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5 Things You Need to Know if You’re Trying to Lose Fat Fast

Find out why quick weight loss often backfires and how slow you should go for mega results.

Plus, how quickly you can really expect to drop lbs.


By Molly Triffin, Women's Health

From diet programs to detox teas, so many products promise instant gratification when it comes to transforming your bod. But is it actually possible to lose a substantial amount of weight—in a healthy way—in the time it takes your Amazon Prime shipment to arrive?

Well, in her 20 years of practice, dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, R.D., owner of Nutrition Starring You, has never met anyone who successfully kept off weight they’d lost rapidly. In fact, most folks gain back more than they initially drop, she says.

Instead, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health recommends a slow and steady slim-down approach that vaporizes one to two pounds per week. "It takes a deficit of approximately 3,500 calories to shed one pound of fat—so cutting your daily intake by 500 calories should lead to weight loss in the neighborhood of a pound per week," says Harris-Pincus. "When people lose weight slowly, it’s usually due to making sustainable behavioral and lifestyle changes, as opposed to crash diets with unhealthy restrictions."

Here's how slimming down ASAP can backfire in a big way:

"Eating less than your body needs triggers the production of the stress hormone, cortisol," says Ellen Albertson, Ph.D., R.D., founder of SmashYourScale. That stress drives up appetite and can increase fat storage, especially around the middle, she says. Umm, let’s get this straight: You’ll be sporting a spare tire and a bitchy mood? Thanks, but no thanks.  

Rapid weight loss plays mind games with your bod: "Our body recognizes caloric deprivation as an external famine and flips on its metabolic survival switch, telling your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy," says Dina Garcia, R.D., a nutritionist in Miami. In other words, your body goes into starvation mode and stores more fat, hitting you with a weight-gain double whammy.

A recent study tracked how this played out with participants in The Biggest Loser and the results were chilling: The more pounds contestants zapped, the lazier their metabolisms grew. As the weight piled back on, their calorie-burning capacity only continued to diminish. Six years later, many were heavier than before they’d even started the show.

When you go on a crash diet, your levels of leptin, a hormone that controls hunger, plummet. As a result, you’re ravenous, obsessed with food, and primed to binge, says Garcia. Put the PB under lockdown, sister.
Cut calories too fast and your muscle tone will seriously suffer. "When you don't eat enough, your body resorts to using muscle mass for fuel," says Albertson.

Besides losing that sexy, toned look, dropping muscle mass actually decreases how much fat you burn. The less tissue you have, the more likely you are to sabotage your get-slim goals. "And as your skeletal muscles become more efficient, you’ll burn fewer calories through movement," says certified nutrition counselor Dan DeFigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies.

Plus, your guns help make workouts more intense and effective. Without them, you’ll lack the strength and stamina to push yourself through that last mile on the treadmill or rally for those SoulCycle sprints.

"A 10-pound weight loss is mostly from water or stool being eliminated, and is not body fat loss," says New York-based nutritionist Millie Shedorick, R.D. "Water weighs approximately eight pounds a gallon, and this rapid loss of fluids can lead to dehydration."

H2O, of course, is crucial for physical function. It eliminates toxins, delivers nutrients, facilitates digestion, etc. When your stores of agua are depleted, you’ll likely have to contend with side effects like headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and low energy. All of which hinder your ability to work, exercise, and enjoy life in general. (Work towards your weight loss goals with these moves from Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.)

"You’ll naturally find that you move around less—fidgeting, standing up, and anything other than purposeful exercise decrease," says DeFigio. Your calorie-torching power, in the meantime, will suffer.

So, yes, your best bet is to aim to lose one to two pounds per week, but that pace might still be too tough if you're nearing your goal. "It's more reasonable for a 300-pound person to drop one to two pounds per week than for a 150-pound person to lose at that same rate," says Garcia. "The closer you are to your healthy weight, the slower you should lose," she says.

That prevents your body from fighting to hold onto extra fat.

For clients actively pursuing weight loss, Garcia recommends losing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent of their body weight every six months.

Anderson puts it this way: "I encourage my clients to forget about the scale and focus on eating right, exercising, reducing stress, and getting adequate rest. If you do those four things, in addition to addressing any emotional eating, the weight will come off and stay off."

We know you like insta-results, but hey, give yourself permission to take a little more time reaching your weight goals, and get there in a healthy, sustainable way. Your body will thank you for it.

See more at: Women's Health

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Women's Lifestyle: 5 Things You Need to Know if You’re Trying to Lose Fat Fast
5 Things You Need to Know if You’re Trying to Lose Fat Fast
Find out why quick weight loss often backfires and how slow you should go for mega results.
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Women's Lifestyle
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