Why Extreme and Rapid Weight Loss, Although Enticing, Isn’t All it’s Cracked Up to Be

After speaking with a few clients today about weight loss, here’s a little perspective on weight loss, and why losing losing 1-2lbs a week is great success, and why losing more, although enticing, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

First, let’s talk numbers…

Nutrition scientists tell us that one pound of fat is equiv. to 3,500 kilocalories.  Simple math therefore tells us that in order to lose one mere pound of fat, we need to create that caloric deficit.

We can do so in 3 ways:

  1. Increase our basal metabolic rate (BMR): Our BMR is our main calorie burner. It reflects the energy required to keep our bodies alive through processes like digestion, circulation, hormonal regulation, etc.
  2. Increase our caloric output (via movement/exercise).
  3. Decrease our caloric intake (via food and drink).

However, there’s more to it than just calories in vs. calories out…

Hormonal balance is a key player, as hormones rule our BMR and the body’s efficiency in storing and burning fat.

Our hormonal balance and BMR are strongly influenced by factors such as:

  • Mental/emotional stress;
  • Physical stress such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, excess caffeine, alcohol & sugar, dehydration, too little or too much exercise, air pollutants, chemicals in food and skin products, and so forth.
  • Amount of metabolic tissue (muscle mass);
  • Illness/disease and prescription drugs;
  • Genetics.

The main method of dropping drastic amounts of weight in a short period of time is caloric restriction.

The body is very effective at storing energy in times of need, and it doesn’t take long in a lowered caloric state to reduce it’s BMR in order to enhance energy efficiency.  This is often what leads people on low-calorie diets to reach a plateau – or even weight gain – despite continued calorie restriction and doing everything “right”.

So, not only is this method greatly depriving, but most people don’t do it properly, and it can also actually be counterproductive to fat loss!

Here’s some weight loss perspective:

You know those killer spin classes?  Well, the average person burns 600-800kcal’s in a 45-60 minute spin class.

This means that with all other factors remaining constant it, would take 4-6 hours of spin class to create the 3,500 kcal deficit required to lose ONE “mere” pound of fat!

Losing 2 pounds of FAT would require a deficit of 7,000 kcals and losing 10 pounds would require a deficit of 35,000kcals!

Losing 10 pounds of fat in one week would therefore require creating a 35,000kcal deficit in 7 days…

That is equivalent to either 44-58 hrs of spin classes and no additional calories than normal, OR half that amount of spin classes and a reduction of 2,500kcal a day (essentially you wouldn’t eat anything for an entire week straight).

Can you see not just how hard and unhealthy that could be, but how virtually impossible it would be?

Given that a dinner out including an appy, a main course, two drinks and NO dessert can easily run over 2,000 cal’s in one sitting, creating this 3,500kcal deficit over one week to lose one pound, is nothing to scoff at, and actually a great celebration.

When we hear of weight loss “success” stories of huge amounts of weight loss in only a week or two, a mere 1-2lb loss can feel quite disappointing, especially when discipline has been high.  However, here are 3 main reasons why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be:

Extreme and rapid weight loss often…

1- Reflects water loss and intestinal bulk.

    • The positive side: This can feel great and provide a slimmer, lighter feeling. It can be healthy if the person was previously retaining a lot of water or feeling bloated/constipated, so long as they aren’t dehydrated. Additionally, these results may be maintainable if the person also maintains the habits that helped them achieve these results in the first place.
    • The negative side: If done through dehydration, this could have grave health consequences.  Additionally these results may be short-lived if upon their met weight loss goal, the person returns to the old habits that caused the water retention/bloating/constipation in first place.

2- Is often done through methods that aren’t sustainable or healthy, such as:

    • Extreme caloric deficiency.  This may have great initial impact for fat loss, but as mentioned previously, for more than a few days can actually cause the body to start decreasing it’s metabolism and becoming more efficient at conserving energy (aka storing fat), and even losing precious muscle mass.=> A slowed metabolism is great if you’re actually starving and going days on end without food, but not so great otherwise.
    • Intense exercise.  Intense bouts of exercise can be good under appropriate circumstances.  This means having a trained body conditioned and ready for it, and a strategic plan with built-in recovery days and appropriate nutrition.Too often people desiring quick weight loss get excited and ramp up their training too quickly, overloading and causing damage to their body – a perfect recipe for physical injury, mental/emotional burnout, giving up out of frustration, and landing back on the couch with a bag of Dorritos or tub of icecream.

 3- Results in toxic overload to the body. 

  • Fat cells retain fat-soluble toxins, so a massive fat-burn can lead to toxic overload presenting with symptoms such as decreased energy, sore/achy muscles, flu-like feelings.

(If you are reading this and relating to these symptoms, I recommend seeing a holistic nutritionist, naturopath or other qualified nutrition expert for recommendations on clearing toxins.)

For all the above reasons, if you are staying disciplined with a healthy nutrition program and exercise plan, and yet feeling disappointed by your mere 1-2lb weight loss, fret no more.

Although weight loss can healthily exceed 1-2 pounds a week when done properly, it usually reflects more than just fat loss and doesn’t often maintain that rate after the initial period.

Slower and steady weight loss on the other hand…

  • Is more reflective of actual fat loss than simply intestinal bulk or water loss.
  • Allows formation of healthy lifestyle habits to keep you realizing continued success.
  • If you have a lot of weight to lose, allows your skin time to tighten along with you.

So, keep up your great efforts and nourishing choices.  As you focus on establishing new, delicious, motivating, and doable habits, excess weight will shed naturally at it’s healthiest rate.

I’d love to hear from you…. What have your weight loss experiences been like?  Feel free to drop a line below or message me directly.