Curious how long it will take you to reach your weight loss goal? Managing your fat loss expectations is one of the first pieces of the puzzle you should determine before setting off on your journey. Having a realistic end date in mind will better keep you on track towards your goal.
Not Everyone Can Safely Lose 2lbs/Week
The standard advice is for you to expect to lose 1-2lbs/week. Now, faced with the choice of either losing 1 or 2 pounds, 90% of people are going to choose the latter. In fact, most people view anything less than 2 pounds of weight loss per week as a failure. Television shows combined with instant gratification personas have really skewed realistic weight loss expectations.
There’s a reason why people advise you to only lose 1-2 pounds per week. It’s not meant to be a personal choice. Losing 1-2 pounds is bumping up against the physiological limits of fat loss. Notice that I said fat loss and not weight loss. Our ultimate goal is to lose fat whilst maintaining as much muscle as possible.
To achieve that, there is only so many calories you can cut from your diet before lean body mass starts to get broken down and used as fuel. 1-2 pounds is about that limit, but depending on your starting body mass and composition, 2 pounds could be too much, or it could even be too little.
.5-1% Body Mass Per Week
Instead of using 1-2 pounds per week as your yardstick, you’d be better served to expect .5-1% body mass loss each week, with the lower number being the most probable. That means if you’re 200lbs, you can expect to lose 1-2lbs, but if you’re 150lbs, you should expect to lose only .75-1.5lbs. If you use the lower number, it might seem like you’re not making any progress, but lose .75lbs/week for 20 weeks and you would have gone from 150lbs to 135lbs, and that’s quite a transformation if it’s purely fat loss.
Also, as your weight decreases, so will your rate of weight loss. While the number of pounds you lose from week to week might decrease, the percentage of body mass you lose should remain fairly static. Looking at our examples, if you started at 200lbs and went down to 150lbs, you’d go from a realistic loss of 1-2 pounds to .75-1.5 pounds. The rate of weight loss decreased during the transformation, but the percentage of weight loss (.5-1%/week) stayed the same.
In addition, the higher your starting fat mass, the faster you can expect to lose fat at the beginning. If you are 200lbs at 10% body fat, your fat loss is going to be much slower than someone who is 200lbs at 40% body fat. While they are both the same weight, the latter person has much more fat to lose.
Use a Fat Loss Planning Calculator
To make things easier for you, I’ve created a calculator to help you determine how much time it will take you to go from one particular body fat to another. You can check out the fat loss planning calculator here. I think you’ll find it a useful tool in your weight loss arsenal.
When you get the results from the calculator, use the longest estimated time period to set your expectations. Then, get out your calendar and mark down progress updates at 1 month intervals.
For example, if losing 20lbs is supposed to take you 20 weeks, mark down a 5lb loss at each 1 month interval. One by one each 5lb goal will be reached, and once you surpass a couple of those smaller goals, you begin to trust the weight loss process. Time starts working for you instead of against you. All you have to do is continue what you’ve been doing and your weight will eventually normalize to your new eating and exercise habits.
Be patient. Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. It took some time to put the weight on, and it will take some time to get it off. Create realistic time expectations from the start and you will have the proper mindset for long-term sustainable weight loss.