How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight?

By Eli Follick

The famous comic strip character Ziggy has said: “I have tons of will power; what I really need is won’t power.” Many of us can relate – especially right after a season when eating outside the norm at parties and gatherings is, well, the norm. However, these enjoyable experiences may have consequences: “I can’t fit into my pants!” So, how do you get back into them?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), healthy weight loss isn’t only about following a diet. It involves a lifestyle of healthful eating patterns, regular physical activity, and stress management. Those with gradual, steady weight loss are more likely to keep the weight off than those who lose weight quickly. The CDC also states that sleep, age, genetics, illnesses, medications, and environments may contribute to weight management.

With these factors in mind, your health care provider is your best first stop before you make significant changes. If you have a chronic condition, ask your health care provider for resources to support your optimal weight.

The first step to getting started for anyone is making a commitment. Write down why you want to lose weight. This helps to confirm your commitment. Keep these reasons handy as a reminder of your intention.

Next, take stock of where you are along the journey. Keep track of everything you eat and drink for a few days. Awareness of your intake may help you avoid mindless eating. Keep track of your physical activity, sleep, and your emotions. This may help you
understand your habits and stressors, and help you identify areas where you can start making changes.

Making meals at home is one good way to improve your food choices. Consider using as a template a meal tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (ADA) at This tool calculates daily food group targets based upon your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. You can also download the ADA’s My Food Diary from the site to track your meals.

Make a grocery list. While shopping, choose more healthful products and nutritious ingredients (less sugar, less salt, fewer chemicals, and less processing). For example, use low-fat cheese and low-fat, low-sodium soups. Try a non-stick cooking spray for sauteing instead of a solid fat like butter. If you are using ground meat, look for a low-fat variety, or try using skinless ground turkey breast. Avoid frozen vegetable side dishes that include added cream, butter, or salt. Also helpful, the National Institutes of
Health ( offers nutritious recipes with information about serving size,
number of servings, and calories.

Examine your lifestyle. Try to identify areas that may pose challenges to your weight loss efforts. For example, does your work or travel schedule make it difficult to get enough physical activity? Do your co-workers often take donuts to the work place? Think about methods to use that can help you overcome your challenges.

Set realistic goals. Begin with simple short-term goals, such as drinking water instead of sugary beverages; decide to take a 15-minute walk after dinner; or commit to having a vegetable with meals. Focus on two or three goals at a time and don’t try to do everything all at once. The goals should be specific, realistic (attainable), and include a deadline by which you want to make the change. For example, telling yourself to “exercise more” is not specific. A better statement would be, “I will walk 15 minutes a day for three days for the first week.” Be sure to reward yourself for accomplishments in a way that does not involve food or drink.

Finally, expect and be OK with occasional setbacks. When they happen, try to get back on track as quickly as possible. Also, think about how to prevent similar setbacks in the future. Keep in mind, too, that you are unique. What works for one person may not work for another. Try a variety of activities and schedules to see what works for you and what you enjoy most. Those activities will be easier to stick with over the long term.

So, how long does it take to lose weight? If you work at it, keep following a healthy diet, stick with your exercise routine, and monitor progress regularly, the CDC says that you could start seeing positive results in as little as two weeks. Those who weigh more at the start may lose weight a bit faster than those who are nearer to their goal weight. If you keep at it in a reasonable way (Don’t try to lose 20 pounds by the first of next month.), you can succeed. Don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you would like. A healthful lifestyle is intended to impact the rest of your life, not just get you back into your pants.

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