You've been faithful to a healthier eating plan and working out at the gym, and the number on the scale is even going down. You notice your clothes buttoning a little easier, less bloat to your belly and a slimmer appearance to your face. Whether other people notice these changes really depends on several factors, including their relationship with you and your starting size. You usually notice that you've lost weight far sooner than other people.
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The Initial Weeks of Weight Loss
If you've made dramatic changes to your diet and exercise routine, you may feel the effects of weight loss within a week. Although a 1- to 2-pound-per-week loss is normal and recommended, in the first week or two of beginning a plan, you may lose slightly more.
A lot of this initial weight loss is water. Your fluid levels fluctuate often and can change dramatically when you alter your diet. For example, when you start a low-carbohydrate diet, you deplete the stored glycogen in your muscles. When you lose this glycogen, you also lose the water it retains. As a result of this loss of water weight, you may experience a flatter-feeling tummy and the first pounds lost on your scale. Lose just 2 cups of water, and it results in a pound lost on the scale, but it's not actual fat loss.
The Scale Isn't Always Best
The scale isn't always the best marker of your results given that it doesn't tell you what type of weight you're losing -- water, lean tissue or fat. If you weight train as part of your weight-loss plan, you may actually acquire lean muscle mass, which may show up on the scale as a gain. You will notice that your clothes fit differently, and your appearance is slimmer and more taut, despite what the scale says. The results of weight training may be apparent in the first few weeks after you start the program, but visible results will slow down as your body becomes more accustomed to the routine.
It's a good idea to track your progress using measurements, rather than relying on the scale alone. Take a flexible measuring tape and measure around your chest, waist, hips, arms and thighs. Record the numbers and then repeat the measurements every couple of weeks or so. Track your numbers side by side so you can see how far you've come.
Phantom Fat Still Lingers for Some
How much you notice the weight loss also depends on your personal body image and your connection to your body. If you are distracted by a busy or stressful work and family schedule, you may not realize you've dropped weight until someone makes a comment about your appearance.
Some people who lose significant weight may still feel as if they're carrying the same amount of fat, despite wearing smaller sizes and reading lower numbers on the scale. They continue to feel larger for years after they've lost dozens of pounds. The weight loss provides health improvements and a new appearance, but they don't feel smaller. In serious cases, people who have this distorted body image may need counseling to shift their mindset.
Your Body Presentation
Weight loss is more noticeable when it makes up a larger percentage of your body mass. If you've got massive amounts of weight to lose, it'll take longer for your losses to be noticeable to other people. A 10-pound loss on someone who has hundreds of pounds to lose will not be as noticeable as it is on a 120-pound person.
If you lose weight and continue to cloak yourself in baggy clothing or garments with a lot of excess fabric, it's a lot harder for you, and others, to notice your weight loss. A form-fitting outfit shows off new-found curves and really lets people see the progress you've made.
Standing tall, rather than slouching, can also make your weight loss more obvious to other people. If you've included resistance training as part of your weight-loss regimen, the stronger muscles in your core and back help support an upright position.
Relationships and Weight Loss
When others notice your weight loss also depends on their relationship to you. A mother might notice changes in her daughter sooner than her work colleagues do. Also, if you're losing weight at a gradual pace of 1 pound per week, people who see you every day may notice it less readily than someone who only sees you once a month.
Ultimately, you lose weight to improve your quality of life, including health and self image. Even if no one notices, those who are overweight and lose 5 to 10 percent of their total weight improve markers of health, including blood pressure and cholesterol. On a 200-pound person, this is as little as 10 pounds.
- Huffington Post: Why the First Five Pounds are the Hardest
- NBC News: "Phantom Fat" Can Linger After Weight Loss
- ABC News: 4 Confusing Weight Loss Concepts Cleared Up
- New York Daily News: Do Your Clothes Make You Look Fat
- Canadian Living: Lose Weight Through Good Posture
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Your Weight Is Important
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight & Weight Loss
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101