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How Long Does it Take to…
Lose a Pound, Fall Asleep or Digest Your Food?

How long will it take?
How long will it take?

I am not a very patient person. I want things to happen right away, and it can be frustrating when I run into obstacles that slow me down. I’m not alone in that feeling, it happens to a lot of people trying to get healthy. You start eating right and exercising, but get upset when your body doesn’t change after just a few days.

It’s not your fault. The problem is we’re given bad information about how long things really take. If you have a more realistic idea of how much time you’ll need to spend, you might be more willing to stick with a program. To help you plan accordingly, here’s how long some common things take and what you can do to speed them up.

How long does it take to…Lose a Pound?

The simple mathematical answer is based on calories. A pound is equal to 3,500 calories. If you eat 500 calories less or exercise 500 calories more each day than you take in, you’ll lose a pound in seven days. But it gets a little more involved than that.   

When you first start losing weight, the initial pounds drop off rather quickly. That’s when your body notices something’s wrong. Your metabolism will then drop to try and hold onto the weight, because it thinks you’re starving. The more weight you lose, the more your metabolism drops.

One of the ways to counteract that metabolic sabotage is exercise. Build up muscle. A pound of muscle burns about a third more calories than a pound of fat. So by increasing your muscle mass, you’ll be able to drop weight more easily and fight back against a slowing metabolism. Weight training exercises can provide that long-term fat-burning boost.

How long does it take to…Fall Asleep?

Most people will go to sleep in 10 or 20 minutes after going to bed. If you fall asleep quicker, you may be sleep-deprived. If it takes more than 30 minutes, you could be dealing with a hostile sleep environment. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that teens generally need 8.5 to 9.25 hours per night; while adults generally need 7 to 9 hours per night. If you’re getting less than that, take these steps to get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

  • Try not to drink too much before bedtime, so you don't have to get up so often and urinate during the night.

  • Avoid working on computers, phones or tablets at least 2 hours before bedtime. The light from electronics can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.

  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable. For most people, the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Don't sleep with a pet. You may wake up from allergies or as the pet moves around in bed. It's better when your pets sleep on the floor.

  • Don't turn on bright overhead lights if you need to get up at night. Use small nightlights instead, they won't wake you up as much.

How long does it take to…Digest Your Food?

Digestion starts when you see or smell food. Your mouth waters and the digestive enzyme in saliva gets ready to break down carbohydrates. Chewing the food breaks it down further. More chemical breakdowns happen as food moves from your stomach, through the small intestine, large intestine and is eventually eliminated as waste. The entire process can take as little as 33 hours for a teenager; to 75 or 80 hours for an older, sedentary adult. Speeding up the process can deliver positive results.

First, you’ll eat less. Start by chewing your food thoroughly. The longer it takes you to chew and swallow, the less food you ultimately end up eating. Extra chewing gives your body more time to register the food that goes into your stomach and signal your brain you're full. Also, the smaller the food pieces are when they hit your stomach, the quicker they can be processed.

Second, you’ll get the nutrients in your body faster, giving you more energy. Doing something as simple as taking a walk after dinner can stimulate the smooth muscle in the digestive tract, quickening food breakdown. Exercise helps make everything move more regularly.

Third, eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. It gives your body several chances to increase your metabolism, burning more calories. It’s also a good way to prevent hunger pains and binge eating.

Now that you know, you can plan your time accordingly.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.