Yep I Am Overweight (again)
A little secret. In spite of all my knowledge of Nutrition, Supplements and Exercise, I have gradually become overweight. I am sure I am not unique. I also got interested in the “Rapid Weight Loss” concept. A quick google search on Rapid Weight Loss brings up all kind of conflicting information. So I decided to write a series of posts on “Rapid Weight Loss“. What it means, pros & cons, and also chronicle my personal journey.
Losing Weight – the “Standard” Way
Standard weight loss guidance suggest we should not lose more than about 1 pound/week. This is all fine and dandy, but it creates a serious motivational problem.
How do I know? Well I have lost a substantial number of pounds twice in the last 25 years. The first time, I did it by strict calorie counting. And yes, it worked and I lost about 45 lbs. However, it took me nearly a year, and the last few months of that ordeal I was feeling absolutely miserable. In addition, I didn’t look good, as I looked emaciated.
Fast forward about 9 years, and I had gained (slowly) most of the weight back. Then I did a restricted carb diet, no calorie counting, and again I averaged about 1 lbs a week in weight loss. This round, I experienced a lot fewer “bad” effects. But I had 30 lbs to lose, so again, it took many months.
Fast forward to today. I should be about 45 lbs lighter than I am. So, time for another round of weight loss. So what is the motivational problem? I really do not want to spend another 10 – 11 months doing this, so I put my thinking cap on and looked for alternatives.
Science Nordic calls itself a trusted English-language source for science news from the Nordic countries. Well I came across an article with this headline: Researchers: rapid weight loss is the best. The quote, for me, stands out ..
Regardless of whether you pick a sensible diet, exercise, behavioural therapy or a drug, our analysis of the literature shows that it’s those who experience the greatest weight loss in the first 2-4 weeks who have the greatest weight loss the following year. So if you’ve lost a lot of weight after one month, you’re more likely to have lost a lot of weight after a year or two.
So .. what exactly do we mean by “Rapid Weight Loss”
In the context of the above mentioned study ..
In this context, rapid weight loss means dropping around one kilo per day. The weight loss should not go far below this level before the participants start feeling frustrated: “You get frustrated if after a week of dieting you see that you’ve only dropped 300 grams.”
One kilo per day .. that is 2.2 pounds per day. Let’s read that again: over two pounds per day, in other words, 14 pounds in a week. Wowsers!!! .. now you have my attention. Let’s see, there are a little over 4 weeks in a month, so … one could lose 60 pounds in a month?
The skeptic me says .. is this even possible? The heavy me says .. well .. I have trained for and run marathons, so I might as well give this a chance!
Is It Possible?
Quite a few websites on the internet advocate a 500 cal/day diet for rapid weight loss. So can we really lose over 1 pound / day on such very low calorie diet? This is a hard question to answer. Besides water loss typically encountered when we deplete glycogen stores, a sustained loss of more than 1 pound / day implies that somehow our daily energy deficit is over 3,500 calories. Remember, 1 pound of fat represents 3,500 calories.
Once glycogen stores are depleted, the body starts to use stored lipids (fat) and protein (muscle) to make up the caloric deficit. We’ll talk about specific diet and meal plans in a future post. Burning protein for energy is generally not a good idea, so we’ll have to make sure that we have sufficient protein intake.
A big unknown in doing a calorie balance, is finding out how many calories we “burn” in a day. The standard “guesstimates” are made like this ..
- Calories expended =
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) +
- Energy Expended due to Physical Activity
For most of the overweight population, the latter term will be small compared to the BMR. This is especially true during a severely calorie restricted diet. For our discussion we use the Metabolism Calculator found on www.webmd.com. We will use an (optimistic) rate of 2,500 cal/day. Note that increasing your physical activity level will definitely help push this number higher.
S0, we spend 2,500 cal / day and consume 500 cal/day, this is a deficit of 2,000 cal. Far short of the 3,500 needed to account for one pound/day. One week would give us a deficit of 14,000 cal .. or .. 4 pounds of fat loss. Not bad, but short of the numbers reported in some studies, and definitely short of the advertisements for Rapid Weight Loss methods and products.
However some still consider the hypothetical 4 lbs/week rapid weight loss. Ask.com states “rapid weight loss can be defined as any more than 2-3lb per week“.
Sites advertising the hCG diet such as this one claim that “the average weight loss is 1/2 to 2 pounds per day”, and other sites claim similar results through testimonials. In his book “Pounds and Inches” Dr Simeons who pioneered the hCG method reports the normal average weight loss to be about a pound per day. Note that although scientific consensus does not support Simeons’s claims, finding no weight loss attributable to the use of hCG, the weightloss experienced by his patients was unquestionably real.
So we will rate Rapid Wight Loss on a 500 cal diet as “not impossible”, and would expect to see from 3 – 7 pounds a week of sustained weight loss. And no, we will not use hCG. The actual eating plan will be discussed in a follow-up post.
Good Health and Live Young