To judge by the magazines in the checkout line at the local supermarket, there are dozens of ways to LOSE WEIGHT FAST or LOSE 20 POUNDS IN 20 DAYS or HAVE YOUR BIKINI BODY IN JUST 3 WEEKS!
These articles are crap, and the methods they promote are ineffective. You will not be bikini-ready in 20 days unless you started out like Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel. Even worse, their promoters know it! They are not alone in trying to get you to think you can lose weight fast.
Here are the dirty little secrets the scam artists don’t want you to know:
1. A Little Arithmetic (UGH!)
Okay, no one likes arithmetic.
But we need a little arithmetic to understand why the claim of 20 POUNDS IN 20 DAYS is impossible.
Food provides energy. Calories are the way we measure energy. All the food we eat provides energy we use and its energy is represented by its calories. Our bodies need about the same number of calories per day on average. Maybe a little more when we exercise, a little less when we veg out. When we eat more than we need the extra energy gets stored. Most of this extra energy ultimately gets stored as fat.
Think of fat as your personal battery. Sounds great having your own battery, that is until you look in the mirror.
When you eat less than you need to make it through the day or you burn more than you eat, your body turns to its stored energy to make up the difference.
Now for the arithmetic. The average person needs a fixed number of calories every day to “break even”: about 12 times their weight in pounds. Again, maybe a little more for active people, a little less for desk jockeys. Deviate from that, and remember it’s only an estimate, and fat goes on or fat comes off.
Now comes the problem: If the average person who wants to lose weight weighs about 160 or so for a woman (or 230 for a man), then they need about 1,900 (2,700) calories per day to break even.
Let’s say you go on a really low calorie diet of 1,000 (1,500) per day. Note that it is not medically advisable to eat so little day after day. However, if you do, then you are only saving 900 (1,200) calories per day. But one pound of fat stores about 3,500 calories. So it takes three to four days on a very low calorie diet to burn a pound of your reserves.
In other words, if you are on a very low calorie diet, then in TWENTY DAYS you will have lost about SIX or SEVEN POUNDS. Not TWENTY.
2. Heavy Water
There is one little quirk of the human body that the scam artists count on as they try to push their bogus diet. When you go into a calorie deficit for a few days, meaning you are eating less than you need, you start burning your reserves, the stored fat. But that process is relatively water-inefficient. You give up a lot of water volume.
Water is very heavy. A quart weighs a little over 2 pounds. In calorie-restriction mode you lose up to a few quarts of water.
That’s over four pounds.
Which is why every diet promises you will lose five pounds the first week. They are counting on the heavy water trick.
This is the worst way to lose weight fast.
It is dangerous, inefficient, and if done for a long enough period it could lead to sudden death.
Amazingly, people still resort to fasting to lose weight. Yet there is not one reputable doctor anywhere who would ever advise such a crazy idea. Just loony crackpots vying for your attention.
Why is it bad?
Fasting = starving. Your body doesn’t like to starve. It might not be able to keep up with the metabolic needs, especially if you have some underlying disease like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Bottom line: DON’T FAST.
According to one “serious” healthy eating site, “2014 was the year of the cleanse diet.” Every one seems to be promoting a cleanse as the ultimate weight loss solution.
Depending on what expert you are listening to, it can be done in 1 day, 3 days, 5 days or 14 days. Dr. Oz himself shows up in 1,190,000 hits in a Google search for cleanses.
Well if Dr. Oz is involved it must be right, correct?
There is no science at all backing up the screwball claims of the benefits of cleansing. It is just a fad. And like all fads, this too shall pass.
5. Getting Serious
So what is a serious dieter to do?
Set a goal that is doable, that doesn’t rely on harebrained schemes, crackpot gimmicks or bogus science. Be serious about your goal but don’t set it in stone. If you fall off the plan for a while, don’t give up, just reset the clock, add a few weeks to your goal date and start over.
Also, educate yourself about the pitfalls of dieting. Don’t turn to the popular magazines for that knowledge or expect that some actress who supposedly lost a ton of weight in an impossibly short time is a role model for you. She isn’t. You need to personalize your diet plan.
Finally, come back next week because …
NEXT UP: ESTABLISHING A GOOD WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGY