Quick weight loss diets are everywhere, they promise much but do they deliver the long term weight loss that every dieter craves?
In a word, no.
At least not for most people most of the time.
Diets that promise quick weight loss work on the premise that less is more.
There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat.
Therefore, if eating 500 calories a day less than your body needs to maintain its weight leads to a weight loss of a pound a week, then 1,000 calories less a day will lead to a weight loss of 2lbs a week and so on.
Some diet gurus will have you believe that if you eat next to nothing at all, starving yourself for a few days or more you’ll lose even more weight.
Quick Weight Loss Diets for Weight Loss
Quick weight loss diets may be ok for a couple of days, but they are not the long term answer to weight loss maintenance.
In fact, losing weight too quickly is one of the main reasons for weight gain following weight loss.
As a rule of thumb, the quicker the weight comes off, the quicker it goes back on.
So why is that..?
The First Few Days…
During the first week of a diet, most of the weight you lose is water. The bigger you are, the more water and weight you tend to lose.
Basically, your body uses its carb reserves – glycogen – in the early stages of a diet. One part of glycogen is stored with three parts of water.
This water loss can account for three, four, five pounds or more of your first week’s weight loss. Start eating normally again and it goes straight back on again.
Quick weight loss diets promising rapid weight loss in a couple of weeks will help you to lose water, not burn fat.
The Next Few Days…
Any severe diet, which is what quick weight loss diets are, leads to water loss. It also results in the loss of muscle tissue.
If the number of calories you’re eating is too low, your body has too little energy to meet its needs and operate properly.
Fat stored in your adipose tissue is hard to utilise for energy. The average person can only burn around 1-2lbs of body fat a week.
As you’re consuming too little food and as fat is hard to break down and burn, your body turns to muscle tissue.
Muscle is composed of protein and water. Protein is relatively easy to break down, so your body burns that to help finance the energy deficit that your diet has caused.
The Next Few Weeks…
Losing muscle is not good. Muscle is responsible for most of the calories that your body burns each day. Around 14 calories per pound per day.
If your body burns muscle for energy, your metabolic rate – the number of calories your body burns each day – drops, narrowing the gap between your energy intake and expenditure.
Result? The weight loss slows down.
The more severe the diet and the longer it goes on, the more muscle is lost.
The Next Few Months…
Keep your quick weight loss diets going for more than a few weeks and your body thinks it’s starving.
It will slow down your metabolic rate even further to conserve energy.
It will also do whatever it can to hold on to its body fat. Fat is a concentrated energy source and provides long term protection from starvation.
The result? You feel tired, irritable, lacking in energy and worse of all…the weight loss has slowed to next to nothing or has stopped altogether!
You Give Up…
You can’t stay on any of the restrictive, quick weight loss diets for ever.
As soon as you go back to eating normally your body replaces the fat you’ve lost. Not the muscle.
Your body is like a sponge, sucking up all the fat it can just in case you starve again.
It won’t replace the muscle until it’s convinced the risk of starvation has gone, which can take a while.
The weight can pile back on really quickly because your metabolic rate is depressed, making weight maintenance virtually impossible following quick weight loss diets.
The Longer Term…
Most people who rely on quick weight loss diets for weight management go on diet, after diet, after diet.
Losing weight and putting it right back on again.
Quite often they remember the weight loss, but forget the weight gain afterwards. It worked once, it’ll work again they tell themselves.
The problem is, the more often that quick weight loss occurs – the more frequent the periods of starvation – the better your body becomes at adapting.
It learns from experience and shuts your metabolism down more quickly. It takes longer to replace the muscle lost when dieting severely. Muscle is expensive in terms of energy expenditure and your body wants to conserve energy.
The result is that every time you go on severe, quick weight loss diets the fatter you become. The less effective each successive diet becomes.
The less muscle you have, the less energy your body burns making weight maintenance a big ask.
The common term for this cycle is yo-yo dieting.
Yo-yo dieters sometimes look slim, but they all look flabby. Little muscle for tone, lots of fat for flab.
The answer to keeping the weight off in the long term? Forget the quick weight loss diets. A healthy weight loss plan and some regular exercise offers the solution.
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Lose fat gradually and build some muscle. You’ll then find the long term weight loss management and maintenance conundrum a lot easier to solve!