From diet programs to detox teas, so many products promise instant gratification when it comes to transforming your bod. But is it actually possible to lose a substantial amount of weight—in a healthy way—in the time it takes your online shopping shipment to arrive?
Well, in her 20 years of practice, dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, has never met anyone who successfully kept off weight they’d lost rapidly. In fact, most folks gain back more than they initially drop, she says.
Instead, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health recommends a slow and steady slim-down approach that vaporizes 500g to 1kg per week. “It takes a deficit of approximately 3,500 calories to shed 500g of fat—so cutting your daily intake by 500 calories should lead to weight loss in the neighbourhood of 500g per week,” says Harris-Pincus. “When people lose weight slowly, it’s usually due to making sustainable behavioural and lifestyle changes, as opposed to crash diets with unhealthy restrictions.”
Here’s how slimming down ASAP can backfire in a big way:
You Become A Stress Case
“Eating less than your body needs triggers the production of the stress hormone, cortisol,” says Dr Ellen Albertson. That stress drives up appetite and can increase fat storage, especially around the middle, she says. Umm, let’s get this straight: You’ll be sporting a spare tire and a bitchy mood? Thanks, but no thanks.
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Your Metabolism Gets Sluggish
Rapid weight loss plays mind games with your bod: “Our body recognises caloric deprivation as an external famine and flips on its metabolic survival switch, telling your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy,” says Dina Garcia, a nutritionist in Miami. In other words, your body goes into starvation mode and stores more fat, hitting you with a weight-gain double whammy.
A recent study tracked how this played out with participants in The Biggest Loser and the results were chilling: The more pounds contestants zapped, the lazier their metabolisms grew. As the weight piled back on, their calorie-burning capacity only continued to diminish. Six years later, many were heavier than before they’d even started the show.
You Become A Food Savage
When you go on a crash diet, your levels of leptin, a hormone that controls hunger, plummet. As a result, you’re ravenous, obsessed with food, and primed to binge, says Garcia. Put the PB under lockdown, sister.
You'll kiss your Michelle Obama Arms And Kim K Butt Goodbye
Cut calories too fast and your muscle tone will seriously suffer. “When you don’t eat enough, your body resorts to using muscle mass for fuel,” says Albertson.
Besides losing that sexy, toned look, dropping muscle mass actually decreases how much fat you burn. The less tissue you have, the more likely you are to sabotage your get-slim goals. “And as your skeletal muscles become more efficient, you’ll burn fewer calories through movement,” says certified nutrition counselor Dan DeFigio.
Plus, your guns help make workouts more intense and effective. Without them, you’ll lack the strength and stamina to push yourself through that last km on the treadmill or rally for those SoulCycle sprints.
You'll Be Drier Than The Sahara
“A 5kg weight loss is mostly from water or stool being eliminated, and is not body fat loss,” says New York-based nutritionist Millie Shedorick. “Water weighs approximately 3.5kg to 3.7L, and this rapid loss of fluids can lead to dehydration.”
H2O, of course, is crucial for physical function. It eliminates toxins, delivers nutrients, facilitates digestion, etc. When your stores of agua are depleted, you’ll likely have to contend with side effects like headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and low energy. All of which hinder your ability to work, exercise, and enjoy life in general.
“You’ll naturally find that you move around less—fidgeting, standing up, and anything other than purposeful exercise decrease,” says DeFigio. Your calorie-torching power, in the meantime, will suffer.
How To Win At Losing Weight
So, yes, your best bet is to aim to lose 500g to 1kg per week, but that pace might still be too tough if you’re nearing your goal. “It’s more reasonable for a 150kg person to drop 500g to 1kg per week than for a 75kg person to lose at that same rate,” says Garcia. “The closer you are to your healthy weight, the slower you should lose,” she says. That prevents your body from fighting to hold onto extra fat.
For clients actively pursuing weight loss, Garcia recommends losing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent of their body weight every six months.
Anderson puts it this way: “I encourage my clients to forget about the scale and focus on eating right, exercising, reducing stress, and getting adequate rest. If you do those four things, in addition to addressing any emotional eating, the weight will come off and stay off.”
We know you like insta-results, but hey, give yourself permission to take a little more time reaching your weight goals, and get there in a healthy, sustainable way. Your body will thank you for it.