If you’re trying to lose weight, but you are not making progress as quickly as you’d like, it’s tempting to try the latest diet or weight loss craze. In reality, there is no quick win. Losing weight is a gradual process of eating less and moving more.

How long it takes to reach your goal depends on the individual, but the biggest measure of success is whether you can maintain your target weight long-term. Sustainability is an important element in any weight loss journey, no matter what your starting weight is. 

How to lose weight well

To lose weight, you need to consistently burn more calories than you consume each day. You might find it helpful to think of it like this.

Caloric intake — calories burned = calorie balance

Your calorie balance should be a negative figure, if you want to lose weight. You can achieve this by consuming fewer calories or burning more calories. The most effective way of losing body weight is to combine both of these methods.

The recommended daily calorie intake for men and women losing weight is:  

  • 1,900kcal per day for men  
  • 1,400kcal per day for women 

These targets include a 600kcal reduction on the normal daily intake for men and women (2,500 and 2,000 respectively). If you aren’t comfortable with this, the NHS suggests using their BMI calculator to get a personal calorie loss target.

Unrealistic targets and crash dieting can cause unpleasant side effects, but most of all they aren’t sustainable long-term. By losing weight gradually, you increase your chances of maintaining your target weight once you reach it.

Sustainability is the most important element in weight loss, and you can do this by setting an achievable calorie target and adopting a more active lifestyle. 

How long does it take to lose weight?

Medical experts suggest losing between 1 to 3 pounds per week. However, you should expect there to be a difference in rates of weight loss, based on gender, age, and other contributing factors, like sleep deprivation. 

Woman Measuring waistGender
Women have a greater fat-to-muscle ratio, which affects their ability to lose weight. As they burn fewer calories than men when resting (resting metabolic rate), women can expect their weight loss journey to take longer. 

As you get older, your body fat increases, while at the same time your muscle mass decreases. This can make it difficult to lose weight and maintain a loss. 

Sleep deprivation directly influences how much you eat. When you are tired, you are more likely to crave caloric food high in sugar, which makes it harder to lose weight. 

Other contributing factors include medications, medical conditions, family history, genes, and importantly, starting weight. Though a heavier person may appear to lose weight quickly, it is relative to their overall body weight. Therefore, it’s likely that they are losing the same percentage of body fat, as someone losing weight at a slower rate. 

Weight loss plan for a high BMI

Orlistat 120mg available at Post My MedsBMI, or body mass index, is a calculation based on your weight and height that tells you whether you are within a healthy weight range. If your BMI is over 30, then you are in the obese range, and your GP will likely suggest that you start a weight loss program.

The NHS has its own 12-week weight loss plan that combines healthy eating with exercise for maximum benefits. If you have made every effort to lose weight using these methods, your GP may suggest an anti-obesity medication like orlistat.

Orlistat (also sold under the brand name Xenical) aids weight loss by stopping your body absorbing fat. The active ingredients in orlistat prevent the enzymes in your digestive system from absorbing a third of the fat you eat in every meal.

You should continue to eat healthily and exercise regularly to give the medication every chance of success. For it to work, registered dieticians recommend a diet containing at least 30% fat, spread evenly over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Orlistat should only be taken following medical advice from a GP or pharmacist. It’s important that they ensure this medication is suitable for you to take, before you start the treatment. At Post My Meds, we only prescribe orlistat where it is safe to do so. 

Losing weight safely

To lose weight successfully you need to burn more calories than you consume. You can achieve this by moving more and eating less – or a combination of the two – but your daily target must be realistic or you won’t be able to sustain it.

Gradual weight loss is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but not everyone loses weight at the same rate – what’s normal for one person isn’t normal for everyone. If your BMI is over 30 then your GP may recommend supplementing your diet with medication like orlistat, available to buy from pharmacies in-store and online.

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored Jul 27, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed Aug 25, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm