Many argue that weight loss is nothing more than simple math. That is, if you eat fewer calories than you burn, the pounds will come off.
For example, there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. And, if you decrease your daily calorie intake by 500 you should go on to lose one pound per week. If you decrease it by 1,000, you should go on to lose two pounds per week. Attempting to lose more than two pounds per week is generally not recommended.
Now, notice the use of the word “should”. I say “should lose X pounds” because in real life the numbers don’t add up so well. In fact, you can meticulously track every bite of food you eat, try to create a sizeable energy deficit, and not lose an ounce for weeks. On the other hand, you can do nothing of the sort and go on to shed, 5, 7, even 10 pounds or more in just days.
So, what accounts for the difference? Actually, there are a few factors that determine how much weight you can lose in a week…
For starters, your diet will have the greatest impact. Every time you eat something, you’re taking a step closer – or further away – from your goal. And this goes beyond total calories. In fact, as we’ll discuss shortly, the quality of food matters just as much – if not more – than the quantity.
Next, how much total weight you have to lose also plays a major role in how fast you go on to lose it. For example, it’s not unusual for someone who is 100 pounds overweight to see a 10-pound drop within the first week of going on a diet. On the other hand, someone who is within 10 pounds of his or her goal weight might need 6-8 weeks to get there. Furthermore, these differences can be seen even if both are creating identical calorie deficits.
How can that be?
Simple. It’s not just about how many calories you eat. It’s what your body decides to do with those calories. It all comes down to survival. And if it deems them necessary for survival, it won’t burn them – no matter how bad you want it to.
This is the most overlooked variable when it comes to weight loss. It’s also the reason that laymen and researchers alike are left scratching their heads when say, the former plateaus despite creating a (supposed) calorie deficit, and the latter notice their test subjects drop more weight than can be explained by their math equations.
Make no mistake about it: your weight is regulated by complex hormonal mechanisms. You can punch numbers on a calculator, count your calories, points, or whatever it is you do until you’re blue in the face. If your body feels “threatened” by your attempts to manipulate its energy balance, it will put the brakes on your fat loss. Again, it’s all about survival.
Given this, here are some suggestions to get the pounds off as fast as possible:
- Eat the right foods. Remember, the quality of your calories matters just as much as the quantity. Therefore, you want to eat things that don’t spike your blood sugar, and hence, your levels of insulin. High levels of the latter will completely sabotage your fat loss efforts.
- Treat yourself from time to time. That’s right: go ahead and reach for that piece of cake, bag of chips, or whatever your poison happens to be. By doing so you’re likely to avoid the dreaded plateau. That’s because you’ll be letting your body know that there’s no need to panic and go into survival mode – after all, the calories are still coming in – so no need to put the breaks on the fat loss. In essence, this “calorie cycling” tricks your body into continuing to burn energy rather than storing it.
- Do some form of resistance exercise – either with weights or even calisthenics. Adding pounds of lean mass to your frame will further boost your metabolism to provide a greater calorie burn. More importantly, it will make you more insulin sensitive. As such, you’ll need less of this hormone to control your blood sugar. And the lower your insulin levels, the easier you’ll burn fat.
Of course, there are many more things you can do to speed up your weight loss. But these three suggestions will help you hit the ground running. And if I can leave you with one last piece of advice, it’s this: skip the calorie counting. As you just learned, weight loss is more than simple math. Instead, eat natural, whole foods that nurture your body and it will take care of the rest and see that you ultimately reach your fitness goals (and faster than you ever thought possible).