Why rapid weight loss is a bad idea (and why lasting change is better)

25 Apr, 2018

When it comes to weight loss goals, everybody wants to see big numbers right away. Although it seems like you’re pushing yourself and aiming high, you may be doing yourself a massive disservice! So why is losing weight quickly not that great? And how should you go about your fat loss goals?

The problem with the scales

When we step on the scales it weighs everything, not just your fat reserves. Although your body weight is worth tracking, it isn’t the be all and end all. The human body enjoys being at a steady point (known as homeostasis) and is constantly trying to remain the same.

You know how in the first 2 or 4 weeks of a ‘strict’ diet you lose a lot of weight? Well, most of that will be water and energy stored in muscles. After that, the real loss begins.

Without the calories needed to maintain a steady weight, your body will look for a new supply. Sadly, for us, the body doesn’t always see your spare tire and bingo wings as the most effective source of fuel. If we’re not careful about the signals we send our body, it will start to break down muscle (known as gluconeogenesis) and burn very little fat. Now this really sucks for 2 reasons.

First, you’re going to step on the scales and go “Woah! I’ve lost weight. Goodbye fat, hello bikini!” When really all you have done is lose tone and strength. Secondly, muscles burn more calories, meaning that now you must now eat even fewer calories to carry on the self-defeating cycle.

Tracking more than just your weight is key- Keep a record of your progress

I am not suggesting you throw your scales away, but it is worth tracking your progress in more ways to give a better impression of what’s happening. If you are overweight or obese it’s better to check by measuring your waist and problem areas; such as the arms or legs. If you’re fairly lean (e.g. your goal is to get visible abs) you might be better off with a body fat test, although these are pretty unreliable.

The most reliable measure is how you look and feel. Having a personal trainer or friend measure the above metrics is great, but I would suggest taking two photos every 2 weeks. Wear tight-fitting clothes (or better yet, show some skin) and take a photo from in front and to the side. This works because you see yourself every day, so you won’t notice the changes over time.

If you follow some of the advice I gave in my article about weight loss without exercise or starvation, you will find your body shape changes a lot more than your weight!

Now onto the next problem with calorie restricting diets…

What happens after the diet?

Phew, what a tough 3-month diet! You managed to avoid eating all of those foods you love (well mostly) and you have been hungry nonstop for 90 days. But its all been worth it, the scales show 20 to 50 pounds less and you feel better about your body…

But what now? Back to your old eating habits and keep the weight off?

That’s not how it works. You weighed what you weighed because of your diet and lifestyle. If you go back to those ways, you’ll eventually go back to that weight and that’s before we think about the muscle you might have lost because of the gluconeogenesis I spoke about earlier. By eating less, your metabolic rate would have slowed to a crawl, meaning calories add up even more than before your diet.

On top of that, you have been depriving yourself. Can you control your angry inner child from reaching for the pizza and wine? Has your relationship with food and exercise changed for the better or remained the same?

The solution is real, lasting change. There is no trick, secret or ‘hack’.

I wish I had a sexy, instant weight loss method for you. But if I did I would be living in a villa made of money. The honest truth is that lasting weight loss is hard. It means changing yourself and overcoming years of bad habits. These could be behaviours you learnt in childhood, such as eating for comfort or using food as a social aid.

If you think you can buy the solution to your weight problems in a bottle, a program or home workout DVD, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Focus on educating yourself, become aware of your own habits and overcoming them.

If you have any questions, please get in touch. Weight loss is about more than what you see in the mirror. It reflects the way we feel about ourselves and how we interact with the world. If you have been struggling with diets, I can help!

Charlie Hart is an experienced personal trainer, having worked with more than 100 clients clients in and around Cambridgeshire.

His interests in fitness, health and how they intersect help his clients to transform their bodies, sleep better and feel better in themselves.

Talk to Charlie today if you'd like help improving your well being.

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