How Much Weight Do You Need To Lose To Notice A Difference?

February 1st 2020

Finding it difficult to lose weight? 

Losing and keeping off weight is popularly considered one of the most difficult things to do — as well as one of the most important goals for your health. 

However, after a certain point, the initial difficulty of getting started abates. Progress becomes a positive feedback loop; after you’ve lost a certain amount of weight, you begin to feel it — and that positive feeling makes you want to continue your healthy habits. 

If you’re just starting out on a weight loss journey, it may seem like it’s taking forever to see that first weight loss! 

Here’s what you can expect in terms of a basic timeline for seeing that magic first scale drop. 

How much weight do you need to lose to notice a difference?

Losing 3-5 lbs could show up in your face first. However, it may take losing around 10-15% of bodyweight to really notice a dramatic difference.

The First Step: Noticing a Difference With Your Weight

As the saying goes, first you’ll notice your weight loss, then your close friends and family will, and after that the compliments from acquaintances will start rolling in. 

But how long will it take to get to that magic first step — that day where you notice your jeans are a little looser and there’s a little extra room in your shirt? 

At the beginning of any healthy shift in your habits, you’ll start by shedding some bloat, then losing some water weight

Just doing this will set you down a couple of pounds — which will be enough to put a little bit of a spring in your step. You’ll likely be feeling good, which will make you happier and help you stand taller. 

These shifts in your presentation will cause others and yourself to perceive you as leaner. 

However, before you notice any real changes (such as requiring different sizes of clothing, for example), you’ll likely have to lose ten to fifteen percent of your body weight (so, for a two hundred pound man, from twenty to thirty pounds), although according to a study out of the University of Toronto, researcher Daniel Re said that for males that number could start at just five pounds

Regardless, it’s a good idea to get started! How quickly you lose this weight is up to you and your routine! Let’s delve into the most effective ways to achieve this change. 

What Will Go First: Water Weight

At the beginning of your weight loss journey, you may be told that you can expect to lose your water weight first. Great! What does that mean? 

According to Lynn Mack, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska medical center, “water weight is where the body retains fluids that normally would go into the kidneys.” 

Water weight can be caused by excess salt in your diet, as sodium tends to stick to water and keep it in your body. This can result in an uncomfortable bloating.

The good news, however, is that water weight is relatively easy to lose with a simple refocusing of your diet, and you’ll feel a lot better once the bloating is gone — making it way easier to continue your healthy habits. 

Why It Might Not Seem Like You’re Losing Weight

Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint. 

While you’re going through your weight loss journey, you may have periods of time where it seems the weight is sloughing off, and other periods of time where nothing seems to be happening. 

Here are a few reasons why your weight may not seem to be going anywhere: 

  • You may have hit a plateau. If you’ve been working on losing weight for a relatively short amount of time and were excited to find that the first 5-10 pounds melted away
  • You might be measuring too frequently. Your weight fluctuates on a day to day basis, and real results take time. Put your scale in a closet, take weekly measurements, and then focus on non-scale victories instead.
  • You’re gaining muscle mass. As you shed fat, you may be gaining weight — particularly if you’re focusing your workouts properly. As muscle weighs more than fat, if you’re concentrating just on your weight, you may be disappointed to see no change in your number. Celebrate your growing strength instead of mourning a non-moving scale. 
  • Your genetics make shedding weight difficult. 

Where You Might Lose Weight First

Different people lose weight differently! 

The way that fat is stored on your body — the specific placement of adipocytes, or fat cells — is based on your specific genetic code. 

Some people naturally carry their weight in their midsection; others carry it in their thighs or their face. 

According to Lisa Butler, the vice president of DailyBurn, there are four basic ways that we carry fat. 

  1. An even distribution of adipocytes across the human frame;
  2. Settled across the trunk and ab area (this is very common in men);
  3. Settled across the trunk, leg, and glute area (this is more common in women); and
  4. Predominantly centered in the abdominal area (e.g., a beer belly). 

One simple rule, then, as to where you will lose weight first, is that you’ll lose it from where you’re carrying it. 

However, this isn’t always the case. Often, the first place that we lose weight is in our faces. This can happen for a number of reasons and can depend on bone structure and your basic facial expression. 

Melissa Eboli, a certified wellness counselor, notes that perception may be part of it. “When you exercise your whole body, you lose fat all over,” she says, but also states that “dropping as little as three to five pounds can show up in your face first.” 

Whether your weight loss is actually more concentrated in your face or it’s just easier for you and others to see it is unclear, but it does provide a confidence boost when you need it! 

An easy way to track this loss is to take a selfie at the beginning of your weight loss journey, and then periodically afterward — say, weekly. 

As you get stronger and leaner, you should be able to see it in your face, particularly if you can set up a time-lapse of photos side by side. 

Ways To Break Through Plateaus

A plateau is a land mass which is very flat, around which are steep drop-offs or cliffs. 

Within a weight-loss journey, however, the term ‘plateau’ is generally used to refer to a time after progress is made during which it seems like your weight loss has stalled out. 

These can (understandably) be very frustrating! If you’ve hit a plateau, here are a few ways to consider trying to fast-track your progress. 

Switch Up Your Exercise Routine

If your exercise routine has been lopsided — as in, you’ve been targeting one type of exercise at the expense of other practices — consider shaking things up a bit. 

Arnold Lee, MD, of states that “When you do the same activity all the time, your body gets used it and becomes very efficient.” 

That sounds like a good thing, but he goes on to explain why that could tank our weight loss strategies: “Eventually, that adaptation will mean that you burn fewer calories even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise.”

Fortunately, inherent in that problem is the simple solution: Try out a new workout. Your body will respond if you keep it guessing! 

And you may have guessed it!

Strength training will be an invaluable tool you can use in order to change your life for the better. 

Daunting machines and free-weights may be a thing in the past once you realized that everyone in the weight room has similar aspirations!

Need some help choosing a program? The Greyskull LP Program is an excellent way to start and you can also read about how I got started with my first few years of strength training.

Recalibrate Your Hormones

Your hormones constitute the messaging system that triggers all kinds of bodily functions. Sloughing off fat cells requires a hormonal trigger, so if you’re carrying around unnecessary weight, there’s a good chance that your hormones are imbalanced. 

Rebalancing them can be a very powerful tool in your weight loss journey! 

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, says that “One huge but often-overlooked reason for weight-loss resistance involves hormonal imbalances.” 

Focusing on eating a low-sugar, high-fat (as long as it’s the right kind of fat!), and high-fiber diet will help get your hormones back in check! 

You may want to overcomplicate this by asking certain questions like white rice vs brown rice or bread vs pasta.

Overall, you need to eat a balanced diet with all the macronutrients. Specific food preferences will be determined over time.

The Power of Fasting

One way people can start losing weight is by fasting and breaking the cycle of food overconsumption. 

Intentionally going through a period wherein your diet constitutes a caloric deficit can be an incredibly powerful tool to help you break through your plateau and learn more about your body.

A study coming from the Queens Medical Centre in the United Kingdom detailed the ways that fasting can boost our metabolism, and there’s no question that a brief period wherein you experience a forced caloric deficit will jumpstart your results. 

Just remember to do it healthily, and take care of yourself while you are, however briefly, in starvation mode. 

For instance, intermittent fasting is a fairly common tactic used and you can find a plethora of information about case studies.

Ultimately: The Power of Perseverance

Weight loss takes time — there’s no way around it. 

Because to lose weight successfully, you are by nature in a long game, you simply have to get used to the idea that there will be times when you are doing all the right things, and nothing seems to be happening. 

However, that’s not the case.

Even when you don’t seem to be losing weight, sticking to a plan and achieving your goals change you in a priceless way. 

Perseverance is the virtue by which you can make anything happen; and, like all virtues, you need to practice it to be any good at it! Persevering through weight loss plateaus can be difficult, but soon you’ll be happier and healthier — and, possibly, a clothing size or two down as well. 

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