The following article is excerpted from my latest book, Matt Hoover’s Guide to Life, Love, and Losing Weight by Matt Hoover (winner of “The Biggest Loser” Season 2) and Sheri Colberg, Ph.D.
Fact or Fiction?
“It’s possible to lose eight or more pounds in just a week of dieting.”
Fact. While you can lose that amount of weight or more in a week, there are two things that you should realize. First, in the first week of a diet, most of the weight you lose is truly from water losses. Your body stores extra water with carbohydrates in muscle (glycogen), and when you’re restricting your calorie intake, you’ll lose the glycogen and the water stored with it. You haven’t lost much fat that first week, though, since fat typically contains about 3,500 calories per pound. When and if you start eating and drinking more normally again, that weight is likely to come right back on. Second, the longer you’ve been on a diet, the harder it becomes to lose weight quickly, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that later losses come more from fat (which is more calorie dense per pound) and less from water.
Fact or Fiction?
“Your weight loss while you’re dieting is likely to be consistent and continual.”
Fiction. As mentioned, it’s easy to lose weight quickly during the first week or two of a diet. After that, you start losing more fat, and fat stores are calorie-dense. A pound of muscle only contains about 2,000 calories, but a similar weight of fat stores contains almost twice that, or 3,500 calories. Thus, weight loss that comes mainly from fat stores is slower. Also, the energy expenditure from your body’s basal needs and any physical activity you do during each day goes down as you lose weight. It takes more energy to move a heavier mass, and the more weight you lose, the less energy you burn getting from point A to point B. It also takes less energy to maintain a body that is a smaller size, so even your resting energy needs go down. For all of these reasons, most people hit a plateau in their weight loss somewhere along the way, and you probably will too, unless you either add more movement into your day or cut back the calories some more. Don’t cut back too far, though, or you’ll likely end up putting your body into “starvation mode,” which will make it more energy efficient and less likely to lose weight easily.