How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 2, 2022

Key takeaways

  • Make it a goal to lose one to two pounds a week. People who take the slow and steady weight loss method tend to keep the weight off.

  • To lose weight, focus on cutting out extra calories

  • Several factors may make weight loss more difficult. Discuss medications or procedures with your medical provider if you need a boost to your weight loss.

Slow and steady weight loss is generally best. Try to focus on losing one to two pounds each week. However, weight loss is a journey, and fluctuations are normal. Several factors affect how quickly you lose weight, but remaining consistent will get you positive results.  

Read on to learn more about how weight loss works and the steps you can take to reach your weight goals. 

How Long Does It Take to Lose Weight?

It is difficult to say exactly how long it will take for you to lose weight. Each person is different and may lose weight at a different rate. Some weeks you may shed several pounds, while other weeks, you may not lose any. 

Some people start intense weight loss programs that are very restrictive. At first, they may lose weight quickly, but it’s often hard to keep up with those schedules. Many times, the weight comes back eventually when they stop their restrictive program. 

The best way to lose weight is slowly and steadily, and by making changes you can sustain.  Design your meals and weekly physical activity around a schedule you can maintain. 

Research shows that gradual weight loss helps decrease total body fat and body fat percentage and has better results on your metabolic rate. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests people who make it a goal to lose one to two pounds per week are more likely to keep the weight off.

Moderate weight loss of 5–10% of your total body weight may improve:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

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How Weight Loss Works

Metabolism is your body’s process of converting food into energy to maintain all your necessary functions. To lose weight, you need to consistently take in fewer calories than you burn each day. The typical way to do this is to reduce the calories you eat each day. While exercise is a healthy thing to do, it does not typically result in significant improvements in weight if you don’t back it up with a weight-loss-friendly diet.

Not all calories are created equal. Highly processed foods do not supply your body with needed nutrients and sometimes cause harm. They are also full of sugar and calories, so a small amount gives you a high amount of calories. Eating whole, unprocessed foods helps fulfill your body’s nutritional needs while also keeping you in a healthy calorie range. 

Factors that Affect Weight Loss

Several factors affect your ability to lose weight. 


As you age, your body composition changes. People tend to experience a decrease in their muscle mass and an increase in their fat mass as they get older. Their metabolism also decreases. Because of this, a younger person may have an easier time losing weight than an older person. 


Your fat-to-muscle ratio influences your metabolism. Because males tend to have a higher muscle-to-fat ratio than females, they tend to lose weight faster even when following a diet equal in calories. This eight-week study of over 2,000 participants looked at the results of eating an 800-calorie diet. They found that males lost 16% more weight than females.


Getting enough sleep is an important part of weight loss and your overall health. Getting less than seven hours of sleep each night shows significantly higher rates of obesity in adults. Experts consider sleeping seven to nine hours a night a healthy amount of sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to overeat, eat more snacks, and eat late at night. 

Starting weight

How much weight you need to lose may also affect how quickly your excess weight comes off. A person with a higher body fat mass may lose weight faster than someone with less fat. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a body weight planner tool that can help you determine your weight loss goals. The planner takes into consideration your age, gender, and physical activity level to make the plan specific to your needs. 


Having high levels of stress may cause your body to store more fat. Research shows that when your body releases high amounts of stress hormones, your body stores fat in the abdominal area. Experts call the fat in the abdomen “toxic fat” because it is associated with cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and stroke. 

Medical conditions and genetics

Several medical conditions may make weight loss more difficult. Conditions such as hypothyroidism and insulin resistance affect your metabolism. Medications such as steroids, blood pressure medicines, and antidepressants can also slow metabolism. 

Although the mechanism is unclear at this time, research shows a genetic component associated with each person’s ability to lose weight. 

Other Considerations

Dietary modifications

While there is no one proven diet that helps all people lose weight and keep it off, the overall goal is to create a calorie deficit. Try to focus on eating foods high in protein, such as lean meats, and increasing your fiber intake. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Increasing these types of foods will help cut calories and keep you full for longer. 


Cutting calories can help with weight loss, but combining that with regular physical activity will do even more. As you build muscle, your metabolic rate increases, and you are more likely to lose weight. The more activity you get in each day, the more weight you are likely to drop.

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Weight-loss medications

You can discuss weight-loss medications with your medical provider if you need an extra boost to your weight loss. Several medications are available by prescription that help people lose weight by:

  • Blocking the intestines from absorbing fat
  • Reducing appetite
  • Helping to regulate blood sugar to decrease cravings
  • Slowing stomach emptying, which makes you feel full longer

Weight-loss surgery

Several implantable devices and surgeries are also available to help with weight loss. However, not everyone qualifies for these procedures. Discuss with your medical provider if one of these options may be right for you. 

  • Gastric balloon: This is a small balloon that is placed into your stomach and filled with saline. When you no longer need it, the balloon can be removed.
  • Gastric band: This is a band that is surgically placed around your stomach. These limit the amount of food you can eat.
  • Gastrectomy: This surgery removes a portion of your stomach to reduce how much you can eat.
  • Gastric bypass surgery: A small section of your stomach is connected to your intestines to bypass the first part of your intestines. This limits the amount of food you can eat and how much fat your body can absorb.

The Bottom Line

The science of weight loss is a complicated one. There are many factors that go into a person’s ability to lose weight, including their gender, medical conditions, age, and starting weight. Lifestyle factors such as how much sleep you get and your stress level may also affect your weight loss. 

Discuss these factors with your medical provider, and together you can make a plan for how you can achieve your desired weight loss. With consistency, you can achieve your weight loss goals. Focus on cutting extra calories out of your diet and increasing physical activity. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to lose weight?
A healthy goal is to lose one to two pounds a week. Some weeks you may lose a little more, and other times you may lose a little less. The goal is to remain consistent.
Where do you lose weight first?
There is no one area where people tend to lose weight first. For some, it may come off their abdomen first, while for others, it comes off their legs or arms. Some people notice weight loss in their face first as well.
How long will it take to lose belly fat?
How long it takes to lose belly fat depends on several factors, including how much weight you need to lose, your age, gender, genetics, and if you have any medical conditions. Make it a goal to lose one to two pounds weekly.
What are the risks of losing weight too quickly?
Cutting too many calories and losing weight too quickly may make you deficient in vitamins or minerals. It can also cause electrolyte imbalance. It’s best to take a slow and steady approach to weight loss.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

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