I know losing weight is one of the goals many people possess and most of the time, people like to measure their success by how many pounds they are losing on the scales.  While this may be the easiest and most convenient way to measure success, it may not be the most accurate.  We also live in a “I want this now” kind of generation and so anything we want to achieve, we want to achieve it as fast as possible.  As far as losing fat, this is neither safe or possible.

Let’s look at an example: Jenny who is 170 pounds and her body fat is 40%, goes through a quick weight loss program with a low calorie diet.  By the end of the 6 week program, Jenny is 140 pounds at 30% body fat.  This means before Jenny started the diet, she was 170 pounds with 68 pounds of that being fat.  After she went through the weight loss program she had lost a total of 30 pounds and now weighs 140 pounds with 42 pounds of that being fat.  Overall, she lost a total of 30 pounds and since she started with 68 pounds of fat and now has 42 pounds of fat she lost a total of 26 pounds of fat.  That means the rest of the weight lost was from muscle.  Jenny lost 4 pounds of muscle which also means she is burning about 200 calories less than when she went in since each pound of muscle burns about 50 calories a day just to maintain itself.  At first glance, the program Jenny did might seem good because on the scale it looks like she lost 30 pounds, which she did, but 26 of those pounds were fat and 4 of them were muscle, which slows your metabolism and makes it easier to put on weight.

Let’s look at a second example: Now we have Lindsey who also weighed 170 pounds and her body fat was also 40%.  Lindsey decided to get a personal trainer who designed a program of aerobic training and resistance exercise, while monitoring a healthy calorie intake.  After 6 months of training, Lindsey weighed 140 pounds with 25% body fat, which means she has 35 pounds of body fat now.  She started at 170 pounds with 40% body fat, 68 pounds of fat, and ended with 35 pounds of body fat.  In total, she lost 33 pounds of fat.  Wait, she only lost a total of 30 pounds!  Where did the extra 3 pounds come from?  They came from gaining 3 pounds of muscle in the process.  So, not only did Lindsey lose 33 pounds of fat, but she boosted her metabolism by 150 calories a day since she gained 3 pounds of muscle.  She also did this in a safe, progressive manner, losing about 1.25 pounds a week.

From these examples, I wanted to show you that even though Lindsey and Jenny lost the same amount of weight, they did not have the same outcome.  Lindsey lost weight, boosted her metabolism and added some of those shapely, toned curves while Jenny lost weight, lost muscle and slowed her metabolism.  While quick weight loss may be fast and seemingly effective by the standards of the scale, it often makes you lose more than just fat and further damages your metabolism.  The phrase “slow and steady wins the race” still holds true in this situation as well.  When looking for a program for weight loss, try to look for one that is long term and includes weight training along with aerobics.

The best rate of fat loss is a slow, steady 1-2 pounds per week with healthy eating, cardiovascular fitness, and a weight training program.  If you are losing any more than that a week, then you are probably losing more than just fat.  If you are obese or morbidly obese, then you might lose a little more than 1-2 pounds per week because you will also be losing a lot of water weight.  If you aim to lose a pound a week, then that would mean you need to be in calorie deficit 500 calories a day to create a total of 3,500 calories lost for the week to equal one pound of fat.  That would mean burning 500 calories a day through exercise or combining burning 250 calories with exercise and eating 250 calories less to equal -500 calories for the day.  If you wanted to lose 2 pounds a week then you need to be in a deficit of 7,000 calories for the week, or 1,000 calories a day.  That would most likely be accomplished by a combination of exercise and eating fewer calories.  For example, cutting back by eating 500 fewer calories and exercising to burn 500 calories.  Losing any more than 2 pounds a week would mean loads of exercise and massive cuts in calories, which would not be healthy for anyone.

In conclusion, when pursuing exercise to lose weight, don’t just look for the quick weight loss programs because most likely they will make you lose more than just fat and slow your metabolism down, making it easier to put on more fat later.  The smart thing is to pursue a journey of eating well and exercising (weight lifting and cardiovascular training) to lose fat and put on muscle mass, which will make it easier to lose more weight or just keep the weight off that you have lost.  Muscle mass helps rev up your metabolism which burns more calories at rest.  That’s what everybody wants to be able to do, right?  We all want to burn more calories while doing nothing.  It’s possible. It just takes time and a lot of effort, but that’s how you know you’re doing things right.  You’ll be more proud of something you worked for rather than something that just landed in your lap.