“I’m losing weight, but I want to lose faster. What can I do?”
Before I answer the question, I need to repeat the warning about losing weight fast. This only applies to you if you’re not under a doctor’s supervision.
If you’re losing weight under a doctor’s care, particularly a bariatric physician, your doctor is your most reliable source of healthy weight loss speed for you.
If you’re healthy and losing weight without the supervision of a doctor, the safe rate of weight loss is generally considered to be an average of 1 – 2 pounds a week.
In the first few weeks you might lose quite a lot because you’re losing water weight. After the first three weeks the safe rate is no more than 2 pounds per week on average. Studies have shown that losing at a rate faster than that could put you at risk for heart beat irregularities, anemia, excessive loss of lean body mass (muscle), bowel irregularities and gallstone formation.
If you’re losing an average of two pounds a week, you’re making good and safe progress. It’s not recommended that you try to make it faster. If you’re losing weight with a physician’s supervision your doctor will be monitoring your health as well as your progress. Follow your doctor’s orders.
For those of you who are losing without a doctor’s supervision, here are a few things to consider.
1. Don’t mess with success.
Before you go making changes in eating and exercise to speed up your weight loss, think about current compatibility. In other words, how compatible are your current weight loss practices with your life. Has it been necessary to drastically change your routines to enable you to lose weight?
- Are you often hungry?
- Do you feel deprived?
- Are you spending so much time exercising you have had to give up other activities such as sleeping or spending time with friends?
If you’re losing weight and you’re answering “no” to these questions it means your weight loss actions are a good fit with your life. It indicates that you will be able to maintain these behaviors to allow you to stay at your goal once you arrive there. Wouldn’t it be great maintain your loss and never have to worry about clothes becoming too small again?
Losing weight faster will mean that you will have to further restrict your calories and possibly food choices, and increase your exercise. While it might be okay to do this for a little while, it might be incompatible with your lifestyle. You might lose weight safely and faster, but your faster weight loss could reduce your chances of keeping off that weight.
2. Faster this week, but what happens next week?
Watch out for the weight loss pendulum! You want to lose weight fast and you’re willing to take bold moves to make it happen.
Well, at least, this week you can make bold moves and they pay off. You get a reward when you step on the scale. The next week, though, you have a little slip. You aren’t concerned because you have slipped before and got right back on track. This slip is different. It turns into a major, way-out-of-control disaster that you can’t seem to stop.
Sticking to a strict diet and vigorous exercise schedule for a week or two isn’t so difficult, but week after week is a different story, especially if you struggle with perfectionism. You might find that if you can’t stick with it perfectly, you perfectly lose all control!
It can become easy to swing from highly restrictive action to those that are overly indulgent – no balance or moderation, just one extreme or the other. The 4 pound loss this week, could be a 4.2 gain the following week. All that swinging pendulum action may quickly leave you heavier than when you started.
3. If you don’t throw enough logs on the fire, the fire burns slower.
What does that mean? Think about a campfire. If you don’t keep feeding it with logs, it burns slower and slower. That is analogous to cutting calories and your metabolism. Cutting too many calories can cause your metabolism to slow during weight loss. It’s because your body becomes more efficient sustaining itself. It requires fewer calories to perform the necessary daily functions for survival (breathing, circulating blood, and regulating body temperature).
It won’t stop your weight loss, but eventually you will start to lose more slowly despite you strict adherence to your rigid plan. If that happens you might be tempted to jump start your weight loss by working even harder at cutting calories and more exercise. That’s a mistake!
When you severely restrict calories you are also reducing the nutrients your body is getting. If you let your guard down you might also overeat and because your metabolism is slower, your body won’t burn all those calories as efficiently as before. It now has been trained to become more efficient at conserving calories. That means extra calories are stored as fat. Combine calorie conservation with out-of-control eating and you have the formula to quickly gain more than the weight you lost.
Maybe it won’t threaten your health to speed up that progress a bit, but what if you’re risking long-term weight management for speedier weight loss. Is it worth it?
So if you’re losing an average of two pounds a week you’re doing a great job of sticking to a sensible weight loss plan!