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What is the Timeline of Weight Loss?
Updated on September 21, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
What is the Timeline of Weight Loss?

Many people try to lose weight for health or aesthetic reasons, but everyone’s weight loss journey can differ from person to person.

If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t reaching your goal as fast as others seem to.

On average, people can aim for appproximately 1 to 2 lbs of lost weight per week, but many factors affect how much weight you can lose in a certain period. Below, you will find more information about weight loss and how to plan your journey.

What is the Basic Rule of Weight Loss?

At its most basic, the weight loss process is simply living at a calorie deficit.1 This means your daily calorie intake must be lower than your daily energy expenditure.

Using more energy than you’re consuming through foods means your body has to burn body fat and other stored sources of energy. How many calories you go below your daily requirement determines how much weight you lose.

You can stay calorie deficit through strenuous physical activity, a restricted diet, or both. Dieting involves decreasing your calorie intake through foods, while exercising means increasing your daily energy expenditure. 

You can keep a calorie deficit lifestyle in a way that only burns unwanted fat, but not muscle. This also means eating fewer calories without sacrificing nutritional needs.

Understanding Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Not all weight loss is fat loss.

Weight loss refers to an overall drop in body weight, whether fat or muscle is decreased. Fat loss refers to losing only body fat. Muscle is denser than fat, so gaining muscle may mean gaining weight.

Fat can also be “visceral” or “subcutaneous”.11

Visceral fat is “active” fat stored around organs. It’s called “active fat” because it is part of ordinary body functions.

Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is the fat that contributes to “chubbiness.” Typically, 90% of your fat is made up of subcutaneous fat.

Having too much of either fat can lead to health risks such as:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Conditions such as fatty liver and more.

This is why healthy weight loss typically targets the reduction of fat rather than losing weight by losing muscle.

What is the Progression of Weight Loss?

There are two main stages of weight loss: rapid weight loss and slower weight loss.2 

  • Rapid weight loss It occurs during the first month of following a weight loss program. It’s “rapid” because its effects tend to be drastic since it involves losing mostly water fat and carbohydrate stores in the body. This stage also prioritizes fat loss.
  • Slow weight loss – It’s when progress starts to slow down at around six weeks after starting or later. As your body adjusts your metabolism to match your new levels of physical exercise or caloric deficit, you will experience slower weight loss. This is also known as a weight loss plateau.

Exactly when weight loss plateaus begin is different from person to person. Research also shows that this is when most people fall off their diets and new exercise habits.3

What To Do When The Weight Loss Plateau Hits?

The rapid weight loss stage may be due to your new habits and the positive reinforcement of seeing fast results. Starting around week six, however, weight loss slows.

By 12 weeks in, it may be difficult to notice weight loss even when maintaining your new healthy lifestyle due to reaching a weight loss plateau.

In this period, it’s important not to be demotivated. Instead, this can be seen as an opportunity to focus on other goals besides direct weight loss.

  • Take advantage of your newfound energy and stamina by engaging in new physical hobbies, such as sports or martial arts.
  • Begin serious strength training to build upon your improved Body Mass Index (BMI). Gaining more muscle also makes keeping fat off your body easier.
  • Continue to chase fitness goals beyond weight, such as improving flexibility, running speed, vertical leap, and other measurements. Doing so will ensure that your health journey is well-rounded.
  • Switch to nutritious foods and healthy habits around eating. Making a permanent adjustment to your groceries and food tastes can help with weight loss maintenance.

It’s possible to still lose weight past the body weight plateau, but it requires long-term commitment.

However, rapid weight regain can occur without continuous weight loss maintenance. This phase is the perfect time to convert the weight loss effort into true lifestyle changes.

How Long Does Weight Loss Progress Take?

The rapid weight loss phase can last anywhere from six weeks to even up to 12 weeks.4 

At a rate of 1-2 lbs per week, this is possibly a 12 to 24 lb difference over 3 months, which is already a fast rate of weight loss regardless of starting weight.

Losing 2 lbs per week means a deficit of more than 1000 kcal daily, which is not easy to achieve. Instead, aiming for half a pound of weight loss per week may be more achievable, which involves a deficit of 500 calories per day.

For reference, a 30-minute jog can burn calories in the 300-500 range. This means that even just a daily jog will put you on track to losing 1 lb a week in weight loss.

Is There A Difference In Weight Loss Between Men And Women?

Generally, men lose body fat faster than women because men, on average, have more muscle than women.5 Muscles consume calories passively, meaning men’s resting energy expenditure is higher.

Women tend to have a higher body fat percentage than men and retain that fat for longer.6 This fat is stored in thighs and buttocks for women and is difficult to burn off.

Which Body Part Loses Fat First?

The first body part to lose weight easily and fat is the trunk, which includes the chest and belly fat.8 This is then followed by arm and leg fat.

This reverses somewhat for obese individuals, who lose weight from their arms and legs first. Additionally, men also shed weight from their trunks faster than women.

This weight loss may be affected by any muscle training you undertake. Sticking to a high-protein diet and engaging in strength training may offset some weight loss from fat with weight gain from increased muscle mass. Body fat, however, will still be reduced.

Can You Target Weight Loss in a Specific Body Part?

Targeted fat loss is a myth.8

Several researchers have debunked the idea that you can lose weight from a specific body part first if you exercise it.

For example, doing crunches will not target extra belly fat. Where you lose weight is largely dictated by your genes and sex-assigned-at-birth.

Exercising a specific body part will increase muscle gain in that part of your body. This increased muscle mass does lead to faster fat burn, but a muscle does not burn fat in the area around it.

Exercises targeting specific body parts may burn fewer calories than other exercises. Effective calorie burning requires using the most energy possible through cardiovascular exercises like running, cycling, and other strenuous activities.

In contrast, exercises that target specific body parts, such as crunches, dumbbell curling, and so on, are efficient for building muscle, not burning fat.

Does Genetics Play A Role In Weight Loss?

Genetics also plays a role in weight loss.7

Your genes determine your body type, which affects where your body prioritizes storing fat. It can also affect your default muscle mass, metabolism, and even what type of food cravings you have.

Genes, however, only affect a propensity towards weight gain. Save for those with certain medical conditions, anyone can lose more weight in a healthy manner. In the same way, genes can make gaining weight easier. Diet, lifestyle, and mental fortitude also make weight loss possible.

What are the First Signs of Weight Loss?

Assuming your weight loss plan begins with a reasonable calorie deficit (around 500 calories daily), you should start noticing weight loss of a few pounds in two to four weeks.

In this rapid weight loss stage, results can be dramatic as you also lose weight quickly since your body will already attempt to use up fat stores and lose water weight.

During this initial weight loss phase, you are likely to feel the following health improvements:

  • Increased stamina
  • Better sleep
  • More consistent appetite
  • Fewer energy dips throughout the day
  • Changing body shape
  • Mood may improve

Note, however, that you will also experience some drawbacks to changing your lifestyle, such as:

  • Appetite and cravings may also increase
  • Risk of cramping and soreness is higher when shifting from a sedentary to an active lifestyle
  • Your new habits may conflict with your previous lifestyle and schedules

If you are serious about your weight loss journey, these drawbacks are all challenges that can be overcome. A month of sticking to your fitness plan will get you over the adjustment period.

Maximizing Your Weight Loss Results 

Losing fat can be optimized through various factors.1 While a larger calorie deficit still has the most impact on how much and how fast you lose weight, here are other ways to affect your weight loss journey.

Build up Exercise Intensity Slowly

If you’re coming from a sedentary lifestyle, start with lighter routines. Aim instead to consistently exercise daily, even if this is only light exercise. This will help build an exercise habit first. Target working your way up to 2000-3000 calories burned per week from exercise.

Avoid Crash Diets

Aim to find a regimen that you can see yourself following for the foreseeable future. Attempting a daily deficit of 1000 calories or higher may produce faster results but is difficult to sustain.10 In the long run, this may not produce any weight loss at all as you lose motivation to keep your fitness plan and weight loss journey.

Pair Physical Activity with Dieting

It’s possible to not lose any weight despite constantly exercising if you don’t pair dieting with exercise. Your brain will simply register the increased calorie requirement and attempt to compensate by increasing your appetite.1

Increase Protein Intake While Decreasing Carbohydrates

Protein stimulates muscle growth, while carbohydrates that are not immediately converted into energy are stored as fat. This means reducing sugar intake and artificial sugars can help you lose fat buildup.

Calculate Your Macronutrients

Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats consumed from food. The ratio of how much of each macronutrient you consume in your diet greatly impacts fat loss and muscle gain. Meal prep may help ensure your meals hit your macronutrient targets using healthy food options.

Practice Mindful Eating

Creating healthy eating habits can also improve digestion. Studies have shown that slow eating and thorough chewing can lead to a successful weight loss journey.12

Turning meditative and thoughtful eating into healthy habits may help maintain weight loss.

Monitor Your Progress

It can be motivating to see progress in losing weight week after week. Invest in a good weighing scale and build a habit of tracking your weight. Just watch out for the possible weight loss plateau and focus on consistency rather than progression.

Optimizing weight loss is about doing it efficiently, which is why weight loss success doesn’t offer fast, immediate results. Weight loss must be a commitment to a change in lifestyle.

Key Takeaways

Weight loss leads to a drop in body weight, whether fat or muscle is affected. This is often achieved by staying calorie deficit through heavy exercise and dietary changes.

After around 12 months, your body’s metabolism will adapt and reach a weight loss plateau. Everything from your starting weight to your genes can affect when your weight loss plateau will occur. During this period, you must stay committed to eating healthy foods and exercising to prevent weight regain.

Maintaining weight loss can improve your figure and overall health through better sleep, consistent appetite, increased stamina, and more.

Updated on September 21, 2023
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12 sources cited
Updated on September 21, 2023
  1. Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies” Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs.
  2. Energy Content of Weight Loss: Kinetic Features During Voluntary Caloric Restriction” Metabolism.
  3. “Effect of dietary adherence on the body weight plateau: a mathematical model incorporating intermittent compliance with energy intake prescription” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  4. Management of Weight Loss Plateau” StatPearls.
  5. Do Men Really Drop Pounds Faster Than Women?” Obesity Medicine Association.
  6. Gender differences in fat metabolismCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
  7. Why people become overweight” Harvard Health Publishing.
  8. Influence of previous body mass index and sex on regional fat changes in a weight loss intervention” Taylor & Francis Online.
  9. Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?” Yale Scientific.
  10. Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome.
  11. Visceral Fat” Cleveland Clinic.
  12. Mindful eating may help with weight loss” Harvard Health Publishing.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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