This article will look at the pros and cons of fast weight loss and the down side of dieting. It also highlights the best way to lose weight and to make it last a lifetime!
Taking things to the extreme – expecting to lose tremendous weight in two weeks!
When traveling, we all make sure that our cars have enough fuel to get us where we’re going. After all, our cars, like our bodies, can’t run on air! Then why do so many of us resort to extreme methods to beat the bulge and always looking for diets that work fast? It probably didn’t take you two weeks to gain the weight you did, so why try to lose it all in 2 weeks? Also, if you lose a lot of weight very quickly, it may not be fat that you’re losing. It might be water weight or even lean tissue, since it’s hard to burn that many fat kilojoules in a short period.
If you want to lose weight, not just for two weeks but for a lifetime, you need to go slow and steady. A safe weight loss of 0.5 – 1 kg (1 to 2 pounds) a week is the typical recommendation by health professionals. Although that may seem like a slow pace for weight loss, it’s more likely to help you maintain your weight loss for the long term. Remember that 0.5 kilogram (1 pound) of fat contains 14 000 kilojoules (3,500 calories). So to lose 0.5 to 1 kg a week, you need to burn 2000 more kilojoules than you eat each day (2000 kilojoules x 7 days = 14 000 kilojoules).
In some situations, however, faster weight loss can be safe if it’s done the right way. For example, doctors might prescribe very low kilojoule/calorie diets for rapid weight loss if obesity is causing serious health problems. But an extreme diet like this requires medical supervision.
What is a very low calorie diet?
There are so many diets that promote drastic weight loss and that claim that you can lose extreme weight in just two weeks but life goes on beyond a fortnight, right? The Very Low Calorie Diet, or VLCD, has gained popularity in the past few years with many celebrities following extreme regimes to lose baby weight or get ready for the red carpet. Some even claim this way of eating promotes longevity.
There are many VLCD that masquerade as FAD diets such as the Grapefruit Diet or the Cabbage Soup Diet so watch out for these. Basically, a VLCD is any diet that restricts your daily calorie intake to 800 calories (3300kJ) or less per day. That is less of half of what an average woman would need to maintain her current weight!
The Pros of VLCD or diets that work fast
- Weight loss. Probably the first on everyone’s list. VLCDs allow drastic weight loss with minimal effort.
- May be prescribed to address certain health problems. Studies have found that short term use of a VLCD could benefit obese patients with type 2 diabetes in various ways, including improving glycaemic control and increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Eating healthier. Because vegetables are the lowest kilojoule foods, you will naturally be drawn to them as you can eat more without going over your daily energy limit.
- Greater awareness. While on a VLCD you will become more aware of what food you consume, as well as its kilojoule and calorie content.
The Cons of VLCD or diets that work fast
Although following a VLCD could have certain health benefits, there are also some adverse effects. A potential side effect is constipation, depending on the fibre content of the diet.
Again depending on the diet, it is possible to end up with severe nutrient deficiencies that could lead to further health problems. When embarking on a VLCD, you should always take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
A VLCD diet might be a helpful tool to fast track your weight loss, but it is not a sustainable way of life and does not teach you how to keep the weight off in a healthy way. At the end of the diet, you will most likely regain all the weight you’ve lost (plus extra!) unless you adopt the correct healthy habits.
A VLCD might also cause your wallet to become thinner. Staple foods such as bread and maize are more energy-dense and generally less expensive than less energy-dense foods such as vegetables and fruit.
Is there such a thing as a 2 week diet?
Following a VLCD might seem like a silver bullet for extreme or drastic weight loss, but you should rather speak to a health professional or a registered dietician about a more sustainable approach to lasting weight loss and good health.
As always, it is better to take things slow and steady. If you want to lose weight, get a lifestyle plan from a registered dietician and stick with it! That way, you’ll always have enough in the tank to keep you feeling and looking great as well achieving your weight loss goals.
Another down side to drastic or extreme weight loss is the impact these diets may have on your mood.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you go on a drastic diet, you become irritable and moody, why does this happen?
For one thing you are on a diet and probably taking the drastic all-or-nothing approach and depriving yourself not only of kilojoules and balance, but also your favourite food too. It should be no surprise that your food choices affect your mood and vice versa. Any hormonal woman knows how mood lifting chocolate can be. And we’ve seen the scenes of girlfriends tucking into icecream seeking some comfort for a broken heart. It is interesting to note that often, the strongest cravings for food happen when you’re at your weakest point emotionally. Unfortunately, so many dieters will do just about anything just to lose some weight. Even if it means eating incorrectly and being irritable!
If you embark on a restricted unbalanced diet such as a VLCD, a very high protein or a low carbohydrate diet then it is understandable when you get irritated in a culture thick with cereal, pasta and bread. Or, more likely, it’s the biological systems at work as we know that a low-carbohydrate diet can cause a drop in levels of the brain chemical serotonin, and low serotonin levels are associated with low mood and depression. You may also just be eating too little or not managing your blood glucose levels effectively and this could be mood-crushing.
These tips will help you to lose weight and keep it off (and keep spirits up):
Think of your diet as a lifestyle change. If your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, the diet you choose must be one that you can live with after the weight is gone, not just for the two weeks that your willpower lasts.
Make sure your choices include mood and mind-boosting foods and nutrients. Eat balanced meals that include high fibre starch choices with lean protein and generous amounts of colour from fresh fruit, vegetables and salads. Consider taking a good multivitamin. Speak to a registered dietician to check what supplements you personally may need.
Starting your day with a balanced breakfast will not only boost your energy, it will most definitely lift your mood too, and no, a balanced breakfast would not be a cup of coffee in each hand. A balanced breakfast is one that provides some fibre and protein. The fibre from fresh fruit or high fibre cereals generally comes along with vitamins and minerals and the protein from low fat or fat free dairy, eggs or fish will help keep your blood glucose levels steady meaning you won’t launch into that pre-lunch irritability in the middle of a meeting with your client.
You’ve heard it before but are you really doing it? Eat small regular meals and snacks to help sustain your blood glucose levels. Erratic blood glucose levels may make you prone to emotional ups and downs.
Have it all! Don’t banish all your favourite treats. Enjoy your favourite foods in small portions so that you don’t feel deprived.
Be stimulant savvy. Many dieters may drink too much coffee (black, no sugar of course according to restrictive diets) and use pills such as appetite suppressants containing caffeine, guarana or other stimulants. Most of these products are not safe to use long term and also produce a very temporary ‘high’. Is the illusion of skinny REALLY worth the damage you cause to your body, mind and mood?
Include foods with the amino acid tryptophan as it is needed to make your brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, serotonin. Include fish, chicken, turkey, soya, tofu, cottage cheese, avocado, bananas and wheatgerm.
How to spot nutritional quackery:
When considering a dietary program for weight loss, you should ask some basic questions:
- Is it safe?
- Does it promote good nutrition and improve health?
- Is it enjoyable?
- Does it AVOID promising a quick fix – no apologies here, but you didn’t put the weight on overnight so you can’t expect to lose it overnight.
- Does it promote steady safe weight loss – that’s about 0.5 to 1kg a week?
- Is it practical and sustainable — can you continue it for a long time to keep excess weight off?
- Does it provide dietary and lifestyle such as how to be more active and how to eat balanced meals?
The answer should be yes to all of these questions before embarking on any weight loss diet.
While it’s tempting to jump in and try a product or program promising effortless weight loss and diets that work fast, consider carefully before investing time and money. The old adage holds true in this case — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.