How Long It Takes Other People to Notice Your Weight Loss

I’m starting to learn more about women’s struggles with weight loss and I’ve found a question that comes up repeatedly: when will other people notice my weight loss?

Unfortunately, the answers provided by academia and mainsteam media are impossible to understand.

There is one study covering the topic. It surveys both genders and quotes confusing results like this: “perceivers recognized differences as small as 1.33 kg/m2, changes of roughly twice that size were necessary to alter attractiveness.”

I pity anyone trying to understand what that means.

The articles on “authority” media sites are vague and covered with ads & videos that makes reading them unbearable. The Today Show website, for example, holds the top rated position on Google for the phrase “notice my weight loss” and here’s a paraphrasing of what they said on the topic: “a woman of average height would need to lose eight pounds to be noticed.”

Umm. Okay, but what if a woman is not 5’4” exactly?

LiveStrong ranks #2 on Google for this question. They must have something more comprehensive to say, right? Nope. The closest they get to a relevant answer: “A 10-pound loss on someone who has hundreds of pounds to lose will not be as noticeable as it is on a 120-pound person.”

Gee, thanks.

I was surprised that there was not a better answer online, so I’ve created one.

The research

Forums with women talking about online weight loss had the best information since it was real women sharing their real experiences (rather than theoretical studies).

The problem was that this data was scattered all about the web. You had to hunt to find it. So I hunted.

After going through 10 years of archives and reading over 1,000 posts across 5 different forums, I found 98 instances where women had shared their height and weight as well as how many pounds they lost before someone noticed. Statisticians will balk at that base size, but I felt comfortable trying to make some basic conclusions from the data. I consolidated the data for these 98 women into a spreadsheet (like the nerd I am!) and looked for trends.

I found that across 5 different weight brackets, women generally agreed on how many pounds they lost before others started noticing. I took my findings and created the simple chart in the next section.

The answer

Are you a woman who’s curious about how many pounds you need to lose before others will notice? Here’s the answer:

Weight Lose This Much To Get Noticed
< 140 5 – 10 pounds
141 – 169 10 – 15 pounds
170 – 209 20 – 25 pounds
210 – 249 25 – 30 pounds
250+ 25 – 35 pounds

Of note, at weights lower than 110 it may take only a few pounds for people to notice but I didn’t have a large enough base size of women under 110 to feel comfortable including it in my chart.

Some anecdotes

The table above isn’t altogether surprising, but I am pleased to present it in the most clear and comprehensive format on the web. Here are a few more things I learned while researching this question:

1 – Frequency of seeing someone matters. Your hairdresser might notice before your co-workers. The reason? Your hairdresser sees your weight loss all at once so it’s more noticeable, whereas your co-workers experience it incrementally. The frog in hot water analogy applies.

2 – Non-scale victories can help when no one is noticing. Take measurements and progress pics for additional positive reinforcement and validation.

3 – Your husband or mother will be first to notice. Your husband has the advantage of frequently touching your body so that helps. You mom must have your body image imprinted in her brain as some sort of evolutionary thing.

4 – Usually a few people notice early, then several pounds later, there’s a tipping point where a ton of people notice and offer compliments. So keep going!

5 – If you wear ill-fitting clothes that conceal your figure, it’ll take longer for people to notice. Consider having your clothes tailored if you’re dropping sizes.

6 – Comments typically come well after someone actually notices your weight loss. It takes courage and certainty for someone to comment. It’s somewhat similar to how you might not congratulate someone for being pregnant until you are 100% sure.

7 – Mrs. SkinnyPants recently lost 7 pounds, going from 138 pounds to 131 pounds, and we discussed whether or not anyone had noticed. She said “No” the night that I asked and then the very next day one of her co-workers mentioned how much thinner her face looked. She was thrilled.

Your thoughts

What do you think about this post? Does my chart jive with your personal experience? How can I improve this information? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,
Mr. Skinny Pants

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