I had a new client start last week.
Under the heat of our 'Goals Session', he demanded to know exactly how long it would take to lose the bulge.
"... so as you can see, it will take 16 weeks, assuming you follow my advice."
"Hmmmmm. Longer than I thought. It all makes sense though. Let's start today!"
Setting the correct expectations from day 1 is extremely important. In doing so, it promotes patience, following the plan and taking it one day at a time.
He saw the plan. Noted the progression. And was sold on the process.
How do you know how long it will take?
The truth of the matter is it depends on a lot of factors.
But, we do know one thing for certain which allow us to have a reasonable guess.
You can sustainably lose fat at around 0.5-1% of your body weight per week.
Although this amount is not set in stone, it is true for most people.
(If you have a lot to lose, it can be higher. Similarly, if you are very light already, it may be less.)
The key term here is 'fat loss'. Not weight loss.
You can lose a lot more weight per week going on any strict diet.
- Go on a tea detox and you'll lose a bunch of weight.
- Go on a zero carb diet and you'll lose a bunch of weight.
- Go on a vegetable juice diet and you'll lose a bunch of weight.
The problem is this 'weight loss' isn't coming from fat. Most of it is water. As soon as your diet ends it will all come back.
There is a maximum amount of fat you can lose per week. From the research (and in-person experience) this is 0.5-1% of your body weight.
Your body is around 70% water so you can rapidly alter your weight with a little manipulation.
In the end, body shape changes come from decreasing fat on your body. It improves your outline, the tone of your muscles and how well your pants fit.
Water weight fluctuates. Fat is the end game.
How did I come up with 16 weeks for my client?
He wanted to be able to see his abs. A straightforward goal if I've ever seen one.
Here's how I mapped it out for him:
To see your abs generally requires a body fat percentage of 12% or lower (20ish for women). In our initial testing, we recorded his body fat as 20%
He had a bit to lose.
At his weight of 90 kilograms, it tells me he has 18kg of fat on his frame. To get to 12% he would need to drop 7.2kg of fat. That's fat, not muscle.
From that information, we can see how his progress will play out.
We give him a mid-range goal of losing 0.75% of his body weight as fat each week.
This means he would lose 7.2kg in just under 11 weeks.
Then, ALWAYS, add on around 50% more time. The 11 weeks is the result of perfect conditions. We all know perfection doesn't happen in real life. It's also a long time to be dieting hard, so we would factor in a diet break to ensure the weight he loses stays lost forever.
In this case, 16 weeks seems reasonable.
It's not what you'd call a 'quick fix'. 16 weeks is a long time to be dieting. It's a long plan to follow. Consistency would be the biggest factor in whether he achieves it or not.
We can never know for certain how long it will take for you to change your body shape. Life happens. We can only have a roundabout guess.
One thing we do know for certain is that you'll get there eventually. With me, that is a promise.