The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook status about doing really well losing weight over the last month or so and it inspired me to write this post. The amount they’d lost was around 1kg per week, which is exactly the amount that I recommend my weight-loss clients to aim for – that’s about a couple of pounds a week if you’re wondering.
You might be thinking “a couple of pounds a week – that’s a tiny amount!” and that you want to get the weight off as quick as possible – you’ve got a wedding dress to fit into right? The big problem is this is often where it all starts – you have a holiday to slim down for, or you want to feel good in your party clothes at Christmas/New Year. You follow the latest faddy/crash diet or you go to a local slimming club and completely overhaul your whole diet. The weight comes off pretty fast to start with – three, four or even five pounds a week. Then you get stuck or bored or you just can’t keep eating that way. Maybe you head off on that holiday or you come to the end of the eating plan. You go back to ‘normal’ eating, maybe you have a few treats or a bit of a binge (you worked hard, you deserve it right?) …… The next thing you know, it’s several months later and the weight has all gone back on again, but with a few extra pounds! Then the next special occasion comes along and you start the whole process again…. and again and again.
Fast forward a couple of years, maybe 10 years down the line and this is where a lot of my clients are when they come to me for help. They’ve got stuck in this yo-yo dieting cycle, they’re bigger than they were when they first started and worse, they have a difficult relationship with food.
One of the most important things I often work on with my clients is changing their beliefs and expectations about how much to lose each week. I always recommend that they aim to lose around 1-2lb per week – some people may even find that they lose weight more slowly than this. Although this seems harder to start with (that target weight is just too far away!), it is much healthier and also much easier in the long-run than losing weight quickly and here’s why.
1 – Fast weight-loss doesn’t necessarily mean fat-loss
Most people want to reduce body fat when they lose weight. However, when you make drastic changes to your eating and lose more than a couple of pounds/week you’re more likely to be losing water and muscle glycogen rather than fat. Muscle glycogen is the store of energy for the muscles – so fast weight-loss can leave you feeling fatigued. Once you get to the end of the 2-week eating plan or you ditch that extreme soup/juice/maple syrup diet and go back to eating normally the water and muscle glycogen just gets replaced. So you’ve not really achieved anything other than making your body think that there was some kind of famine – are you feeling like you want to eat choc/crisps more than before? That’s your body trying to stock up in case there’s another ‘famine’ – our bodies have evolved to be great at storing fat, as in the wild we wouldn’t have had a plentiful food supply like these days.
2 – Extreme diets don’t help you deal with those cravings/binge issues
In fact, in my experience, they make things worse. The minute you tell yourself that you’re not allowed to eat something, you want it even more. If you already have issues around cravings or bingeing, then following a crash diet or drastically cutting your energy intake is not going to help you deal with these. Properly dealing with these kind of issues takes a lot of hard work and emotional strength – if you’re not nourishing your body with an adequate energy intake then you’re just not going to have that emotional strength. You will be more likely to become obsessed with food and unable to think rationally when presented with a ‘trigger’ situation e.g. walking past a chip-shop when it’s close to meal-time.
3 – Whatever you do to lose weight you should be able to do forever
Your weight is a product of your eating habits and physical activity levels in the day-to-day. Therefore, it is your day-to-day habits that need to change forever if you want to lose weight and keep it off forever. Making drastic changes to your diet is usually difficult to follow forever and a prescriptive eating plan doesn’t fit in with ‘life’. It is much more sustainable to make a few tweaks to what you usually do rather than completely changing everything. A big clue that your diet-plan is not sustainable is that you’re counting down the time until ‘you don’t have to eat like this anymore’ or you’re looking forward to ‘eating what you like’ when you get to your target weight. So if you’re planning to cut out all the food you love until you’ve lost the weight, you might want to think again. Your favourite foods need to be incorporated somehow – of course treats can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, just think about how often you have them and how much you’re having.
Don’t forget that cutting out whole food groups or drastically limiting your energy intake may also lead to nutritional deficiencies, even over short periods like a week or two. On the whole it is much easier to make small, but significant changes to your diet – or as I call it ‘tweaking’. The slow weight-loss may be frustrating, but it is much easier in the long-run, not to mention kinder on your body and your mind.
If you’re struggling to get started with your weight-loss, why not check out my e-book
‘Your Guide to Self-motivation’
What are you waiting for?