How realistic are you being with yourself? You’ve probably heard at some point that people should strive to lose excess weight at a rate of one to two pounds a week. But we all know that weight loss doesn’t always come easily or consistently. With that in mind, we reached out to the people behind the popular weight loss app Lose It! to get more realistic results.
So how long will it really take to lose, and keep off, 10 pounds?
According to their data, the average Lose It! user lost 10 pounds in about seven weeks, and 90% of their users who lost 10 pounds did it in less than 13 weeks. It’s definitely good to hear that it takes most people longer than five weeks to drop 10 pounds, and that it’s also doable within three months or so. But if you’re trying to drop 10 pounds, it’s important to keep this in mind that everyone is going to move at their own pace.
“There are calculations to predict the calorie deficit needed for someone to lose a pound of weight. However in reality, people lose weight at different rates,” says Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food.
Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees. “It’s not the rate of weight loss that matters, per se,” she says. “It’s the sustainability of the weight loss.” People who are obese, for example, might lose weight at a very fast rate, she says, while others with less excess weight to lose may move at a slower pace—and the actual rate doesn’t matter as much as someone’s ability to keep the weight off.
Lower Your Weight Loss Expectations
While it’s tempting to want to drop weight quickly, Warren says it’s important to manage your expectations and go about it in a smart, healthy way.
Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, recommends starting with small changes before moving on to a new challenge. “Many patients want to do everything all at once to lose the weight but it’s generally not feasible and people give up after a brief period of time only to gain more weight back,” he says.
If you’re not losing at the pace you’d like, Warren says there’s likely something—or several things—tripping you up. “I often find with clients that they may not be losing as fast as they can because of small allowance they are making,” she says.
That can mean:
• Having portions that are too large
• Eating pasta or bread at all meals and during a snack
• Eating too much later in the day or at night
• Treating yourself too often.
“Typically, if someone is already trying to lose weight, there isn’t one glaring issue,” she says. “Instead there may be multiple small points to adjust over the course of the day concerning their diet.”
Make a Lifestyle Change That You Can Keep up With
Whatever you’re trying to do for weight loss, Stanford says it’s important to make sure that it’s sustainable. “Often patients will say that they want to try a certain diet or exercise plan, but I say that if this works for you, you’re going to have to do it for the rest of your life,” she says. Losing weight on a special diet only to regain it can put your body at a higher set point for weight, she explains—and that can make it even harder to lose it all again.
If you’ve already lost the weight and want to make sure you keep it off, Warren recommends keeping a food log and striving to work out regularly.
“The reality is that after you lose the weight you want you look to be more flexible on food choices,” she says. “By keeping a food log, it keeps you on track to notice when you are allowing yourself too many less healthful choices or bigger portions too often.” Working out regularly also helps you balance out your flexible food choices without making you feel guilty for it, she says.