Why It Takes So Long to Lose Weight

| December 27, 2012 | 3 Comments More
A frustrated man with a scale

Losing weight is hard. But perhaps it wouldn’t be so hard if it didn’t take so long. Did you ever wonder why it takes so long to lose weight?

I mean, losing weight takes literally forever! After all the hard work I put into it during the week, I can hardly see any change.

I’m sure most people quit their diets and are not able to lose weight because they experience the same thing.

Losing weight just takes very long and it’s really demotivating.

After thinking about it for a while and reading some relevant literature, I came up with four reasons why I think it takes such a long time to lose weight.

Losing Weight Is Simply Not Fun

First, I realized that losing weight doesn’t really take long, it just feels long. If you set up your diet correctly and don’t cut too many calories, your body will burn fat at the very same rate as it gains it. In other words, it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound of fat, and it takes the same 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat.

However, you don’t really pay attention to gaining weight because it feels good. When you are eating delicious, tasty foods, your body is experiencing immense pleasure.

In fact, I remember I read somewhere that scientists have conducted a research in which they tried to determine what gives us more pleasure: having sex or eating food.

Can you guess what results they came up with? It turn out that the parts of the brain responsible for pleasure showed much greater activity on fMRI scanner during eating food! Eating gives us the most pleasure.

Now, compare the feeling of pleasure you experience while eating food to the feeling of pain you experience while losing weight. Not only you are constantly feeling hungry and deprived but you are always exhausted from exercise.

No wonder every minute while losing weight seems like an hour, and every hour seems like an eternity. Losing weight just isn’t as much fun as gaining weight is.

Human Body Is Very Energy Efficient

Hunger and starvation used to be a normal part of human evolution. Our ancestors were trying to survive for millions of years in the ancient world, and guess what the major cause of death was back then? Starvation.

Food was scarce for the majority of human existence, and it wasn’t until a couple hundred years ago that we were able to create more food than what we need.

So what was the evolutionary result of millions of years of starvation? Energy efficiency and ability to store fat. Just think about it. It only takes 2,000 calories for an average person to function normally during the day. Two thousand calories is not a lot of food!

A McDonald’s Big Mac alone (which isn’t that big, by the way) contains some whooping 550 calories. In comparison, it will take an average person an entire hour of running in order to burn the same 550 calories. That’s some amazing energy efficiency, don’t you think?

You will need to burn 3,500 calories in order to lose just one pound of fat, and many people who try to lose weight will often have 40, 80, or even more pounds to burn.

If an average person burns about 2 pounds of fat per week, you can calculate how many weeks it will take for someone who is heavily overweight to burn all that weight. It just takes A LOT of time.

And that’s if we assume that everyone is following a perfect dieting path. Most people don’t. Many people will have some days when they eat more than what they had planned, which will make it even longer for them to lose weight.

It Takes Time to Burn the Internal Fat

While most of the fat in the body is stored as a layer below the skin, a lot of it is also stored around the internal organs.

An Image of Fat Tissue Under MRI Scan

Fat Tissue Under MRI Scan

That is another reason while it seems to take so long until the fat begins to visually disappear.

The picture on the left shows an overweight woman under MRI scan, and all that white stuff inside of her body is fat tissue.

Notice how much fat is stored around the lungs, kidneys and even the heart.

While it doesn’t seem like a lot, all that fat around her internal organs can weigh tens of pounds.

When the body burns fat, part of it is being the internal fat. That explains why it seems like the fat is being burned so slowly.

You could be burning pounds of internal fat and see no change on the outside. I suspect that some people’s bodies will burn the internal fat first and only then start burning the subcutaneous fat below the skin.

But even if your body burns both the internal and subcutaneous fat at the same time, it will still seem like a very slow and never-ending process. There is simply way too much fat inside our bodies that we cannot see.

People Focus Too Much on Spot Reduction

Many people who try to lose weight will focus on specific body parts. For example, men will often look at their belly trying to notice any visual change. Women will often look at their thighs and hips. However, there is no such thing as spot reduction.

When the body burns fat, it takes it gradually from different body parts at the same time. So some of it will come from the belly, some will come from the thighs and yet some of it can come from the face or arms.

The sequence in which our bodies burn fat is genetically determined and unique to each individual. But it will never be just from one body part.

That is why when losing weight, you should never focus on specific body parts trying to see the results of your weight loss. Because the fat is being burned equally all over the body, you just won’t be able to see any visual change at any specific body area.

Your Turn:

Do you have anything else to add to the four reasons I have given above? Why do you think it takes sooo long to lose weight? Do you know of any way to make the weight loss process more enjoyable? Make sure to share with us your thoughts and experience.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tammie Grey says:

    Yep, losing weight is not fun because you have to exert big efforts. You have to avoid eating this and that.. must do tiring workouts, etc.. Nevertheless, the results will be fun.. and that is weight loss :)

  2. Adam says:

    Hi Yevgeniy,
    Great article explaining a lot of puzzles of healthy weight loss. I especially like the energy efficiency part.
    However, I believe there is a lot of fun while losing weight :-). There is a lot of weekly fun when you weigh yourself and see the result.
    I think the keywords are motivation and goal.
    Motivation is actually much more important than the way you choose to lose weight. You can TRY to diet or run every morning but if you didn’t DECIDE why you want to “suffer” so much day after day, it’s only TRYING.
    I lost over 40 lbs (42 exactly), starting at 204 lbs 8 years ago because I agreed that it’ll take time, pain and effort. It was a great success to transform myself from a Yogi bear, I’m 5’4″ toll, to a pretty good looking human being ;). It took 6 months but I never doubted my goal. The prize is great! All the time until today :)
    -Best regards!

    • Yevgeniy says:

      Hi Adam,
      thanks for your great comment. I completely agree with everything you said. Motivation is the name of the game and it’s actually the subject of my next Weight Loss Case Study update which I’m currently writing. The problem is that not everyone feels motivated while losing weight. It is definitely a big problem for me at the moment. How motivated you feel will depend on your specific situation and circumstances. But yes, it definitely makes it easier if you focus on your weight loss progress rather than pain and discomfort.
      Congrats on your amazing weight loss success. Losing 42lbs is a great accomplishment. Thanks for sharing :-)

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