Weight loss and dieting: When is weight loss "too fast to be true"

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Thomas Secrest

Everyday we are bombarded with stories that tell us that weight loss is easy and fast and all you have to do is follow the newest diet. Some advertise 10 pounds in 10 days, while others say the same thing with different words, such as "lose 30 pounds in a month." My favorite part, usually in BOLD print, explains that you can eat anything you want and exercise is not required.

Of course each story is accompanied by 'before' and 'after' pictures which shows what appears to be a close relative of fat bastard who is transformed into some sort of Olympic athlete is just 90 days and somewhere is the obligatory picture of a woman or man holding up a set of jeans that resemble some sort of futuristic 2 person pup tent.

If it is too good to be true, then it probably is!

For regular readers you know this is part 6 of a series on the fundamentals of weight loss. Previously we defined calories and discussed why weight goes on so fast and comes off so slow. We discussed the BMR and why this is an important number for everyone to know and why you also need to know how many calories you use during your everyday activities. A list of links for the previous 5 articles is located at the bottom of the page.

Today I want to provide you with some information that will help you avoid all those very tempting diet plans. As I mention in an earlier article, the diet industry very much wants you to diet, while their interest in you losing weight is dubious, at best. As long as you diet and fail, you remain a potential new customer for the next fad diet. My real concern is the dieting and failing can become a vicious circle. A circle, which over time, makes you just give up.

Water weight

The first thing to note about fantastic claims of weight loss, whether it is in a tabloid, infomercial or from a friend of colleague, is that much of that weight is water. When you start a low calorie diet, very often you end up restricting your fluid intake because we tend to consume much of our fluid with our meals. As you reduce your food intake your fluid intake often goes down as well.

If you have ever carried a liter bottle of water around, you know it’s not weightless. If you’re overweight, it is easy to lose one pound a day in water. Seven pounds in seven days -- wow -- is it a miracle? Water weight is meaningless in the weight loss scheme of things. Weight loss needs to be in the form of fat loss. Of the seven pounds, maybe one was fat, while the other six were water.

At some point, dehydration will get the best of you and over the course of one day you will consume enough fluids to regain those missing six pounds. The result -- your curse your scale and another diet ends in disappointment.

How fast can I lose weight?

Many of you knew about the problem of water weight. However, here is a tip that might help you out.

TIP: To prevent water weight from making a mess of you regular weigh-ins, try to consume the same amount of water/fluids each day. If you are well hydrated, your kidneys will eliminate any excess water, therefore, changes showing up on your scale are more likely to be changes in body fat, not changes in body water. Under normal conditions, two liters per day is almost always enough to achieve full hydration, however, to a point, more won't hurt you.

In a previous article we talked extensively about why weight comes off so slowly and we partially explained the dreaded plateau effect. The bottom line is that your body usually will not allow rapid weight loss and the harder you try the more your body will resist.


Let’s create an example. Suppose we have a 40 year old woman, let’s call her Jane, who is 5’ 6” and weighs 180 lbs and has a sedentary lifestyle. Jane’s BMR would be 1560 calories/day, which means if she stayed in bed all day and did nothing, she would burn 1560 per day. When we add the calories burn for her sedentary lifestyle (BMR x 1.2) the number goes up to 1872 calories per day. This means that on average, without exercise, Jane will burn 1872 calories per day during her regular daily routine.

FACT: One pound of fat equals 3500 calories.

If Jane eats NOTHING for one week she could, in theory, burn (1872 x 7) 13,104 calories, which would be 3.74 pounds of fat. As it turns out it would be less than that. Here’s why, your brain cannot burn fat as a fuel. It is completely dependent on glucose, which normally comes from the carbohydrates you eat. Since Jane is fasting, her body will have use what little glucose she has stored to feed the brain and keep it functioning. However, humans don’t store much glucose, the amount stored is gone in about 24 hours.

Jane’s brain has no intention of dying, so during day one, it begins to make glucose. The only substance in the body that can be used to make glucose is protein. So Jane’s brain and body begin the process of digesting it own muscle protein into amino acids and then chemically converting the amino acids into glucose. The brain is a very energetic organ so much of the weight loss Jane sees on the scale is lost protein that was converted to glucose.

More than likely only about one half of the 3.74 lbs was fat loss, but let’s be generous and round it up to 2 lbs.

I’m guessing you’re starting to see the problem. Short of liposuction, you cannot lose weight faster than with a fasting diet. On a fasting diet Jane can lose 0.28 lbs per day or 2 lbs per week or 8 lbs per month.

The questions now becomes, how long can Jane fast? Can she, or is she willing to, not eat for a month just to lose 8 lbs? Somehow I think not. To be honest, this scenario stills favors Jane, there are a few other little details, which I omitted, that make even 0.28 lbs/day a tad unrealistic.

By now you may be feeling a bit depressed. Weight loss may seem impossible; but it’s not. On the other hand, I hope you now realize that every diet plan that sounds too good to be true is nothing more than a pack of lies, intentionally designed to appeal to your sincere and overwhelming desire to lose weight. They're not little fibs or white lies, the lies are “in-your-face” lies with the sole purpose of getting you to give them your money.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how it is possible to lose weight, despite having to deal with our obstinate bodies that seem bent on stopping us in our tracts. What we discussed today shows one thing very clearly and you will have to adjust to this -- you cannot lose weight as fast as you want, however, you CAN lose weight.

If you've been waiting for the right moment to start a fresh weight loss attempt, then tomorrow is it. Collect your like-minded friends and get ready to go -- tomorrow we will look at how to start of a weight loss program.

Remember there are lots of people who want to lose weight and not all of them have stumbled onto this series of articles. If you think they’re useful, share them with your friends, link them to your Facebook. I hope to see you tomorrow.

Article 1: The ‘Never Diet Again’ diet plan
Article 2: Aren’t protein calories better than carbohydrate or fat calories? No!
Article 3: Weight loss and dieting: knowledge is power and power is success
Article 4: Weight loss and dieting: Why do we gain weight so easily?
Article 5: Weight loss and dieting: Why it's so hard to lose weight?

If you have any special questions you want answered as part of this series of articles, please let me know and I will address your questions in one of the upcoming installments. You can contact me at: Thomas Secrest


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