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How Long Does It Take to Notice Weight Loss? The Answer Might Surprise You

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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From the very first day that you start a new diet or exercise regime, you’re probably itching to jump on the scale and see if you’ve lost any weight. And you might see some weight loss within a day or two of watching your caloric intake and working out. 

But how long does it take to notice weight loss? Will you be able to see it when you look in the mirror a week later? A month later? Will friends and family notice within a few days? 

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Let’s find out just how long it takes to notice you’re losing weighy. 

How Much Weight Do You Have to Lose Before You Notice?

It’s hard to place a numerical value on how long it will take you to notice your own weight loss. While it will differ from person to person, statistically speaking, you’ll likely notice a difference after you’ve lost between 5 and 10 pounds.

Most people will start seeing a change in their faces after a 10-pound loss. And to note a “significant” weight loss, you’ll need to drop between 15 and 20 pounds. 

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That being said, it takes most people longer to recognize their own size changes than it does to recognize that of others. Because you see yourself in the mirror daily, you’ll see gradual body changes, so when you’ve dropped 10 pounds, you might not realize how much different you look as a result. 

But if you run into someone you haven’t seen in a few weeks, they’re much more likely to note those adjustments in your body because they haven’t been privy to the gradual change. 

What Are the First Signs of Weight Loss?

The first sign of weight loss for most will be how their clothes fit. You’ll notice that your jeans aren’t as tight or your shirt doesn’t ride up over your belly when you walk. It’s always a good feeling when your clothing fits better! 

If you look back at pictures of yourself from before you started your weight loss journey, you’ll also see differences in your appearance. Your face will start to look thinner, and you’ll notice fewer inches in other areas as well. 

There are many positive benefits of healthy, gradual weight loss as well. You’ll likely have more energy, feel less hungry, and have lower blood pressure. Your self-esteem can also take a boost, too. 

But if you’re losing too fast, you might notice a few negative changes like headaches, dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle loss. In serious cases of excessive weight loss, you might experience hair loss and bone density loss. 

So, if you’re attempting to lose weight, make sure you have your health at the forefront of your mind. Aim to lose 2 pounds per week or less unless you’re under the supervision and direction of a doctor.

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Understand Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss When Noticing Body Changes

As we continue to discuss when you notice weight loss, it’s important to understand that fat loss and weight loss can look different

Fat loss refers to the literal fat stores within your body that are lost because your body is burning fat instead of calories. It doesn’t necessarily denote a change in the number on the scale.

Weight loss, however, refers only to the number you see on a body weight scale. If the number is less than it was last week, you’ve lost weight. 

Fat loss is typically the primary goal when it comes to seeking better body composition. Your weight varies based on things like how much you’ve eaten, whether or not you’ve had a bowel movement, your hydration levels, and so on.

Additionally, muscle weighs more than body fat, so if you’ve been strength training, the weight you’ve added to your muscles could outweigh the fat you’ve lost at first. 

So rather than focusing on the number on the scale, you can notice your weight loss efforts by using a skinfold caliper or a smart scale that measures fat density. You can also take pictures of yourself before and after and take body measurements so that you can track your progress. You’ll see more accurate results using this method than by relying on the scale. 

What Are the Stages of Weight Loss?

It can also be helpful to understand that weight loss comes in stages. You might notice different results at the start of your journey compared to the end. Your calorie deficit and activity levels can affect these stages.

Let’s examine how weight loss typically progresses by looking at the most common stages.  

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Quick Weight Loss Results

When you first start dieting and/or exercising, you’ll notice a rapid rate of weight loss. Within the first 2-4 weeks, you’ll likely drop several pounds of water weight, and your body gives your metabolism a short-term boost that targets carb stores and body fat. 

The type of diet you’re on and your age and gender can also influence rapid weight loss. If you’re on a low-carb, high-protein diet, you’re more likely to see quick results than if you’re counting calories only or focusing on low fat. 

Additionally, men tend to lose weight much faster than women, and surprisingly, older adults tend to lose weight faster than younger adults. 

And if you’re starting at a higher weight, you’ll see quicker results than those with a lower starting weight, regardless of age or gender.

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Slow and Consistent Weight Loss

Once your body jumpstarts your weight loss process, you’ll start to plateau or slow down. Most people start to see weight loss plateaus, which means they lose little to no weight. It could be because their resolve starts to waver and they struggle to follow a more restrictive diet. Usually, this occurs 6-8 weeks after you start the process.

It could also simply be the way your body resets after significant weight loss. Your metabolism returns to a slower metabolic rate, and you’ll have lost the water weight and fat stores that easily give way at the beginning of a diet. 

You might have to adjust your diet and exercise routine to something more realistic to your lifestyle to jumpstart your weight loss again. Monitor your protein intake and carbohydrates, ensuring a good balance of both to boost fat burn and prevent unnecessary carb stores. Your diet plans can make or break sustainable weight loss.   

Don’t get discouraged at this point! Just readjust and keep going! 

How Long Does It Take to Notice Weight Loss From Other’s Point of View?

In most cases, your friends and those who don’t see you every day will likely notice weight loss faster than you do. Typically, after about 2-4 weeks of steady weight loss, you’ll start to hear comments from others about how great you look. 

In this time, you’ll likely have lost between 5 and 10 pounds, which makes a bigger difference in your appearance than you might realize. And because your friends aren’t looking at you every day, they’ll notice a more drastic change the next time they see you then you might by looking at yourself in the mirror every day.

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Certain Factors Influence Weight Loss Rapidity

Some people will lose weight at a faster rate than you. In some areas, you’ll have control over your weight loss speed. In others, it will just depend on genetics. 

Overall, understanding how certain factors affect your weight loss will increase the rapidity with which you lose weight. Let’s check it out. 

Where You Started

Due to simple physics, those with more to lose will lose faster at the start. However, the speed of weight loss doesn’t accelerate until the end. 

Let’s say you need to lose 20 pounds and your partner needs to lose 50 pounds. He/she will likely lose more water weight and stored carbs at the beginning because there are more pounds to shed. But when he or she gets down to that last 20 pounds, the speed at which they lose weight will equal the speed at which you lose weight (depending on other present factors, of course). 

So don’t be discouraged if you’re not losing weight as quickly as those with more to lose! Just remember that you don’t have as far to go, and it’s not a sprint to the finish. 

Your Biology

Certain people are predisposed to keep weight off better than others. Certain genes increase a person’s risk for obesity and can slow their ability to lose weight. 

Additionally, the environment in which you were raised can increase your risk for weight gain. Those who grew up in a sedentary home with unhealthy diets are more likely to develop unhealthy habits that are hard to break when you’re trying to lose weight. 

What You Eat

There are many types of diets people use when trying to lose weight, and their effectiveness largely depends on what they eat. Those who eat without monitoring or tracking their calories and macros in any way are much less likely to lose weight than those who eat healthy foods and track them carefully. 

Typically, a high-protein, low-carb diet tends to yield the most obvious long-term results in weight loss. However, if someone attempts a juice cleanse or an aggressive intermittent fasting routine, they’ll likely lose weight faster than others. This isn’t a great long-term strategy for weight loss, but it will yield rapid results at the start.

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Your Lifestyle

Do you sit all day long hunched over a computer? Or are you on your feet all day? Do you work out for 30-60 minutes of moderately intense exercise? Or do you fit in a casual walk whenever it’s convenient? 

Your activity level and what you do all day will affect the rapidity of your weight loss. If you lead an active lifestyle, you’ll likely lose weight faster. 

Of course, an active lifestyle only works to promote weight loss if it’s done in conjunction with eating well and tracking a caloric deficit. So consider how and what you eat when thinking about your lifestyle’s influence on your weight. 

How You Exercise

Research indicates that the most effective form of exercise to lose weight is a combination of cardio and strength training. Doing HIIT or Crossfit can help to keep the heart rate elevated, which burns a lot of calories. And it builds muscle, which raises your metabolic heart rate while working out or at rest. 

It’s also recommended that you work out from 30-60 minutes five days per week instead of the base recommendation of 30 minutes per day five days per week as the CDC suggests. 

If you’re throwing yourself into your workouts and pushing yourself to safely burn calories and max out your muscles, you’ll lose weight faster. 

How to Accentuate the Way Your Weight Loss Looks

Once you start noticing your weight loss, you might not get quite the appearance you hoped for. Your skin might not bounce back as quickly, or you might still have 10 pounds to go for your ideal body physique

So, while you continue pushing in your weight loss journey, there are a few ways you can accentuate your new weight loss. 

Focus on Appearance Rather Than the Scale

Don’t worry about the numbers. To help you notice your weight loss better, take pictures before you start losing weight. Then, take pictures every couple of weeks to see how your body changes. 

The numbers on the scale will fluctuate based on various factors that may or may not have anything to do with weight loss. But a picture tells a thousand words.

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Dress to Impress

Who says you can’t go shopping during the weight loss journey? Pick up some clothing that shows off your hard work. Any clothing that makes your middle and legs look slimmer will do. 

A man should consider jackets that taper at the middle to draw less attention to his belly. Straight-leg pants will also look best. And you can’t go wrong with black! 

Women should wear clothing that “belts” at the narrowest part of their waist and that creates straight lines. Straight-leg jeans and even compression leggings can offer a slimmer appearance.

For both men and women, tight-fit clothing is a big no-no when you’re trying to show off what you’ve lost. It will only accentuate the areas of your body that still have a ways to go. 

Work on Your Posture

Hunched shoulders will only make you look larger. Your body is made to stand up straight, and when you slouch and shift your weight to one leg, it draws attention to areas that often collect weight like your hips and middle. 

Practice standing up straight, and you’ll naturally show off the slimmer parts of you. You’ll also train your body to maintain this posture, which has more benefits than just weight loss, including digestion, reduced back pain, and more. 

Smile

When you look confident, you’ll appear confident. Smile and draw attention to your bright countenance rather than any weight that’s yet to come off. Nobody will be thinking about your physique if you’re always showing off your dazzling smile.

How to Maintain Weight Loss Results

Once you reach your weight loss goal, here’s the million-dollar question: How do you keep it off? Statistically speaking, most people gain back at least some of the weight within a year of losing it, but that doesn’t have to be your reality. 

The best way to maintain your weight loss is to develop and stick to realistic habits. Choose a calorie and nutrient goal that’s sustainable, and set a workout time and routine that you can keep. 

It helps if you can get an accountability buddy to support you in both your weight loss goals and your maintenance. It’s possible to keep the weight off as long as you don’t give up your good habits the second you reach your goal weight.

About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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