First of all, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with regards to what rapid weight loss is. “Rapid” can mean something very different from one person to the next. In my experience, when someone is consistently losing more than 1.5 pounds a week for over 4 months, it’s rapid. And it’s also not safe or sustainable. Something to note, my definition is a less aggressive weight loss than many diet products would have you believe. It’s even slower than most of the more reputable diets, such as Jenny Craig, claim that you’ll lose weight on their plan.
I stick to my definition, because the key is, the 1.5 pound weight loss has to be “consistent” for more than 4 months. Many people can lose a couple of pounds for a few weeks straight when they start exercising for the first time, along with eating veggies and cutting out fast food. My weight fluctuates by 3 pounds in a month just due to the timing of my cycle. It’s continuing to see the rapid weight loss over the long haul, that I’m referring to in this blog.
The Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss, Along with the Solutions
DANGER #1: It’s not sustainable.
Chances are, if you’re losing weight very quickly, you’re probably making some big changes to your diet and activity regimes that aren’t sustainable. Maybe you’ve given up your social life temporarily to cut down on the calories you’re used to consuming at your favourite restaurants or bars. Or you’ve committed to sleeping less to cram intense morning workout sessions in, to achieve your aggressive weight loss goals. Believe me, this type of thinking isn’t long-term. When you change your habits too quickly or dramatically, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
SOLUTION: To make your healthy living habits ones that you can follow for the long-term, live by the 80/20 rule. Be flexible and kind to yourself. Most people have an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to achieving weight loss. They want to see constant progress or they’re completely thrown off and demotivated. But this isn’t realistic; “life” happens. There will be some weeks when you’re able to get to the gym and break a sweat as much as you want to. However, there will also be those weeks when work is insane, or loved ones are in town and all of your spare time is taken up.
DANGER #2. There’s no long-term maintenance plan.
Many of us go “on” a diet to get to our ideal weight but we don’t have a maintenance plan to control what happens when we get to our desired body size. So once we reach our ideal weight, we go “off” the diet, returning to many of our old eating habits, and the weight quickly returns. The same thing happens with exercise. When we want to lose weight, many of us find the time to exercise daily. Once we reach our perfect figure, we stop working out completely and go back to enjoying Netflix. Unfortunately, the weight gained back after these changes is usually more weight than what was lost.
SOLUTION: Build a “realistic” healthy habits plan. When it comes to healthy habits, you want to build a routine that you can keep up forever. If it’s next to impossible to carve out 1 hour a day for a workout, than try blocking off 20 minutes daily instead. If you struggle with cooking a fresh, veggie pack dinner each night, than batch cook and get used to eating leftovers the following day.
To keep you following your healthy habits for the long haul, understand your deep reasons why maintaining this weight is important to you. Write your reason why on a card and carry it around with you everywhere! Pull your card out anytime you have a craving or a sabotaging thought that will lead you to fall off the wagon.
DANGER #3: Nature kicks in.
Our bodies are wired for the environment we had back in the cave man days; for ‘fight-or-flight’ survival, not aesthetics. So when weight is lost rapidly, the body believes there’s a famine. It will fight very hard to prevent rapid weight loss. Here’s what it does:
• Your body temperature drops to slow down your metabolism.
• Energy levels decline so that you feel like moving less. When you don’t move, you don’t burn as many calories.
• You start getting intense cravings, often for sugar and fat filled foods. And food stops making you feel full because your hormones stop working properly.
These changes all lead to a decrease in your metabolism. When your metabolism drops, it’s very hard to continue losing weight, or to even maintain the weight you got to.
SOLUTION: These bodily reactions only happen with rapid weight loss. They don’t happen with slow, manageable weight loss. So, to stop this from happening, control your weight loss. Eat regularly throughout the day. I always prefer eating 3 nutrient packed meals daily, versus snacking throughout the day. Try moving around every hour even during the workday. There are so many exercises you can perform regularly at your desk.
To Sum it up…Rapid Weight Loss can be Dangerous
Losing weight at a slow and healthy pace, can be a very positive experience that improves the quality of your life. However, losing it too quickly can lead to illness, stress and more weight gain over the long term. Rapid weight loss isn’t sustainable, it doesn’t help you create life long healthy habits. If you force your body to lose weight too quickly, nature will kick in and your body will fight back. And it is built so that it will win. If you have any questions, please reach out to a health and fitness coach for guidance.