How Long It Really Takes To Lose Weight

Nearly everyone is familiar with the effort of trying to lose a few pounds or more. Weight often feels quick to gain, but slow to leave. So, it can be helpful to understand the process that leads to weight loss, and some of the statistics involved.

In short, weight loss is caused by taking in fewer calories through food and drink than your body burns in a day, according to Healthline. This deficiency causes your body to burn fat to fuel your body systems and meet energy expenditure needs.

Approximately 3,500 calories equate to one pound of body fat. If you reduce your calorie consumption by 500 calories a day you can expect to see a pound of weight loss in one week (via LIVESTRONG). There is a caveat, however: If you eat too few calories overall, your body will try to protect your fat stores and begin breaking down muscle for energy. To avoid this, women should not reduce calorie consumption below 1,200 calories per day, and men need to stay above 1,800 calories per day.

Don't forget to move

Reducing calories isn't the only way to lose weight — you can also increase your energy expenditure. Your body needs a set number of calories each day just to keep your organs working and systems running. This is known as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). To figure out your RMR, take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 12 (via Women's Health). To lose weight, deduct a certain number of calories from that figure and make it your calorie goal for the day, or burn more calories through exercise.

As you exercise, particularly if you do resistance training, you will build muscle. Lean muscle tissue burns more calories than fat — up to 50 calories per pound. When you workout, you are not only increasing your daily energy expenditure, but over time you will also burn more calories when your body is at rest.

One thing to note is that it is not possible to spot-reduce weight, losing only in problem areas. The body loses weight overall, so you will notice it coming off later in the areas where you first see it show up. Slow, controlled weight loss can feel frustrating, but is the best way to maintain it for the long run.