What to Expect When Joining a Weight Loss Program

Many choose to take on a weight loss journey for various reasons. For some, it's to lose those last few stubborn pounds. For others, it's adopting a healthier lifestyle overall and preventing serious health conditions. If you have never participated in a weight loss program, some side effects may come as a shock. Read on to learn what to expect.

Key takeaways:
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    At the beginning of your weight loss journey, you may find it fairly easy to lose the initial weight.
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    You will most likely hit a plateau at some point, and it will take some trial and error to figure out what does and doesn't work.
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    Factors like the amount of protein you eat and your exercise intensity and/or frequency can all have positive effects on weight loss plateaus.

Things to know before you start

Before you begin a weight loss program, there are several essential aspects to be aware of. One of the biggest aspects of a weight loss program is changing your diet. Even those who eat a moderately healthy diet still make changes to their daily consumption habits. For instance, eating smaller but more frequent meals is a popular tactic.

While there are mixed results on whether eating meals more frequently boosts the metabolism, it can help aid in weight loss by satisfying the appetite and stabilizing blood sugar levels. The American Heart Association found that consuming foods more frequently leads to a potentially healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.

It's also important to remember only to eat when you're hungry. Eating has become not only a nutritional source of ingredients but a habit you pick up when you're bored, stressed, or sad. Emotions cause 75% of overeating, therefore often leading to weight gain. Try drinking a glass of water, finding an activity to participate in, and thinking about whether you're hungry before reaching for a snack.

If you're used to a diet comprised of fast food, processed foods, and sweets, switching to a primarily healthy diet will shock your body. Switching from these foods to a cruciferous, fibrous diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean proteins takes time (both mentally and physically) to get used to. Your body needs to learn how to process and digest these unfamiliar foods, but sticking to them (especially those high in fiber) will keep your digestive system running properly.

What to expect during the program

After you prepare for the obvious changes to your new lifestyle, there are a few different stages you will experience during your weight loss program. Whether you're looking to join Weight Watchers, Noom, the Keto Diet, or just eating healthier in general, you will experience these stages throughout your journey.

Rapid weight loss

In the first few weeks of your weight loss program, it's normal to see a rapid decrease in the number on the scale. This is partly attributed to the initial decrease in calories you're consuming. When you decrease your calorie intake, your body gets its needed energy by releasing glycogen, a carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver. When glycogen is burned for energy, it releases water, resulting in you losing that initial water weight everyone tells you about. In addition to water loss, your initial weight loss comes from excess protein and carbs previously stored in the body.

Several factors will play into how much weight you will lose, including your sex, age, starting weight, and physical activity level. It's also important to note that those heavier in weight will lose weight easier than those lighter in weight because the heavier you are, the more calories you will burn. This is because calories are a measure of energy; therefore, the heavier you are, the more energy you expend to move, burning more calories.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • You may gain weight. This is perfectly normal, as it can be due to water retention or muscle mass;
  • You will have good days and bad days. Don't beat yourself up over one cheat meal. It's normal to enjoy all foods in moderation and then continue with your weight loss journey;
  • Your energy levels will fluctuate. Your body and mind will be tired from the adjustments at first, but once you detox from all the toxic foods, increase your water intake, and start working out, you will have a newfound energy to do things you never could do before.

Weight loss slows/plateaus

While everyone's journey will differ, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that plateaus in weight loss typically happen around the 6-month mark. This occurs due to the muscle loss that comes hand-in-hand with fat loss during the process. Your muscle plays a significant role in the rate at which you burn calories, and when it decreases due to muscle mass loss, it also slows your metabolism rate. This is why it's crucial to not just participate in a cardio activity but also add weight training a few times per week. Weight training builds muscle, but even after your session is over, your metabolism will continue to work to burn calories over the next several hours.

If you find yourself coming across a plateau, consider reassessing your habits. First, take a look at your food log to see if you can cut calories or, better yet, increase the frequency (or intensity) of your physical activity. Muscle maintenance isn't only crucial for your metabolism, but it can also help maintain a healthy blood sugar level and control inflammation.

While no one said a weight loss program was easy, it has its benefits. Losing weight lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Everyone is different and, therefore, will have different experiences throughout their weight loss program, but it's essential to follow a program that's right for you. If you have diabetes, be careful going on a no-carb or low-carb diet, which can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. It's always a good idea to consult with your doctor before joining a new weight loss program so they can keep an eye on restrictions or other health conditions.

Best weight-loss diets of 2022:

  1. Weight Watchers;
  2. Mayo Clinic Diet;
  3. Jenny Craig;
  4. Noom;
  5. Nutrisystem;
  6. Atkins Diet;
  7. Optavia.
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