When you make a commitment to lose weight, you want instant gratification. You know deep down true weight loss takes time, but watching the pounds peel off slowly can be excruciating. A safe rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week because this rate is more likely to lead to long-term lifestyle changes and prevent the loss of valuable lean muscle mass. Fast weight loss usually takes extraordinary diet and exercise efforts that may not be sustainable for the long run, but it can offer a needed jump start.
Step Away from the Fads
Your neighbor lost 20 pounds on the pancake diet and your sister drank only cucumber juice for a week and lost 10 pounds -- but chances are, if a weight-loss scheme sounds too good to be true, it is. Losing weight involves complex metabolic processes, but generally, if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. When this deficit is between 500 and 1,000 calories per day, you lose one to two pounds in a week since a pound is equal to 3,500 calories. Fad diets often have you creating a deficit of significantly more to help you lose weight quickly -- but you feel deprived, starve and don't get all the nutrients you need. You don't learn good habits that help you sustain any weight loss you do manage and end up gaining much of the weight back -- and sometimes more.
Instead of relying on some quick fix, cut calories by ditching the obvious calorie offenders: soda, sweets, saturated and trans fats and refined, white grains. Trim portion sizes so that you consume just 3 oz. of lean protein and 1/2 cup of whole grains at meals. Have leafy greens and other vegetables when you need a snack or still feel hungry at dinner. Include a few nuts or olive oil dressing at meals to get some healthy fats. You'll still come in at a low number of calories, but with plenty of nutrition.
Hang on to Your Muscle
Muscle is calorie-burning tissue that you want to have on your body. Without adequate muscle, you look soft, feel weak and don't burn as many calories as your lean and taut friend -- even if you both weigh the same. When you lose weight quickly, your body loses lean body tissue. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you lose your muscle -- your metabolism drops. Losing more weight or even maintaining your new lower weight is nearly impossible without starving yourself because your body needs fewer and fewer calories to survive. Exercise, especially weight training, can stave off this loss of muscle even when you are dropping pounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two total-body strength-training sessions weekly on nonconsecutive days, but you can add a third day for better results. Also aim to get in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity weekly -- 250 minutes is even better for weight loss.
Don't Skip Out
You know you can't skip workouts when you're trying to drop a size. You should also avoid skipping meals. Not only can skipping make you feel hungrier at your next meal so you inhale everything in sight, but it can increase your stress levels. A 2010 issue of, "Psychosomatic Medicine" published a study showing that following a restrictive diet creates chronic psychological stress and makes the body pump out more of the stress hormone cortisol. The University of California and University of Minnesota researchers noted that the increased stress and cortisol can actually cause weight gain. Skipping meals adds even more stress and prevents you from losing the weight you so desperately want to shed.
If you base your weight-loss goals on the results you see on extreme reality shows, come back to your reality. Most people do not have seven hours a day to exercise and a nutritionist to monitor your every meal. Focus on how you feel and the way your clothes fit rather than solely on the number on the scale. Some weeks will be better than others, but don't let that discourage you. If your mind is so set on quick weight loss, you might lose sight of the other benefits you reap by eating a healthier diet and living a more active lifestyle, such as more energy, improved mood, better blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decreased risk of chronic disease.
- Health: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight and Weight Loss
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American Heart Association: Quick-Weight-Loss or Fad Diets
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Psychosomatic Medicine: Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol