The 5 Key Stages of Noticing Weight Loss

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Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: May 16, 2022

A lot of people search for ways to manage their weight from time to time. In most cases, they find famous diets or weight loss programs to follow and try.

But at times, after days and perhaps even several weeks or months, little or no changes are noticed. And we can all agree that this can get confusing and frustrating. Weight may be lost, but the body also feels weak and there is a lot of sagging in the skin.

So this article will guide you through a step-by-step tour of weight loss stages healthily and properly.

But first, let’s understand the basics.

What Do the Stages of Weight Loss Mean? Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss

a personal trainer coaching his client by stretching on a park bench

At the beginning of your journey, you need to understand a few fundamental things.

First, you should know that with any proper and healthy diet, the effect must slowly appear on the body, and this applies to both weight loss and gain. So in case you’re dieting to shed off some kilos, you need to know that this is a procedure that occurs in several stages and not just overnight as you’d expect.

And this is what you’ll learn more about in this guide.

You must also know the differences between weight loss and fat loss. They’re not the same! It’s crucial to understand the difference so that in the event the numbers on your scale stall or when you see huge fluctuations day-to-day, you’ll know that that’s normal weight loss.

Weight loss means that you’re noticing changes in the amount of water that your body retains, waste you have yet to evacuate, and how much you ate the previous day.

Although weight loss is usual while dieting, your ultimate goal needs to be to lose fat and build or maintain muscle.

To promote fat loss rather than just weight loss, you need to eat lots of protein while ensuring a calorie deficit in your diet and intensifying your physical activity levels. And to ensure that you’re losing fat, you must also invest in a scale that can measure your body fat content.

Now, let’s learn about these weight loss stages.

Stages of Weight Loss

a woman jogging in black pants and grey sweatshirt

As previously stated, you’re likely to come across several different phases and stages during your weight loss journey. Although there’s a normal pattern of weight loss stages, you may also realize that you go through some of these stages multiple times and may skip other stages.

As you get started with your weight loss journey, below are the key physical stages of losing weight that you should expect to undergo.

1. The Honeymoon/ Glycogen Depletion

In the beginning, it is all about optimism. And that’s why we will refer to this stage as “The Honeymoon Phase”. There is no denying that your weight loss plan is shining bright and new. It even seems attainable and not too restrictive. You are excited to get started and have lots of motivation.

In the early stages of this honeymoon phase, you will be cooking at home, making healthy choices, preparing your meals, and regularly visiting the gym. You’re fully committed!

RELATED READING: Does it Take 4 Weeks to Notice Weight Loss?

And the exciting part is that you’re likely even noticing some movement on your scale. It is a feel-good phase and a good place to begin your weight loss journey. Sadly, it doesn’t last forever. You soon start to experience life and reality.

  • Fast Weight Loss

As aforementioned, during this first phase of weight loss, you will realize that it appears as if the pounds are simply falling off. Within the first 4-6 weeks of your weight loss journey, you will shed weight and you’ll shed it off quickly.

That said, you must remember that during this first stage of your weight loss journey, much of the weight that you’re losing is coming from water. When you restrict your calorie intake by dieting, your body starts to burn off its excess glycogen stores. These glycogen stores are usually stored in the liver and muscles.

Although this will give you a smaller number on your scale, you are not significantly losing fat during this stage. After your body has consumed its excess glycogen stores, it will start to burn off fat. This process is commonly referred to as ketosis.

Several factors play a fundamental role in your overall weight loss. These may include the composition of your diet, starting weight, the number of calories you consume, your sex, age, and physical activity.

But you shouldn’t allow this to discourage you. Just watch as those numbers go down and then use that as fuel to push on and motivate yourself to the next weight loss stages.

2. Reality Check — Slower Weight Loss

The Reality sets in at this stage! If you have already tried out a new diet, then you know how exactly painful the reality check is.

Perhaps you’re doing well preparing and planning your meals, keeping off the snack machine and fast food, and then real life comes in. Your kid has an emergency or you wake up late and your meal plan becomes messed up. You might even find yourself out and about, tired and hungry. So you drive-thru a cool restaurant for a convenient meal.

Quite frankly, this one small factor can derail your whole mental approach to your new diet. It may take several days or more to get back on board i.e. if you ever do. Your weight loss goals can slow down because of real-life and this mental blockage. Losing weight gradually is a normal and natural phase in the weight loss stages.

  • Slow Weight Loss

In this stage of slower weight loss, you might realize that you’re losing weight more gradually and you might get to a weight loss plateau. This is where you’re continuing to consume a restricted-calorie diet but are not losing any weight at all.

While this is normal, it can also be very frustrating. Undoubtedly, this phase of your fat loss experience can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Apart from your motivation waning, everything seems a little bit difficult.

Weight loss plateaus may be caused by highly restrictive diets that seem too difficult to follow. It can also be caused by metabolic adaptations, whereby your body adjusts to the lower calorie intake.

So, when choosing a diet, you must find something that matches your lifestyle and will be a permanent change that you’ll stick with.

The changes on the scale may come more slowly in this phase, but it’s a critical stage. During this gradual weight loss phase, you’ll be losing fat — and this is the primary goal!

There’s one factor to consider though: hunger. In this stage, you might feel more hungry, a lot more often. Go for high-protein meals and snacks to help you feel full much longer.

3. The Plateau

The third stage of weight loss comes in when you have been limiting your calories for months. You must have already undergone an emotional roller coaster with many setbacks. This phase of your weight loss journey is all about not getting discouraged and finding balance.

During this stage, you may realize that you’re more consistent with working out and picking healthy meal options. You’re always sticking to your meal plan, as well as controlling your portions. You have created a strong foundation of healthy habits. What’s more, you’ve noticed that the weight loss procedure will take much time and effort.

And although building healthy habits is challenging, this stage is all about motivation and sustainability. Following a routine can become monotonous, so you must always find methods of keeping yourself interested. Remember, your weight loss journey is a long-term process. So finding small and healthy rewards along the road may prevent you from becoming discouraged and quitting.

4. True Lifestyle Change/ Metabolic Recovery

During this weight loss stage, you’ll realize that your habits have been so deeply ingrained that you don’t think about them anymore. You are always looking forward to your meal planning session, you have cravings for vegetable-heavy and protein-rich meals, and your friends don’t question your order anymore whenever you go out to eat.

And this is it!

You’re not simply dieting, you’ve created a true and sustainable change to your eating habits and overall lifestyle. This is a great phase to be in. You understand your cravings and exactly how to satisfy them without overindulging. Your diet feels sustainable and natural.

It can be a very satisfying phase of your weight loss journey, but it won’t last forever. Quite frankly, you might go back and forth between various stages. And that’s normal! Remember that your ultimate goal is to create habits for true and permanent fat loss. And this leads us to the final physical stage.

5. Maintaining Weight Loss

With most diets out there, you’re influenced to deprive yourself to shed weight quickly. The main issue with these kinds of diets is that you are more likely to regain the weight you have lost.

Weight loss maintenance should be equally as important as losing weight. Sustaining weight loss is not just about eating differently, it is also about changing your habits.

The following tips can help you.

Weight Loss Maintenance Strategies

a woman showing off her weight loss

Dieting for sustainable weight loss is backed by research. One review of 29 studies discovered that people who lost weight via dieting regained over 50% of the weight they had lost in two years, and by five years, they had regained over 80% of the weight they lost.

Nonetheless, these statistics shouldn’t stop you from following your diet plan and losing weight to improve your self-image and general health. Besides, an effective diet allows you to develop sustainable healthy habits.

The following dietary and lifestyle tips might help you prevent weight gain.

  • Keep healthy food around.

It’s safe to say that the food you see around is the food you’re most probably going to eat. Purchase healthy food options like fruit and veggies and keep them on a visible spot, like on the counter in a bowl, and always stored in the fridge. You can also prepare your veggies and fruits so you get grab-and-go snacks.

  • Boost protein intake

Primarily, protein assists to make you feel full longer. If you prioritize eating protein-rich meals, you will get full and remain full. It helps you to fight the munchies and avoid finding yourself reaching for a snack.

  • Avoid processed foods

They’re significantly higher in calories, sugar, and fat. By keeping off processed foods, you’ll automatically go for whole, healthy foods.

  • Track & self-monitor

Tracking your exercise and keeping a food journal may assist you to self-monitor and improve your self-awareness of habits and how they influence your weight loss.

  • Sleep!

Most of us tend to forget that sleep is an essential element of health. When you stay up late or lack sleep, your body craves fast energy sources, and these include sugars and carbohydrates. By getting enough sleep, your body will be well-rested and the cravings will be reduced.

  • Formulate a stress management plan

In general, stress is a crucial factor in weight loss and maintenance. Whenever we feel stressed, most of us reach for comfort foods and snacks, which are highly processed or loaded with fat and carbs. Your stress management plan needs to incorporate healthy ways to manage your stress.

  • Find movement that you like

Physical activity matters when it comes to weight loss maintenance. If you’ve found movement and workout that makes you happy, that’ll make it easy for you. Having a variety of such activities may also help.

You could visit the gym, have solo dance parties, take yoga classes, and take walks within your neighborhood. With different options, you could move daily and not become bored.


You tend to shed off the most weight and recognize the most physical changes during the first weight-loss stage.

During the second weight-loss stage, you lose weight at a much slower pace. However, the weight you lose comes predominantly from fat instead of water, stored carbs, and protein.

The most important factors to remember during your weight loss journey include adopting healthy dietary and workout habits that you like doing in the long term.