Why it doesn't matter how fast you lose weight, as long as you're making progress

Losing weight slowly is just as good as losing weight fast, according to science

Senior man exercising
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Losing weight is hard, and everyone's experience is different. Sometimes, the pounds will drop quickly – especially early on in the process, and you might experience great short-term success. For others, it might be or seem like a much slower process, especially if you're battling mental health issues while trying to lose weight. 

But one study highlights how different weight loss journeys can be, and offers some encouraging news: the overall health benefits are the same however slow, or fast, your weight loss progress feels.

The study, conducted by York University's Faculty of Health, looked at the rate in which participants lost weight and examined the overall health benefits of fast weight loss versus slower progress. 

The researchers examined 11,283 patients' weight loss progress at a publicly-funded clinical weight management program. They found those who lost weight quickly had similar improvements in metabolic health with people who lost weight at a slower pace.  

Jennifer Kuk, associate professor in the Faculty of Health, said: "With the same pound for pound weight loss, there is no difference in terms of health benefits if you lose weight fast or slow.... The results show that we really need to look at interventions that focus on long-term weight management."


(Image credit: Eiliv Sonas Aceron/Unsplash)

Weight loss is, of course, associated with better heart health, lower blood sugar levels and healthier internal organs. The benefit with faster weight loss is, of course, you are able to achieve these benefits a little bit earlier than those those who maintain slower progress. 

However, the study says very fast weight loss is also associated with an increased risk of gallstones. Meanwhile, somebody who loses around one or two pounds per week, the amount recommended by US government health experts, is unlikely to experience this problem, and will eventually receive the same health benefits as the individual who lost weight at a faster pace.

One Iranian study also found people who lost weight slowly had a better body composition – the body's ratio of muscle to fat – than people who lost weight fast. 

The bottom line is, losing weight fast always feels great. But if you're one of the people who struggles to meet their weight loss goals, this science should help you maintain your progress. It doesn't matter how slowly you go – as long as you don't stop. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.