Despite television commercials and magazine ads promoting overnight weight loss, shedding pounds isn't an overnight affair -- and it shouldn't be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a slow and steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is best for keeping it off long-term. The length of time it takes you to lose weight will depend on how much you want to lose overall, but don't be surprised if it takes longer than you think.
What It Takes
It might sound like a cliche, but weight loss is all about calories in vs. calories out. To lose 1 pound of weight in a week, you must eliminate 3,500 calories, whether through reducing your caloric intake, boosting your physical activity or a combination of both. If you go the dietary route, cut out 500 calories a day to result in 1 pound of weight loss in a week or 1,000 calories to shed 2 pounds of weight. Therefore, if you have 10 pounds to lose, you can expect it to take five to 10 weeks.
Phases of Weight Loss
Even if you follow the CDC-approved method of cutting 500 calories a day, don't be surprised if your weight loss is fluctuating. The University of Rochester Medical Center says that when you diet, weight loss tends to be faster in the first month or two because you're losing water weight rather than fat. As time goes on, you might experience a slowdown in weight loss, which can be frustrating -- and might lead you into the temptation of slipping into old habits. The medical center recommends boosting exercise at this point, aiming for 60 minutes of cardio five days a week and two days of strength-training.
It's frustrating to put in the hard work of diet and exercise without seeing significant results, but you must be patient. To change how you look, it can take six months to a year, kinesiology professor William Kraemer told "The New York Times." That time frame includes a carefully designed and regularly done strength-training program, so if you're using diet only, your results might differ.
Troubleshooting Weight Loss
If you've been working on weight loss for a few weeks and the scale hasn't budged -- and you're not seeing a difference in how your clothes fit, which would indicate inches have come off -- take a closer look at what you're doing. According to fitness website Exos, common weight-loss stalls come from not doing any resistance training in favor of too much low-intensity cardio and eating too many -- or too few -- calories per day. To combat the latter, keep careful track of how much you consume per day, making sure it's on target with the amount your body needs to lose weight yet stay healthy. If you're exercising, try doing something new to surprise your muscles, whether it's adding another strength day or switching from the elliptical to the treadmill.