.
  • Environmental factors such as lack of sidewalks or recreational areas for exercise and availability of and access to healthy foods.
  • Not managing stress levels well. Long-term elevated stress leads to increased cortisol,[15] a hormone that affects belly fat.
  • Social factors[7] like unsupportive family, friends, or co-workers, and lack of systemic support.

Dangers Of Losing Weight Too Fast

Everyone wants to know how to lose weight fast, but it is not a healthy approach to weight loss for a few reasons. Furthermore, there are physiological and psychological effects[16] of rapid weight loss.

One potentially serious side effect of losing weight too fast is severe dehydration. Dehydration can lead to increased mental fatigue, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, and even hospitalization or death.

Finding a deficit balance when learning how many calories you should decrease per day is important. Normal bodily functions can be affected by severe calorie restriction. Some notable consequences to your overall health due to rapid weight loss are:

  • Muscle loss or decreased muscle strength.
  • Decreased resting metabolic rate.
  • Lower energy.
  • Nutrient deficiencies.
  • Depressed immune function.
  • Mood swings.
  • Headaches.

Eating fewer calories and increasing calorie expenditure is necessary for weight loss. Nevertheless, being overly restrictive with calories or over-exercising can have the opposite effect resulting in no weight loss or weight gain. The body is wired physiologically to resist extreme weight loss. 

Tips For Losing Weight Safely

how long does it take to lose weight
A tip to lose weight safely: Set realistic expectations. Photo: lithian/Shutterstock

The number one tip for losing weight safely is to set realistic expectations. Yes, set a goal and make a plan, but be aware that to lose weight successfully and maintain your weight takes perseverance and patience.

Below is a list of other essential tips to lose weight safely. 

  • Eat a high-fiber and nutrient-dense diet rich in vegetables and fruit.
  • Include healthy fats like avocado and nuts.
  • Do resistance training to build muscle mass.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Walk daily or add another cardiovascular exercise.
  • Improve your sleep hygiene.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Limit processed food and sugary drinks.
  • Eat complex carbohydrates like whole grains.


Weight loss occurs because of a combination of effort, persistence, and knowledge. Low-calorie diets are effective if you consume nutrient-dense foods and increase physical activity to burn your fat stores. Eating more calories, even when exercising regularly, can still promote weight gain.

If you are challenged beyond your abilities, seek a consultation with a healthcare professional. Finally, remember that the health benefits of losing and maintaining weight loss offer you an improved quality of life that is worth the journey’s challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to lose 20 pounds?

The NIH has published an online body weight planner to determine how long it takes to lose just how much weight. You add your height, starting weight, activity level, goal weight, and the length of time you wish to achieve your goal. 

How long does it take to start losing weight?

Weight loss can be seen within a couple of weeks, provided you address diet changes and increase your activity levels.

How long does it take to lose belly fat?

Changes in waist circumference can be seen in two to four weeks if you adhere to a healthy, low-calorie diet and regularly exercise. 

Which body part loses fat first?

A thinning face is usually the first body part noticed during a weight loss program.

+ 16 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Chrysi Koliaki, Dalamaga, M. and Stavros Liatis (2023). Update on the Obesity Epidemic: Is the Sharp Rise of the Evil Empire Truly Levelling Off? Current Obesity Reports. [online] doi:
  2. Salwa Refat El-Zayat, Hiba Sibaii and Karima Abbas El-Shamy (2019). Physiological process of fat loss. Bulletin of the National Research Centre, [online] 43(1). doi:
  3. CDC (2023). Losing Weight . [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
  4. and, D. (2023). About the Body Weight Planner. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at:
  5. Ryan, D.H. and Yockey, S.R. (2017). Weight Loss and Improvement in Comorbidity: Differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and Over. Current Obesity Reports, [online] 6(2), pp.187–194. doi:
  6. Tay, A., Hoeksema, H. and Murphy, R. (2023). Uncovering Barriers and Facilitators of Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance: Insights from Qualitative Research. Nutrients, [online] 15(5), pp.1297–1297. doi:
  7. Ogden, J. and Quirke-McFarlane, S. (2023). Sabotage, Collusion, and Being a Feeder: Towards a New Model of Negative Social Support and Its Impact on Weight Management. Current Obesity Reports, [online] 12(2), pp.183–190. doi:
  8. Chen, D., Jaenicke, E.C. and Volpe, R. (2016). Food Environments and Obesity: Household Diet Expenditure Versus Food Deserts. American Journal of Public Health, [online] 106(5), pp.881–888. doi:
  9. Palmer, A.K. and Jensen, M.D. (2022). Metabolic changes in aging humans: current evidence and therapeutic strategies. Journal of Clinical Investigation, [online] 132(16). doi:
  10. Evangelia Papatriantafyllou, Dimitris Efthymiou, Evangelos Zoumbaneas, Codruța Alina Popescu and Εmilia Vassilopoulou (2022). Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients, [online] 14(8), pp.1549–1549. doi:
  11. (2019). Cushing Syndrome. [online] Available at:
  13. Juan Pablo Domecq, Prutsky, G., Leppin, A.L., Mohamad Bassam Sonbol, Osama Altayar, Chaitanya Undavalli, Wang, Z., Tarig Elraiyah, Brito, J.P., Mauck, K.F., Lababidi, M.H., Prokop, L.J., Asi, N., Wei, J., Salman Fidahussein, Montori, V.M. and M. Hassan Murad (2015). Drugs Commonly Associated With Weight Change: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, [online] 100(2), pp.363–370. doi:
  14. Juan Pablo Domecq, Prutsky, G., Leppin, A.L., Mohamad Bassam Sonbol, Osama Altayar, Chaitanya Undavalli, Wang, Z., Tarig Elraiyah, Brito, J.P., Mauck, K.F., Lababidi, M.H., Prokop, L.J., Asi, N., Wei, J., Salman Fidahussein, Montori, V.M. and M. Hassan Murad (2015). Drugs Commonly Associated With Weight Change: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, [online] 100(2), pp.363–370. doi:
  15. van, Savas, M. and Elisabeth (2018). Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? Current Obesity Reports, [online] 7(2), pp.193–203. doi:
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Gina Vitale is a freelance health and wellness content writer and healthcare professional. A licensed physical therapist assistant for nearly 3 decades, she has acquired vast knowledge regarding treating and preventing numerous musculoskeletal problems. Her background… See More