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The 4 stages of weight loss

by Ezra 6 minutes read

Last updated: 18 Jan, 2023

The weight loss journey is very rarely an easy one. Progress is never linear, and it can take months to see desired results. Understanding the different stages of weight loss is key for a successful journey.

Before you begin on your journey to lose weight, it is important to be aware that weight loss occurs in 4 different stages. The natural pattern of your weight loss journey will include both rapid and slow weight loss. Understanding the stages of weight loss will help you to better understand your body and reduce unrealistic expectations and frustration.

There are varying factors which can influence an individual’s weight loss journey, including: starting weight, number of calories you are used to eating, sex, genetics, medications, how physically active you are, and age. Remember that no one journey is the same, and some people may skip certain stages while others repeat the same stage multiple times.

Fat loss vs weight loss

Fat loss and weight loss are commonly thought to be the same process, but there are key differences between the two.

Fat loss is the weight lost from fat specifically, while weight loss is the overall decrease in body weight that is stored protein, carbs, fat, muscle, and water. Fat loss is weight loss, but weight loss is not necessarily fat loss.

To ensure you are losing only fat, you will need to reduce your calorie intake, consume substantial amounts of protein in your diet, and increase your physical activity. Another way to check fat loss is by investing in a scale that measures body fat content.

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Stage 1 - Rapid weight loss

In the first few weeks of your weight loss journey, especially if you are overweight, it is common to see sudden, rapid weight loss. Due to this, the first stage is otherwise known as the ‘honeymoon stage’ because many people will feel optimistic and motivated by the quick results they are seeing. This stage normally lasts for around 4-6 weeks.

Despite the appearance of fat loss, most initial weight loss is from stored water, carbohydrates, and protein. This is because when you first begin to restrict your calorie intake, your body will start burning the excess glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. It is only once these glycogen stores are burned that the process of ketosis, or fat burning, will begin.

Stage 2 - Slow weight loss

After the initial rapid weight loss, it is natural for weight loss to become slower and more gradual at around the 6 weeks mark. Fewer calories are being burnt, and there is less fat to be lost.

However, this sudden change can be unmotivating and dissatisfying to many. This slower weight loss may cause some people to revert back to old, unhealthy eating patterns as they find it hard to adjust to this new stage. Stay strong and keep going!

Stage 3 - Weight loss plateaus

The third physical stage in the weight loss process involves an experience of weight loss plateau. In order to preserve energy, your body slows your metabolism down which leads to a reduction in fat loss. Little to no weight is being lost at this stage.

Do not forget that a diet that is too restrictive can cause people to regularly deviate from their routine, so it is necessary for you to find a dietary and exercise routine that you are able to stick with.

Stage 4 - Long term weight maintenance

Over time, once you have adopted healthy, sustainable lifestyle habits and no longer are in a calorie deficit, your metabolism will regulate itself. To maintain this healthy weight, and ensure that you do not regain all the weight you have just lost, it’s important to continue with these new habits for the long-term.

Remember: Even if the scale appears to increase at this stage, this does not necessarily mean you have gained body mass!

Tips to help you maintain a healthy weight

Prioritise getting 8 hours of sleep every night and reduce stress factors

By prioritising a healthy sleep schedule, long term weight maintenance is more achievable. The hormones that control fullness and hunger, leptin and ghrelin, are affected when we sleep. Without enough quality sleep, the hormones become imbalanced and the likelihood of engaging in unhelpful behaviours increases. Being tired also makes you less active, and a reduction in physical activity may result in weight gain.

Getting enough sleep will also help to reduce the amount of stress you feel, alongside a good support system and regular exercise. Being able to cope with life's challenges is key to being able to form long-term, healthy habits.

Eat wholefoods rather than processed foods

Healthy foods, like wholefoods, will keep you feeling fuller for longer unlike processed foods.

As part of a healthy, balanced diet, you need to ensure that you are eating enough protein and fibre. Protein reduces appetite and also promotes a feeling of fullness.

Find exercises that you enjoy

Working out shouldn’t feel like a chore, so you need to find exercises that you genuinely enjoy.

It is also important to include strength training into your exercise regime, as it is beneficial for weight loss. Strength training will counteract any muscle losses from your initial weight loss, and contribute further to fat loss whilst building muscle strength and size.

Tabata training and calisthenics are great forms of exercise to engage in as they burn fat and can both be done without gym equipment.

Drink water regularly

Drinking water regularly has been proven to slightly increase your metabolism, and leaves you feeling full.

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