What Is A Reasonable Rate of Change?

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Fat loss is 9/10 times the goal when someone walks in our doors. They come to us because they want to lose as much body fat as they can in the shortest amount of time. This is great because this is what we are known for. But one obstacle we normally run into with people right away on any diet is that they have unrealistic expectations of how much fat they can lose in a given time. Today we are going to talk about what kind of change is realistic in a fat loss program, in both the a short period of time and long term.


Starting off we get so many unrealistic numbers. 40 lbs in 12 weeks, 100 lbs in a year, 20 lbs in a month, and so forth. Are these numbers possibly? Yes. Are they realistic? No. I’ve seen each of these numbers actually happen to someone I have coached. But I have also seen each one of those people eventually put all that weight back on. A note with all those numbers above, that is all weight loss. But when we discuss things at GCP we talk about fat loss, and those aren’t always the same numbers.The bigger the person is, they most likely will lose more weight faster in the beginning. This is to do with a number of things. They have more water weight to lose, more fecal matter to eliminate, more glycogen to deplete, and they can naturally create a larger calorie deficit. Their body might naturally burn 2500 calories because of size, they start to eat say 1800 calories and they’ll just have a larger weight loss.


We do have some basic guidelines for fat loss rates. Remember, we are talking about fat here, not weight. So someone might lose 8 lbs in a month right away, but 5 of those pounds will probably be water and only 3 would be body fat. When it comes to body fat percent, 1% a month is what is considered a reasonable rate of change per month. So if you are female and have 30% body fat and you want to get to the recommended ideal health body fat of 23%, this would take you about 7 months to achieve. Another example would be a male that is 40% body fat and wants to get to the healthy range of 15%. This would take the male 25 months (just over 2 years) to reasonably achieve. This is a much more realistic time frame and better goal to chase as it shows true progress that the weight scale can’t show.So let’s look at an example.

  • Jan- 4 lbs
  • Feb- 4 lbs
  • Mar- 3 lb
  • Apr- 3 lbs
  • May- 3 lbs
  • June- 2 lb
  • July- 5 lbs
  • Aug- 3 lbs
  • Sept- 3 lbs
  • Oct- 4 lbs
  • Nov- 3 lb
  • Dec- 2 lbs

Main Point and Action Steps

  • You need to give your body time for the fat to come off. It doesn’t usually come on super quick, so you have to give it a decent amount of time to come off.
  • Use the 1% per month rule, subtract your current body fat from the goal body fat you want to achieve and that’s a rough estimate of how long it should take you to achieve. Now, this is predicated on the fact that you consistently follow through with your basic habits of eating clean, drinking water consistently, strength training 3x/wk, walking daily, and sleeping well.
  • You can lose body fat faster, but your consistency and level of follow-through have to be even greater. Also, the reduction in calories that is needed isn’t usually worth the backfire that happens 6 months down the road if you can’t sustain that calorie range, so be smart about how long you want to give yourself to change.

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