Losing weight: how long does it take to lose weight?

Whether it's a few extra pounds or a real overweight, losing weight is possible: but how long does it take to get back in shape?


  • Weight loss and slimming
  • Why you get fat and how you lose weight
  • Because after a diet you get fat again
  • What to eat
  • How long does it take to lose weight
  • The importance of physical activity

Weight loss and slimming

Most of us sooner or later find ourselves struggling with weight gain and wanting to lose weight. It can happen during adolescence, after a pregnancy or with advancing age, or because you have neglected your diet for several months or years. You can find yourself with a few extra pounds or with an obvious overweight, but the way to lose weight is always the same.

However, let's clarify that losing weight and losing weight are not exactly the same thing. The body weight, in fact, is given by the sum of lean mass (muscles), water and fat mass and can fluctuate throughout the day, week or month based on various factors including hormonal fluctuations and variations in the amount of water inside the body. Furthermore, muscle mass weighs more than fat mass, so if we compared a sporty person and a sedentary person, for the same weight the former would almost certainly be leaner than the latter. Losing or gaining weight is not the same as losing weight or gaining weight: you lose weight when you lose fat and, conversely, you gain weight when the amount of body fat increases.

Instead of using the scale, it would be more useful to use a tape measure to determine if we are fat, measuring the waist and the circumference of the hips and thighs. An even faster method is the size of the clothes: when the jeans no longer fasten, it is evident that we are fat. To determine if you are normal weight or overweight, however, you need to visit a nutritionist who will objectively assess your body mass index and the percentage of lean mass and fat mass.

What causes body fat to increase and decrease? The quantity and quality of the foods we eat. If you want (or must) lose weight, that is, lose fat, you must therefore act first of all on your diet, paying attention to what you put on your plate.

Why you get fat and how you lose weight

Although weight loss does not always follow a linear trend and the same for everyone, there are common factors behind the process that allows you to reduce fat mass. You have surely heard of calories, basal metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Our body, in fact, derives energy from nutrients and uses them for all the activities it performs. The energy of the nutrients is expressed in calories and the individual energy requirement depends on the basal metabolism – that is the energy necessary to maintain the basic functions of the body – and on the activity carried out during the day, from work to sport to walking with the dog. If a balance is maintained between energy introduced in the form of calories and energy expended through activities, the balance will be balanced and no fat will be accumulated or consumed. If, on the other hand, the calories introduced are greater than those spent, in the long run you will see your fat mass increase. On the contrary, by introducing fewer calories than necessary, the waistline and the circumference of the hips will decrease and, again in the long term, you will lose weight. However, calories are not the only aspect to consider, but we must also pay attention to the quality of the food.

Because after a diet you get fat again

To lose weight and to keep your body weight constant, you need to add an important ingredient to your recipes: awareness. Without awareness, in fact, any diet, even the most rigid and "miraculous" will be doomed to fail in the long run. Diets, in addition to causing anxiety and increasing stress levels, cannot be continued for very long and do not give lasting results over time. The more restrictive a diet is, the less you are able to adhere to the rules and "get out of control" easily. Furthermore, a diet does not educate to eat healthy and balanced and, when you abandon it, with the passage of time you return to the starting point (and weight). Proper nutrition education, on the other hand, allows you to lose weight and, above all, to maintain your weight over time, avoiding the phenomenon known as the “yo-yo effect”.

What to eat

Each of us draws energy from food, but not all foods are the same. Foods are in fact divided into carbohydrates, proteins and fats based on the dominant macronutrient. In a balanced diet, the total energy share of the day (which we remember, is given by the sum of the basal metabolism and the energy necessary to carry out daily activities) should derive for 45-60% from carbohydrates, for 25-30% from fats and the remaining percentage from proteins. Each meal should contain these three macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – in a balanced way. That's not all: there are carbohydrates, proteins and fats better than others, and they are the ones to be preferred for losing weight and staying in shape for a long time.

For example, all cereals (pasta, bread, crackers, breadsticks, etc.) are part of carbohydrates, but also vegetables, fruit and legumes are a source of carbohydrates. Unlike bread, pasta and similar, vegetables and fruit are to be preferred because they have a lower impact on blood sugar, provide more fiber, water, vitamins and minerals, satiate more and improve intestinal transit. This does not mean depriving yourself of pasta and bread, but remembering that raw and cooked vegetables at every meal, fruit for breakfast and for snacks must also be included in the carbohydrate quota. The same thing goes for fats: extra virgin olive oil, nuts and dried fruit are sources of fat, but so are butter and margarine. The former, however, are considered "good fats", while the latter should be avoided. Finally, as regards proteins, it is better to choose lean protein sources, avoiding processed meats, cold cuts and sausages and cheeses that are particularly rich in fat. Then pay attention to drinks rich in sugar, alcoholic ones and packaged, processed or ready-made foods, which are often unbalanced, caloric and unhealthy.

A healthy and balanced dish is therefore given by a protein source, a source of carbohydrates – preferably vegetables and whole grains – and a source of "good" fats, such as a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or a handful of dried fruit. By balancing nutrients in this way, you will not go hungry and will provide you with the right nutrients to feel energetic and focused throughout the day.

Weighing food and counting calories (perhaps using an app, for convenience) can initially help you get used to the quantities, but it should serve to "make an eye" on the portions, without turning into slavery. Even those that are considered "cheats" are not to be demonized: if every now and then you want to spoil yourself with a glass of wine, a slice of cake or a fried dish, there is no need to despair, run for cover or try to fix it with drastic methods. To lose weight and maintain your ideal weight it is sufficient to follow a correct diet for most meals and you can make "mistakes" as long as these are occasional.

How long does it take to lose weight

The speed with which you lose fat mass and lose weight is subjective and depends on many variables, including age, the amount of fat mass, energy needs and the amount of calories normally introduced, before deciding to lose weight. Generally speaking, for every 7000 calories in excess, you gain a kilo of fat and, to lose a kilo of fat, you need a caloric deficit of about 7000 calories. Let's take a practical example: let's assume that a healthy adult woman needs 1900 calories per day. If the diet provided exactly 1900 calories, fat mass would not increase or decrease. If, on the other hand, the diet provided an excess of 200 calories per day, in just over a month the fat mass would increase by one kilo. Conversely, a 1,200-calorie diet could make her lose a pound in ten days.

Normally, to lose fat mass, it is necessary to reduce calorie intake (up to 30% of one's needs) without falling below a certain threshold (1200 calories for women) to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Obviously you need to balance your meals, always providing carbohydrates, proteins and fats in a balanced way. In this way you have a healthy weight loss, which can fluctuate from half a kilo to a kilo per week. To lose two kilos of fat mass, two to four weeks could be enough, while to lose ten it will take at least two and a half months. The calorie deficit is maintained until you reach your ideal weight, after which the diet will return to cover the needs.

In case of overweight and obesity and if you suffer from diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, etc.) it is still necessary to contact your doctor and a nutritionist. Only a professional will be able to develop a food plan suited to your needs and accompany you in a process that is not only aimed at losing weight but also at food education, so as to be able to maintain your ideal weight over time.

The importance of physical activity

When you want to lose fat mass and improve your fitness, physical activity is important for several reasons. In fact, constant physical exercise, even if moderate, contributes to increasing energy expenditure, developing lean mass, increasing the basal metabolism, promoting the loss of centimeters and speeding up weight loss. In addition, physical activity increases the tone of muscles and skin, improves breathing, regulates blood pressure, reduces stress and keeps the osteoarticular system healthy.

Physical activity is therefore essential for well-being but in itself does not always allow you to lose weight without a balanced diet. This is because if you have a requirement of 1600 calories and you consume 2500 calories through diet, it is difficult for physical exercise to compensate for the energy surplus. To lose weight it is therefore necessary first of all to act on the diet, providing sufficient calories or a quantity of calories just below the needs, balance meals correctly and have a lifestyle that is as active as possible, which also includes regular physical exercise. .


Guidelines for healthy eating

Italian Society of Human Nutrition

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