I began my journey to a healthier me via exercise and weight loss about 4 weeks ago. At first I was feeling frustrated if I could not get to my goal weight quickly and it felt almost like I was failing. But as I got into the rhythm of walking each day and settling into the calories I was allowing for myself, as well as losing my cravings, I found myself feeling good about the loss of a pound or two each week.
I receive a health newsletter periodically from Dr. Stephen Chaney, a Doctor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina here in Chapel Hill, and was excited to see that he addressed this issue as well. He gave three reasons to basically stay away from those “fad diets” that promise fast weight loss.
#1: Rapid weight loss causes your “starvation response” to kick in!
With a fast food restaurant on every corner in today’s world it’s hard to imagine that we even have a “starvation response”. But you have to remember that we evolved in a world in which you had to chase down your dinner, hit it over the head with a club and drag in back to your cave.
In that world you might have to go weeks with just a few berries and roots to eat – especially if you were as handy with a club as I am. Because of our beginnings, we are all hardwired with a starvation response that dramatically reduces our metabolic rate whenever the calories in our daily diet decrease significantly.
The “starvation response” was a lifesaver when we were cavemen (and cave women), but it just causes frustration when you are trying to lose weight.
#2: Rapid weight loss causes you to lose muscle mass.
That’s because your brain needs glucose to function. Fat cannot be metabolized to glucose, but muscle protein can. Because protein burns calories more rapidly than fat the loss of muscle mass decreases your metabolic rate even more.
When you combine the “starvation response” with the loss of muscle mass your metabolic rate decreases to such a great extent that you often encounter the all too familiar weight loss plateau. Now, as hard as you try, you just can’t seem to lose any more weight.
#3: Rapid weight loss is almost never sustainable in the long run.
You’ve cut calories so dramatically that you feel hungry all of the time (and probably grumpy as well). You can’t imagine this as a permanent part of your lifestyle – and it almost never is. That’s why most experts recommend that you aim for a calorie deficit of just 500 calories per day.
Since 2500 calories is approximately equivalent to one pound, that’s just over one pound of weight loss per week. If you add a 30 minute/day exercise program to burn off~300 calories/day you will approach 2 pounds of weight loss per week.
So if you want to lose that weight and keep it off, learn to get excited about 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week ……and avoid all of those fad diets that promise more rapid weight loss!
How about you? What have your experiences with fast or slow weight loss been?