The Different Stages of Losing Weight

Woman Awaking

If you're like most people, you may be eager to know when you can expect to see results after embarking on your weight loss journey. At the same time, you may also want to know whether the weight you're losing is coming from fat rather than muscle or water. This article reviews the two key stages of weight loss.

Stage 1 - Rapid weight loss

The first stage of weight loss is when you tend to lose the most weight and begin to notice changes in your appearance and how your clothes fit. It usually happens within the first 4 - 6 weeks.

Most of the weight loss in this stage comes from carb stores, protein, and water - and to a lesser extent, body fat.

Weight loss tends to occur more rapidly in people who follow a low carb diet than those who follow a low fat diet, as they deplete their body's carb stores faster, along with water. However, in the long term, the research remains mixed as to whether a low carb or keto diet offers an advantage for overall weight loss over a low fat diet.

Factors other than diet, including your age, sex, starting weight, and physical activity level, can also influence your rate of weight loss.

For example, men are more likely to lose weight quicker than women, and older adults may lose weight quicker than their younger counterparts, although some of this weight loss may be muscle.

At the same time, you're likely to lose weight quicker if you have a higher starting weight and exercise more frequently.

Stage 2 - Slow weight loss

Weight loss in the second stage occurs at a much slower rate, but it primarily comes from body fat, generally after 6 weeks and beyond.

At times, you may experience a weight loss plateau during which you experience little to no weight loss. Weight loss plateaus can occur due to metabolic adaptations that decrease your metabolism and the number of calories you burn while exercising.

However, weight loss plateaus more commonly occur because many diets are overly restrictive and hard to follow, causing people to deviate from them. As such, it's important to follow a dietary pattern that fits your lifestyle and preferences so that you can stick with it long term.

In either case, you'll likely need to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle over time to reach your goal.


You tend to lose the most weight and notice the most significant physical changes during the first stage of weight loss.

During the second stage of weight loss, you lose weight at a slower pace, but the weight you lose comes primarily from fat rather than stored carbs, protein, and water.

The most important weight loss factors include adopting sustainable and healthy dietary and exercise habits you enjoy doing in the long term.