We all want it, right?
- There’s a wedding coming up and you want to look good in that dress.
- It’s summer before you know it – will it be a bikini this year?
- You met some new girl, and you feel self-conscious about your weight.
- Or the worst – a doctor stated baldly: “lose weight, or you’re going to die.”
But more than that, it’s just human nature.
When we want something, we want it now (hey, when I’m working out, I want my arms bigger immediately, not in six months!).
And it seems so easy.
Head over to Google and check out the thousand and one quick weight loss promises you’re offered:
- Just take the weight loss pills
- Drink the special juice (and nothing else!)
- Give up all carbohydrates
- Buy the book and follow the brand new diet
You get the idea.
And you know what? It works.
For a week. Or a month. Maybe a year.
Then the weight comes back, and often even more than you lost in the first place.
Sadly, of everyone attempting to lose weight, only 20% of people manage to lose weight long term.
Why is that?
All of the rapid weight loss methods leave out two important things, which we’ll look at next.
(But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be this way! We’ll get to that after).
How Do We Respond To Weight Change?
The field of science that studies weight change has a bad history.
This all kicked off with the infamous study now known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
Sounds like fun, right?
This is the study that the term ‘starvation mode’ grew out of. During the study the University of Minnesota put volunteers on extreme calorie restriction for six months.
You’ll be interested to know the caloric intake was only considered by the scientists involved as ‘semi starvation’.
Among the findings, was the observation that the subjects’ metabolism slowed drastically to adapt to less food.
Not that surprising, right?
So an urban myth grew out of this study that says if we restrict calories, our body burns less calories: so let’s keep eating and hit the gym!
But those quick weight loss diets? How do they affect our metabolism?
Starvation Mode Debunked
Later, the calorie restriction used in the Minnesota Experiment was labeled ‘extreme’, and everyone realised small diet changes won’t put the brakes on our metabolism.
So starvation mode was debunked and then only crazy people thought that food could affect metabolism.
Except it’s not really that simple.
Studies conducted throughout the 80’s and 90’s found that our metabolism responds to changes in weight by trying to bring us back to our ‘normal’ weight. Both for weight increases and decreases.
The studies involved found that weight changes of as little as 10% created metabolic changes out of proportion to the weight loss.
This is why people who’ve been on a crash diet often end up gaining even more weight than they originally lost.
So what does this mean for you?
It means that when you lose (or gain) weight fast, however you do it, your body is going to want to return back to the previous weight.
Suddenly that Starvation Mode business doesn’t so crazy after all, right? Do you still want that rapid weight loss solution?
And there’s one more thing we need to know about Starvation Mode.
Don’t Try the Minnesota Experiment at Home, Kids
The last, and maybe most important thing to know about the experiment that produced the idea of Starvation Mode is the amount of calories used in the experiment.
The subjects were healthy men aged between 22 and 36 years of age. And they were fed roughly 1556 calories per day.
What!? 1500 calories per day?
That’s more than a lot of crash diets will give you! Some of the craziest diets could have you on as little as 800-1000 calories a day.
So it might be reasonable to scoff at the fear of major metabolic change from a little change in diet, we can see that following a diet craze really could plunge you into starvation mode.
How to ‘Diet’ Without Metabolic Changes
(Why do I put quotes around ‘Diet’? I’ll get to that).
Right next to cries of ‘starvation mode is a myth!’ you’ll see people saying ‘weight loss is as simple as calories-in vs calories-out’.
It’s true enough, but doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
I’ll be devoting a separate article to the idea of ‘calories in vs calories out’ but the short version is this – the source of calories plays as much a role in weight loss as the amount of calories.
The most important thing to know (skipping over a lot of details) is that our body can’t turn calories into fat without some insulin in the blood stream.
And the main reason our bodies will produce insulin is in response to carbohydrates, particularly very high-glycemic carbohydrates like processed grains, sugar and some potatoes.
This is why diets like Atkins, Paleo and the Ketogenic diet work.
So what’s the easiest way to lose weight without major calorie restriction?
Swap out some of your carbs for protein and fresh vegetables. The extra protein and fibre will make you feel full, and you won’t be turning those calories into fat. Avoid sugar in particular.
Finally, why did I call this a ‘diet’ with the quotation marks? Because it shouldn’t be a diet at all: it should just be normal.
Which leads us into our next section:
The Other Big Problem With Rapid Weight Loss – The Lifestyle Trap
Here’s the other half of the problem with rapid weight loss.
We can’t keep it up. The methods used are extreme, and nobody can maintain them forever.
Once we’ve lost the weight and stop using the extreme weight loss method, what do we have to go back to?
Who we’ve always been, that’s what.
So all those old habits that led us into excess weight territory in the first place are waiting to take us straight back after we’ve lost the weight.
Sure, you resolve to keep the shiny new body in shape with lots of exercise and wonderful, healthy food. That’s great!
Except it’s a lot to take on at once.
So What’s The Real Weight Loss Solution?
If there’s anything you want to lose fast, it’s the idea of quick weight loss.
You know the fastest way to lose weight? Not having to lose it in the first place.
Sure, you’re thinking, that’s easy to say. What if you’re not slim already?
My answer – lose it slowly.
Take on small changes, like pre-preparing a healthy lunch for work, or always taking the stairs when possible.
You can add one little change after another and before you know it, you are getting an hour of exercise and eating healthy meals every day.
It might take a long time. A year or more.
Some people spend years ‘dieting’ as they yo-yo up and down and move from one ‘fast weight loss program’ to another.
Lose the weight once, and you’re done.
I hope I’ve convinced you to give up the idea of losing weight quickly.
It’s a lot more boring than the latest craze endorsed by that really good looking celebrity, but do it slowly, and you’ll have done it forever.
Have you had any experience with losing weight fast? Let us know in the comments.