Every weight loss journey is different. But no matter what type of diet, plan, or program you do, it’s good to know what’s going on with your body each step of the way. Here’s a deep dive into the stages of weight loss. Plus, some top tips to make sure your weight loss is sustainable and effective.
What are the weight loss stages?
- Stage 1: Rapid weight loss. In this stage, weight loss progress happens quickly. But although you’ll notice a big difference in pounds, there may not be a big change in fat. While you may start to burn a bit of body fat, most of the weight loss comes from water, protein, and your body’s carb stores.
- Stage 2: Slow weight loss. After the first month or so, you’ll start to experience more gradual weight loss. You’ll still lose weight, but it will takes longer to notice a difference. The bulk of this new weight loss, though, will come from fat loss.
Weight loss is usually broken down into two stages. First, a rapid weight loss stage followed by a slow period. Here’s the deets on each.
Stage 1: Rapid weight loss
The first 4 to 6 weeks of your weight loss journey typically falls into the rapid stage. You’ll start to notice a difference in your weight and how your clothes fit.
The exact amount of weight you lose during this stage can depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Sex. Most research suggests #TeamPeen loses weight faster than folks with vaginas.
- Age. Older adults might lose weight faster than younger peeps. But some of this might be due to muscle loss, not fat loss.
- Starting weight. You may lose weight faster if you begin your journey at a higher weight.
- Physical activity level. You don’t have to live at the gym to lose weight. But maintaining a regular fitness routine can help you reach your goals faster.
- Diet. Some studies suggest that low carb diets (like the keto diet) can help you lose weight faster than low fat diets. That’s because low carb diets may deplete your body’s carb stores and water faster. But in the long term, research is mixed on which type of diet offers better results.
Stage 2: Slow weight loss
After the initial stage, you’ll start to lose weight at a slower pace. You may also notice chunks of time where the scale stays exactly the same despite your best efforts. That’s totally normal. While diet plateaus are the pits, there’s a silver lining. Most of the weight you lose in this stage will come from body fat.
Changes to your metabolism might be to blame. As your body adjusts to your new diet and fitness routine, your metabolism may start to slow down. This means you’ll burn fewer calories than you did in the first stage.
Another potential plateau cause is an overly restrictive weight loss plan. For example, cutting out your fave foods might make you more likely to stray from your diet which can lead to less weight loss in the long run.
Stage 1: Rapid weight loss
The first few weeks of any weight loss plan can be a challenging adjustment. But don’t worry. With consistency, your new healthy lifestyle can become a habit. These tips can help make the transition a bit easier.
Set realistic goals
While you can expect to lose weight more quickly in this stage, it’s super important to keep your expectations in check. Generally, extreme weight loss in a short amount of time isn’t the healthiest option for your body to go through. It can also make maintaining your weight a lot harder in the long run. So try to set realistic goals and take things one pound at a time. You got this!
Start measuring and tracking your food
Research shows peeps tend to underestimate the amount of food they actually eat. Two great ways to avoid this is to measure your portions and keep track of what you nosh on. In addition to calories, you may also want to monitor macronutrients like carbs, fat, and protein.
FYI: This can be a really helpful tool for a lot of people, but if you experience disordered eating this type of tracking could be a trigger.
Fill up on healthy stuff first
When you start a new diet, your body might be in “WTF mode” until it adjusts. A great way to stave off the hangry vibes is to fill up on healthy foods first. Some great choices include:
- broth-based soups
- leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, and romaine lettuce
- lean proteins such as chicken breast, low fat cottage cheese, and tofu
- complex carbs including oatmeal, quinoa, barley, legumes, and brown rice
- foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating isn’t a diet. It’s a form of meditation that can give you a deeper understanding of the emotional connection you have with food. This practice can help you gain more control over your eating habits while promoting self-awareness and positivity.
Don’t go crazy at the gym
Exercise is a great way to burn calories, increase strength, and reduce stress. But try not to go overboard. Working out too hard or too often can lead to a burnout. Also, it can increase your risk of injury. So be sure to give yourself enough time to rest after each sweat sesh and don’t push past your limits.
Stage 2: Slow weight loss
After the first month or 2, you may notice the scale starts to stay in the same range. Here’s how to push through the plateau.
Switch up your workouts
Cardio is cool, but strength training is also hella important. Studies show resistance training is a very effective way to lose weight. Some folks also dig high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn lots of calories while increasing endurance.
Focus on fiber and protein
Protein can boost the number of calories you burn during digestion, according to a 2014 study. More good news! Protein also stimulates hormone production, including PYY, which can help reduce appetite.
Meanwhile, soluble fiber can help you feel full for longer. This can help you avoid eating extra calories in between meals.
While one glass of vino isn’t going to destroy your diet, drinking on the daily can lead to weight gain. Booze is full of empty calories and can lower impulse control. Plus, studies show that alcohol can inhibit fat burning and can lead to extra belly fat.
Don’t obsess with the scale
Scales don’t take muscle mass or water weight into account. So if that number stays stagnant or goes up a bit, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not making progress toward a healthier, stronger self. Remember, you’re mostly burning fat in this stage.
Here are some more top-notch tips to help you hit and maintain your weight loss goals.
Download an app
A diet app can help you keep track of your calories and macros throughout the day. They’re also a great resource for recipes and other health info.
Pro tip: A fitness app is also a fab idea. Here’s our guide to the best options for all fitness levels and styles.
Get enough sleep
Your body needs sleepy time to recharge your mind and body. A chronic lack of sleep has been linked to higher rates of obesity and a larger waist circumference. So be sure to get enough shuteye on the reg.
Bonus: You won’t snack when you’re sleeping!
Keep it balanced
According to a 2018 research review, extreme dieting won’t help you keep weight off in the long term. And more importantly, hardcore restrictive diets can lead to negative health effects. So skip the fads and opt for a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh, fabulous food.
Stay hella hydrated
Make sure you get enough high-quality H2O on the daily. Not only do you need it to stay healthy, water helps your metabolism function on fleek. A 2013 study found that drinking extra water throughout the day can actually help you lose more weight. Woot!
Stick with it
It’s totally normal to cave once in a while. But don’t give up altogether! Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. So take your time and be kind to yourself.
The two main stages of weight loss are rapid weight loss and slow weight loss. In the first stage, you’ll drop weight at a rapid rate. Most of the weight loss in this stage is from protein, carbs, and water. In the second stage, you’ll lose weight more slowly, but most of the pounds you shed will come from fat.
PSA: Always talk with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. They can give you some dope tips to help you get the results you’re looking for.