How Does Weight Loss Affect Your Body? These Are the Effects of Losing Weight
Dietitians explain what happens when you shed those pounds.
Finally seeing that number on the scale budge is a serious accomplishment. With that comes plenty of other feel-good moments, like your pants fitting better and the ability to walk up the stairs at work in record time. But while you can see you're making progress in your weight loss goals, you might be wondering what exactly is going on inside your body. Here's everything that happens during the process—and the important lessons you can learn along the way, as explained by dietitians.
You'll start by losing water weight.
Usually, the initial pounds you shed in your weight loss journey aren't fat—they're fluid. And there are a few reasons why water weight is typically the first thing to go.
"During the beginning part of weight loss—because you're taking in less energy—your body will utilize some of the glycogen, a type of carbohydrate, stored in the body. Glycogen consists partly of water, and so when it's utilized, you'll lose some weight that's 'water weight,'" says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. "You may also be changing your eating habits and eating less sodium-rich foods, for example. This could cause less bloat, which could also help you lose water weight."
The pounds will come off slowly.
When people make it their mission to lose weight, they usually try out a crazy fad diet that promises to help them reach that scale victory in record time. But, as you might've guessed, that approach is really bad for your health. If you're losing weight how you should be, it will come off slowly. And there is also a better chance of it staying off that way.
"Safe weight loss means losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week," Gorin says. "A lot of fad diets offer a greater weight loss, but I caution my clients to think about their end game. If you lose weight slowly and develop lasting, sustainable habits along the way, you have a much greater chance of keeping the weight off than if you were to lose it very quickly but don't adopt many new healthy habits in the process."
You'll be a little hungrier than normal.
One downside to losing weight is that you might be hungrier than usual until you figure out the best ways to fuel your body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, in order to lose weight, you typically have to eat fewer calories—and/or burn more calories—than what you need. If you're not doing that the ideal way—as in eating a healthy, well-rounded diet—you're going to be left hungry, grumpy, and unsatisfied. That's because "decreased food intake equals increased ghrelin (a hormone that makes you hungry) and decreased leptin (a hormone that makes you feel full)," according to Miami-based registered dietitian Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
If you're on an unhealthy diet and trying to lose weight too quickly, you might set yourself back both physically and mentally. "It causes rampant hunger and therefore food obsession, anxiety around food, overthinking meals and foods, and guilt, anxiety, and shame surrounding food," she says. That's why it's so important to lose weight the right way.
You'll probably lose some muscle.
Ditching only fat and keeping all your hard-earned muscle would be nice, but that's not the way weight loss works. "You'll lose fat but also some muscle mass," Gorin says. "This is completely normal and all the more reason why it's important to adopt a good exercise routine that includes weight-bearing exercise during your weight loss journey." Create a gym routine so you continue to gain muscle as you're losing fat.
Your health will improve.
Losing weight is hard work, but it's worth it. Not just because you'll feel better in your clothes, but also because it can majorly benefit your health and general well-being.
"Even as you're losing weight to reach your goal, your health is going to benefit. So if you lose even five percent of your body weight, that's a great help to your health," says Gorin. "By doing this—say, you weigh 220 pounds and you lose 11 pounds—you're going to reduce your risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and you may also improve your blood pressure and triglyceride levels."
You'll sleep like a baby.
It's not just your health that can improve as you lose weight. It's the quality of the sleep you're getting every night. "You may sleep better and even reduce symptoms of sleep apnea, if you have the condition," Gorin says. With that being said, you might not get tons of sleep every night. That's because Gorin says your sex drive could also improve.
You may hit a plateau.
At first, the pounds were melting off week by week. It was incredible, right? But now you're left with extra weight that still doesn't seem to budge. If you experience a plateau in your weight loss, don't get down on yourself—it's a common occurrence.
"Plateaus often happen with weight loss, and they're perfectly normal. Plateaus may occur due to a decrease in your body's resting energy expenditure (REE). This simply means that when you're taking in fewer calories, your REE decreases—as does your body's need for energy," says Gorin. "A plateau may mean that you don't need to lose more weight, or it may simply be a break in weight loss for your body. Continue your healthy habits—eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep—through this period."
The pounds might creep back on.
If you're not dieting the healthy way, watch out—that could come back to bite you later. "A restricted eating style is actually associated with weight gain over time," Moreno says. That's because decreasing your food intake can lead to an increase in energy storage, a decrease in energy expenditure, a decreased thyroid hormone, and an increase in cortisol, she notes—all things that can negatively affect your weight loss goals. But when you're creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle you love and can stick with long-term, you'll only be hitting home runs. And to find out what weight loss methods to avoid, check out the 40 Weight Loss Tips That Are Actually Terrible Advice.
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