Losing Weight Slowly and Steadily

13Everybody wants to lose weight quickly, like yesterday-fast! But the thing is, your weight did not come overnight, and you cannot get rid of it that way, either. You have probably heard of several advertisements such as “Drop 6 sizes in 90 days!” “Lose weight in as fast as 3 days!” “Lose 7 pounds in a week!” Although you may be drawn to the allure of these rapid weight loss tag lines, health professionals have traditionally recommended a slow and steady method (1). 

Many studies show that people who lose weight at a slow and steady pace are more likely to keep it off long-term. In fact, evidence found that after losing weight rapidly, approximately two-thirds of dieters gain more than what they have initially lost (2).

So, then, how fast is realistic? As a general guideline, most experts would recommend 0.5 to 2 pounds weekly (3). A pound a week is very good and doable for most people. And, what’s more? It is healthy! If you lose weight too quickly, especially those that involve starvation techniques, you risk yourself of several side effects and some are downright dangerous than others. Let’s dig more into the studies to uncover the truth! 

How to Develop Slow, Steady, and Sustainable Weight Loss? 

Experts continuously work hard to determine the meaning of healthy body weight. The manner used by most people to decrease their weight has raised questions and offered opportunities for debates since the early 1990s. Initial discussions stipulated that people should abstain from following “crash diets.” 

Years after, diet guidelines requested people to concentrate more on practicing mindfulness and a healthy lifestyle. Words such as “crash diets” disappeared, but an emphasis on following long-term approaches like a slow-and-steady diet started to surface. Later in the 20th century, inputs from healthcare practitioners, especially doctors and dieticians, became necessary. 

Today, we can all agree that weight loss requires a specific program aligned with your personal requirements, considering your overall health status and the way your body functions or operates. For you to lose weight successfully, you have to be patient and focused on your structured diet program with the help of a doctor or a dietician (4). Your diet plan must also consider the style in which you live, work, and play. It does help if you have a motivational environment too! Experts found that those who had social support were able to confront their weight loss challengers much easier (5).

What Are the Factors That Can Influence the Rate of Your Weight Loss? 

Even if you are trying to slim down healthily at a rate of 1 pound per week, experts say that there are factors that can greatly influence the rate of your weight loss: 

1. Current Weight 

In contrast to popular lore, your current weight is the top determinant of your metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn daily; the bigger you are, the higher your metabolism! You burn more calories (6), even at rest! But still, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn daily! 

So, someone who weighs 300 pounds and burns 2,800 calories daily can cut more daily calories to lose weight faster than those who weigh 150 pounds and burns 1,800 calories daily. It is important to know that experts do not recommend cutting calories below 1,200. 

2. Weight Loss History

Have you lost weight in the past? If yes, you are already at a disadvantage! Why? When you lose weight, your metabolic rate drops lower than it should, based on pure body mass. To explain it better, think of two women who both weigh 180 pounds. One of them used to weigh 250, all else being equal. She will burn 25 to 30% fewer calories daily. That makes her efforts to continue losing more weight far more difficult. 

3. Lifestyle 

The more bandwidth you have to make lifestyle changes, the faster you will lose weight. How many changes you make determines how much good results you can get from them. If you are already living a pretty healthy lifestyle, the needle is likely going to move more slowly. However, if you are starting from scratch, you have a lot of room for improvement in your nutrition habits, exercise routines, and other lifestyle factors like stress and sleep, which can greatly impact your weight-loss journey. 

4. Determination 

Many people lose weight more rapidly at the start of their diet. While the degree of changes that you are able to make in the first days and weeks of your weight-loss journey certainly has something to do with it, several others play a role.  

For example, as discussed earlier, while you lose weight, your metabolism goes slower, making future losses much more difficult and sluggish. This drop in results can water your efforts and slow weight loss even more. 

It is important to know too that initial weight loss, most drastic drops in the scale are not due to fat losses; they are water weight! This is most true if you reduce your carb intake. Why? When your body stores carbs in your liver and muscles, water molecules go along with them. So, when you decrease your carb intake, your body uses your reserves of stored carbs, also known as glycogen, and releases water as well.  

5. Hormones 

These chemical messengers instruct cells within your body as to what they should and should not do, and that includes losing weight. High levels of cortisol can stimulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism. This may lead to an increase in appetite and causes cravings for sweets, salty, and fatty foods (7). 

In women, hormonal factors that can affect weight-loss rates are plentiful! Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can impact up to 20% of all women of childbearing age (8). They develop insulin resistance, promoting weight gain. Hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause are another problem. If one goes through menopause without making lifestyle changes, she will surely gain extra fat in the midsection. 

If hormonal issues affect your weight loss journey negatively, talk to a doctor! 

6. Workout Routines 

Aerobic exercises are known to burn more calories and make your heart healthier, but you also need to build some muscles, or at least maintain those that you have while trying to lose weight. When you slim down, some of that weight naturally comes from your muscles. However, when muscle levels decline, so does your metabolism, delaying your future weight-loss results. 

For you to build lean muscles and keep those active metabolically, incorporate strength training at least twice weekly into your routine. 

7. Genes 

The biggest thing that makes a huge difference in how different people lose weight is genetics. There are approximately 20 major genes and 200 or more minor genes that affect fat storage and weight maintenance. 

While genetic testing is possible, simply talking to your family members can give you a lot of insight into what you may have inherited and what to expect. It saves you money too! 

8. Sleeping Habits 

The amount of sleep you get affects your metabolism greatly! People who rest and sleep less than 7 hours per night tend to have a slower metabolic rate. Meanwhile, regardless of how many hours you snooze per night, if that sleep is not deep and relaxing, it can also affect the rate of your weight loss by increasing your cravings. For example, sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder, is consistently associated with weight problems. 

9. Age 

As you get older, it becomes more difficult to lose weight, and when you do, it comes off slower. While hormonal changes play a role, another big problem is sarcopenia or the loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging. 

As mentioned repeatedly, muscle is a large contributor to your daily metabolic rate and losses of lean body mass can slow down your metabolism throughout the years. You can offset this challenge by exercising properly and consuming a diet rich in muscle-building protein. 

What Are the Benefits of Losing Weight Slowly? 

Several benefits align with slow and steady weight loss approaches, and they depend greatly on how you and your body changes during the process. It is very important to follow a balanced diet to make sure that your body stays healthy and strong during the entire journey. Evidence showed that people stay more motivated and hopeful if they do a slower diet approach than the creation of false weight-loss expectations. The advantages of losing weight slowly will allow you to adapt much easier. You should strive for the better by staying within a balanced environment that will allow you to improve not just your physical health, but also your mental and emotional side! 

Here are some of the key benefits related to losing weight slowly and steadily (9): 

1. Easy to Maintain 

Aside from slimming down, maintaining a healthy weight can also be a problem. If you try to lose weight too fast, you are more likely to regain what you have lost. Rapid weight loss will cause your metabolism to slow down after some time, and this will cause slower weight loss later on. 

Several studies have found that rapid weight loss can cause you to burn up to 23% fewer calories daily (10, 11). Two reasons why your metabolism may drop on a very low-calorie diet include muscle loss and a decrease in hormones that regulate your metabolism like thyroid hormone (12, 13). 

On the other hand, a slow and steady pace will ensure that your metabolism will remain on a tip-top shape, and you will still shed off extra pounds consistently. 

2. Safer 

Losing weight slowly will protect you against health problems related to rapid weight loss, which includes dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and even a heart attack. Slow weight loss allows gives your body enough time to cope with the changes you make in diet and lifestyle.  

3. Prevents Muscle Loss 

Doing a strict diet to lose weight rapidly may cause your body to receive inadequate amounts of calories. Without enough calories, your body will use other sources for energy. Muscle cells are your body’s favorite! As a consequence, you will suffer from muscle loss and your body will become less toned, which is often described as “skinny fat.” If you choose to lose weight at a slower pace, you can get leaner and firmer shape! 

4. Better Skin 

Rapid weight loss often causes loosening of your skin. Although the skin is an elastic organ, it demands time to adjust to the decrease in your body size. When you lose too much weight rapidly, you can get loose flaps in the arms, stomach, and other parts of the body. Slow weight loss gives your skin time to contract and fit your smaller body. You will have ordinary looking skin that will not sag or wrinkle! 

5. Healthier Hair 

Another concern with rapidly losing weight is hair loss. When you decrease your food intake, you will be deprived of some important vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that are needed to grow and maintain healthy hair (14, 15). Expect your hair to become more brittle and drier, and you will soon start to lose them with rapid weight loss. 

6. Less Fatigue 

For sure you know that most rapid weight loss diets are low in calories and protein. You also do not get enough iron, vitamin B12, and folate on a very low-calorie diet. This puts you at a greater risk of developing extreme fatigue, tiredness, and anemia (16). You also do not have enough energy to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. If you lose weight slowly, you can perform your daily routines more efficiently.

7. Protects Against Gallstones 

Gallstones are hardened pieces of material that form inside your gallbladder. They are a painful side effect of losing weight rapidly (17, 18, 19). 

Normally, your gallbladder will release digestive juices to break down fatty foods so it can be easily digested. If you do not eat much food, then these juices will not be released. They will sit for a while un your gallbladder and will join together after some time. 

8. Other Benefits 

Losing weight slowly and steadily will protect you against several side effects of a very low-calorie diet, which includes (20, 21):

  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Slow and Healthy Weight Loss Tips You Can Follow

  1. Set Realistic Goals. A good place to start is to tune-up those old practices by setting achievable goals! You can start by keeping a simple diary for a few weeks to track your eating patterns and physical activities. 
  2. Shy Away From Quick Fixes! You should be careful about traps or bad habits that can get in the way of achieving your weight-loss goals, which includes skipping meals or eating on the run, eating and drinking to cope with stress, and consuming foods from convenience stores more often, instead of home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients. You must also forget about diets that ban specific healthy food, promises fast and miraculous results, and lack scientific proofs or are not approved by accredited health professionals.
  3. Eat Regular Healthy Meals. You can eat regular meals, including breakfast! You just have to be mindful of the amount you eat. It should be a balance of all five nutritious food groups to match your energy needs.
  4. Decrease Portion Sizes 
  5. Do Not Overeat
  6. Eat Slowly and Stop When You Are Already Comfortably Full 
  7. Stay Active 
  8. Pre-Plan Your Weekly Menu and Prepare a Shopping List 
  9. Swap Sugary Drinks with Water
  10. Avoid Non-Hunger Nibbling Between Meals or When Watching TV or Movies
  11. Seek Support from Friends and Professionals to Help Reach Your Long-Term Goals

Key Takeaway 

If you really want to lose weight and keep it off, aim to lose at a slow and steady rate of 0.5 to 2 pounds weekly. As supported by many studies, slow and steady weight loss is easier to maintain long-term because it is better for developing healthy eating behaviors and is safer. Rapid weight loss increases your risk of serious side effects like muscle loss, slower metabolism, nutrient deficiencies, gallstones, and more.

Although slow weight loss does not sound as appealing as rapid weight loss, the many tips mentioned above can help you lose weight effectively without compromising safety. Don’t forget about exercising too! 


(1) https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/

(2) http://janetto.bol.ucla.edu/index_files/Mannetal2007AP.pdf

(3) https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/healthy+weight/healthy+weight+loss+tips

(4) https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/131/2/440S/4686765

(5) https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/52/5/800/4651078?redirectedFrom=fulltext
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15855403

(7) https://www.medicinenet.com/can_stress_make_you_fat/views.htm

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872139/

(9) https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/weight-loss/6-advantages-of-slow-weight-loss.html
(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4989512/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23404923

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3812338

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22516719

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12190640

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297139/

(17) https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16350561

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11192327

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278991/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586973

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