Why You Don't Need To Lose A Stone in Just 21 Days

Offered By The Nutrition Activist

When you read the title of the recent TV series ‘Lose a Stone in 21 Days’ how did you feel?

The presenter of the show, said: people say that rapid weight loss is dangerous, but it's not if it’s healthy eating.

This makes me very, very cross!

Why? Well, because quite simply, there is growing evidence that weight-loss, particularly rapid weight loss leads to metabolic slowing. This means that when you lose weight fast your body will adapt by slowing down your metabolism. Our body operates on a system of homeostasis or balance. It is designed to survive and if it feels threatened by a shortage of fuel it will store energy and start to use any energy that it does get more slowly. In simple terms it slows down your metabolic rate to preserve energy.

The even worse news is that it doesn’t just slow it down for the short-term, it slows it down for the long-term making it harder and harder for an individual to lose weight! This is what dieting companies rely on, it’s literally how their business model works.

The Biggest Loser

Do you remember a show in the early 2000’s called The Biggest Loser? The Biggest Loser was an American TV show that centred on overweight and obese contestants attempting to lose the most weight; the winner received a cash prize. Don’t even get me started on this concept but the follow-up research on this is eye-opening.

In a 6-year follow-up study of participants, a study thought to be the longest follow-up investigation of the changes in metabolic adaption after weight loss and regain, researchers found that despite substantial weight regain in the 6 years following participation, which should see an equivalent increase in energy requirements, the resting metabolic rate of the participants also remained suppressed. This meant that energy requirements were ~500kcal less than were to be expected based on body composition measurements. In short, rapid weight loss not only lead to weight regain but the more likely scenario, weight increase thanks to a slowed metabolic rate.

This is one of the reasons that people who are constantly in and out of well-known diet programmes  and often end up larger than when they started. It’s how the diet cycle works and it’s rarely talked about because of course this would do nothing for the diet industry, an industry worth billions!

Set-point weight

The other factor to consider is our set-point weight which has gained increasing attention in recent years and if you want to learn more about this there is a fantastic book available called Why We Eat (Too Much) by Dr Andrew Jenkinson, which I would strongly recommend everyone read. Simply put, our set-point is the weight our body is comfortable at, it is a range of 10-20lbs and it is where our body prefers to be. This can go up fairly easily but, unsurprisingly, considering the above, it is harder to get it to go down, we can alter it downwards but it takes time.

To explain this process we need to look at the process our body goes through when we lose weight and what happens to our hormones. Hunger and appetite are driven by hormones, not our willpower and the way we fuel our bodies will impact this.

The diagram below explains what happens when we lose weight using ‘quick fixes’ and why, in the end we end up actually gaining weight and also raising our set-weight point.

Dietary Weight Loss Diagram

What should you do if you want to lose weight?

Firstly, and repeat after me, there is no quick fix! Weight loss is the by-product of a lifestyle, weight-loss is not a lifestyle, no fad diet will work long-term.

If you need to lose weight there are sustainable and sensible ways to do this. Sadly, they are not often pushed by influencers because honestly, they sound nowhere near as exciting as ‘Keto’ ‘Paleo’ ‘South-Beach’ or the latest ‘detox’ but, they are far better for you in the long term both in terms of your physical and mental health.

Key points to bear in mind if you want to lose weight long-term

  1. Your why: Assess why you want to lose weight. Do you actually need to? If so, find your internal motivation, not your external motivation. Wanting to look good is not enough and is often driven by diet-culture and society telling you your size is related to your success. That is quite frankly not true!
  1. Eat a balanced diet: Build a plate of healthy food three times a day, that means fat too but go easy on carbs and sugar, you need to balance your blood sugar if you want to have consistent energy levels.
  1. Sleep: 7-8 hours a night: This will help you cope with each day and it will also help you regulate your hormones, this includes your hunger and satiety hormones which make it easier to manage your hunger.
  1. Cut out or reduce caffeine: This will also impact  your sleep and is vital for weight-loss to be possible. If you are tired, you will crave energy, often in the form of carbs as they are quick energy and you will also feel less inclined to exercise.
  1. Reduce stress: There is a strong association between weight gain and stress, so look at your current lifestyle and work out how you can reduce any stress surrounding you. Try an app like Headspace if you are struggling but work on cutting out any extra stresses. Make a list of what they are and start eliminating them one by one. Be kind to yourself, this is a process.
  1. Get active: Just do something, you don’t have to sign-up to a challenge or run a marathon, just do more today than you did yesterday. If you do fancy a challenge then something like Couch to 5km is a great challenge for those of you looking to try something realistic and achievable.
  1. Plan: It’s great to be doing all of the above but make a plan of how you will make this happen weekly and stick to it. Plan your meals, plan your shop and plan your activity. Put times, places and intentions to each part of your plan, I am going to go for a run at 8am on Monday morning in the park. If you make it specific it is more likely to happen. I’d even recommend making a time and location for your planning.
  1. Be kind to yourself: Take it one day at a time and remember the 80/20 rule, if at any point you start to feel like you are restricting or you feel denied of something, work out why? Is it habit? Are you using food as a reward? What’s going on? Don’t have a biscuit and throw in the towel on your new lifestyle, enjoy that biscuit, realise you can’t change the past but you can change the future and move on.

Simply put fast weight loss, even though alluring is not sustainable, in truth it is harmful (of course this doesn’t include circumstances when you may need to lose weight for surgery or other medical reasons).

Quick weight loss ‘programmes’ will only work temporarily and I’m sorry to tell you that the weight will, 95% of the time, go back on. They will also often leave you with an unsustainable and unrelaxing approach to food.

If you are ever tempted to do a quick-fix diet, think it through first. How will you feel if you are one of the 95% who regain weight but also end up putting more on? Is that a feeling you want to have?

Don’t set yourself up to fail, set yourself up to succeed. Build your plate, embrace food and take it one day at a time.

Please avoid the allure of the lose-weight fast culture. It’s simply not supported by science!

If you have any questions please reach out, we are always happy to support and help those who want a more balanced approach to food and weight.


Want to keep learning? Find more articles from Olivia Palmer - The Nutrition Activist:


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