Can you lose weight fast? The big, fat question explored…

So you want to lose weight fast. You want brilliant results in a week so you can slip on your skinny jeans and skip your svelte body into the sunset. Not so fast, Batman. Short of being chronically obese (and on a strictly controlled diet), having gastric bypass surgery, or simply being a nit-wit on a fad diet who’s happy to regain every gram, rapid weight loss isn’t going to work for you.

Sorry about that.

We know, we know. The media tells us every day that it is possible to lose weight quickly. Magazine racks are full of rapid weight loss diets and eye-catching headlines shouting “how to lose weight in a week!”.  Why? Because they sound good, and they sell. But they really are empty promises. It’s just not that simple.

If you’re an average sized person with a few extra kilos, or you’re starting to fit into the obese category, rapid weight loss will be harder for you than someone with a high adiposity level, e.g. a chronically obese person. The reason? It takes a bit of energy to keep the show on the road for a seriously overweight person. There are a lot of tissues to maintain, and that takes energy. The body happily favours fat as a fuel source so when there is more of it available it will burn it more readily.

Plus, when you’re carrying a lot of weight, everything is an extreme workout, so even a walk to the shop will burn a truckload of calories.

Less heavy individuals have fewer fat stores, and humans have genetically evolved to hang onto fat reserves, so to lose weight fast is harder. Wouldn’t it be nice just to have a chat to our bodies and say hey, let’s just forget the past? Forget the millions of people over millennia that have died of starvation. I don’t need this stuff hanging around my body. It’s cool. Let it go.

Great, but that’s not the way it works, unfortunately.

To lose just under half a kilo of fat (450 grams or 1 pound), you need to expend approximately 3500 calories. But let’s stress that 3500 is an approximate number only. Human beings aren’t walking mathematical formulas and we’re really not designed to lose weight quickly. Hypothetically though, if you’re an average sized 40-year-old woman who doesn’t exercise, you will burn approximately 1900 calories a day. This is without doing any form of formal exercise.

Now, you could reduce 500 calories a day from your diet, and within a week, you would have created that magical 3500 calorie deficit. Want to push things further? You could exercise intensely; meaning you could jog for 50 minutes a day, but that’s quite an extreme amount of exercise for many. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say that you managed to maintain this relatively punishing regime. You could easily drop another half a kilo through this additional exercise.

But could you do this? Maintaining that strict regime of dropping 500 calories – read, strict dieting and counting every morsel, every day – is quite an amount of discipline, and again, the exercise regime is pretty hard-core.

So, what IS the best way to lose weight fast? And what, exactly, does a sustainable weight loss target look like? Experts claim that the most sustainable and healthy weight loss targets are between less than 0.5 kilos and 1 kilo per week.

Can you lose weight fast - Sage Institute of FitnessSome large US studies on obese participants have showed that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is not to aim for rapid weight loss. Instead the best results (i.e. sustainable weight loss), came from those who lost less than 200 gram of body fat per week.

At the end of the day, the quickest way to lose fat depends on where you’re starting from; your body composition, what your metabolism is like, how sedentary your job is, physical exercise performed, medications, lifestyle, and many other factors.

Want a REAL weight loss tip? Forget about losing weight quickly. Instead, do it sustainably. Once again, we’re back to our favourite tale: The Hare and The Tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race. The quickest way to lose weight and keep it off is simply to go slow, and enjoy the ride. There is a lot of joy to be had in a lifestyle of regular exercise and healthy eating.

Have fun, go slow and steady, and you’re far more likely to achieve your goals than if you try and lose weight fast.

Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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