We live in a fast pace world where everybody wants results yesterday. You have reality TV shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ where people basically kill themselves to lose 100 pounds or more in a short period of time. The goal of many of these style shows is rapid weight loss but the problem is this could be detrimental to your longer term goals and health.
Despite taking years to get the body they currently have, people want to lose it in a few weeks time.
The New York Times wrote an article describing how the contestants have struggled to maintain the massive weight loss that they achieved in a months time. One of the contestants lost 239 pounds in seven months but despite his best effort he has gain 100 of those pounds back. He is not the only one who has struggled after achieving a rapid, massive weight loss. Other contestants have gained the weight they lost back plus “some friends” as I have heard a few people describe it.
I have always been a proponent of “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to weight loss. Here are 5 reasons rapid weight loss doesn’t work:
To achieve rapid weight loss a massive reduction in daily caloric intake is necessary but the body is a beautiful machine of efficiency. The human body does whatever it takes to survive. If the body is being starved of the nutrients that it needs, it will begin to adjust to survive. The body works to achieve equilibrium all the time and to do this during basically long-term starvation the body will begin to lower its metabolism through multiple mechanisms.
Increased Weight Gain
The New York Times piece on “The Biggest Loser” shows us first hand how a rapid weight loss plan can screw you in the long term. The biggest cause of this increased weight gain after the initial weight loss is the aforementioned decreased resting metabolism. Any time you lose weight whether slowly or rapidly, there is a decrease in your overall metabolism. The issues is, and studies done on the “Biggest Loser” contestants confirm this, as people regain the weight after a rapid weight loss their metabolisms are not recovering. In fact, the metabolism will continue to slow and the weight will continue to pile on. Your body goes into survival mode and does not want the stress of a massive weight loss again.
When people severely restrict their daily intake of food, they are also withholding important nutrients. Many people’s diets while trying to achieve rapid weight loss lack essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. This results in a lowering of the immune system leading to a higher likelihood of illness. Lacking important nutrients can also lead to fluid imbalances, a loss of bone mass, and irregular heartbeat.
Too Difficult to Maintain
Programs that tout rapid weight loss are usually very strict and have extreme limits on food intake. Often the food or guidelines take much of the enjoyment out of food. I don’t know about you but I like to enjoy my food. If you find no enjoyment in what you are doing, it is hard to continue over the long term.
Rapid weight loss programs can also leave you fatigued and hungry. You are basically in a constant state of “hangry”, or hungry and angry. They can also leave you run down and not recovering from marathon workouts that are usually required as well. Take the “Biggest Loser” program for example. The contestants were working out for 4-6 hours a day. More than likely these people will suffer from some sort of orthopedic condition at some point in the program. An injury can bring any program, good or bad, to a screeching halt; stopping any progress towards you fitness goals.
Lean Mass Lost
When people begin rapid weight loss programs the severely restrict their caloric intake while doing marathon workouts. Like said earlier, the body goes into survival mode. When under a severe caloric deficit, the body finds anyway to make itself more efficient and riding itself of caloric needy muscle mass. The body will begin to atrophy itself to help save the essential organs. As many know, more muscle mass equals a higher metabolism. A higher metabolism equals a higher caloric burn and therefore the easier it is to remain lean. The first goal of most weight loss programs is to lose weight when it should actually be to build muscle mass to help the burning of fat mass.
Weight Loss Recommendations
If your goal is safe and sustained weight loss, your motto should be “slow and steady wins the race.” It is recommended that your goal be about one to two pounds of weight loss per week. For one pound per week, this requires a daily caloric deficit of 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week. I also recommend keeping your workouts between 45 and 90 minutes. Unless you are 40-50 pounds overweight, I also recommend that you not focus so much on weight loss and more about measurements and how your clothes fit. This helps keep the emphasis off the scale and more about body recomposition.
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