May 20, 2017

Weight Loss Fast: Think Again

Fast Weight LossWeight loss fast?  Is it possible?  Well, if there is a fast safe way to lose weight permanently, we would all know about it, and few of us would be overweight.  But, unfortunately it is not that easy.  Weight loss is very complicated and is best approached by addressing the many different mechanisms and biochemical processes involved in weight management.

A vast majority of individuals who lose weight ultimately regain it within two years. Why? Most weight loss fast programs are unsuccessful in the long run because they typically focus on one component of weight management – usually the number of calories consumed.  Or, they utilize a medicine or supplement that addresses only one mechanism related to weight management like controlling appetite, stimulating metabolism, or blocking absorption of fats or carbohydrates.

Weight loss is more complicated than calories in – calories out as we discuss in this article.

Why Do We Gain Weight As We Age?

Have you noticed that we start gaining we weight as we approach our 30s and 40s?  Prior to that many of us, but not all, can control our weight.  So what happens when we hit age 30 and older?  Our hormones begin to decline starting at age 30, especially our sex hormones, which help to stimulate our metabolism, and build and maintain muscle mass.  The higher our metabolism and more muscle we have, the more calories we burn.

So if you struggle with your weight be sure to have your hormone levels measure, and consider hormone replacement therapy if they are low.   Hormone deficiency is overlooked as a contributor to weight gain.

Weight Loss Fat: the Best Way

weight loss fastBesides having your hormone levels measured, focus on a nutrition plan that emphasizes low glycemic foods, and exercise into your anaerobic zone.  That means short burst of activities performed at near maximal exertion (“Exercises to Lose Weight”).  Perform strength training exercises. Muscle burns about 3 times as many calories as fat. The more muscle you have the higher will be your metabolic rate. This means you will burn more calories even when you are not exercising.

Consider some herbal supplementsGreen tea stimulates metabolism, inhibits absorption of fats and causes earlier satiety or sense of fullness.  So green tea addresses more than one mechanism of weight management.  Brown kelp or seaweed and Irvingia are other herbs that also work through multiple mechanisms (see “Herbal Weight Loss”).

Weight Loss Plans that Seem to Work

I have had patients lose significant weight – like 60 pounds in 6 months – by doing nothing more than simply eating less of what they normally eat. They simply reduced the size portions of their meals without change the content of what they ate. And, reducing portion size is a good place to start. Over the decades the size of the dinner plate has increased. Eat until content, not until stuffed.

Other patients of mine have lost weight and kept if off with modified fasts. Research suggests that we should fast at least 12 hours a day. Such a fast makes the body run more efficiently and gives the GI tract including the pancreas which produces insulin, and liver which processes sugar and fats a much needed rest. Some people fast 16 hours a day. A more recent patient of ours lost 20 pounds the past 2 months fasting 20 hours a day. He eats or gets all his calories in a 4 hour window and feels great with more energy. But he has lost some muscle mass which is going to happen to some degree. See below – Lose Fat, Not Muscle. 

If you look at diets that have been successfully used to lose weight whether it be low fat or low carbohydrate and regardless of the name the diet is given – South Beach, Zone Diet, Atkin’s Diet, and so on – they all involve reducing high glycemic carbs. So avoid high glycemic carbs.

Lose Fat, Not Muscle

You want to lose fat, not muscle, but regardless of how you lose weight you will invariably lose some muscle. Try zig-zagging your way to weight loss. This is where you lose weight which will include some muscle. Then you increase your calories and work on adding back the muscle you just lost. Then lose more weight which will again include some muscle. Then add back the muscle lost, and so on, until you reach your goal.  We discuss that more in Zig Zag Your Way to Weight LossThe zig-zag approach is a popular method that body builders use leading up to a competition.

Avoid Fad or Crash Diets

Fad or crash diets typically encourage water loss and protein and are not healthy in the long run.  They can also cause metabolism to even slow down more making further weight loss more and more difficult. Fast weight loss diets usually do not lead to permanent weight loss.

What About the HCG Diet?

The HCG diet is associated with up to 40 pounds of weight loss in 40 days.  It relies on a very restricted calorie intake of 500 to 750 calories.  It’s difficult to meet our nutritional needs on so few calories.  Though the HCG is touted to burn existing body fat for the other calories, those calories do not provide the other necessary nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

I have seen the HCG Diet work, but I have not seen patients keep the weight off. It can be useful to jump start a weight loss program but other lifestyle changes need to be made. People feel good psychologically when they see some quick weight loss, probably the reason why fad diets that promise fast weight loss are so popular.

I have prescribed HCG to some of my patients and while they do lose weight – usually 20 pounds in 4 weeks, they invariably put in back on once they return to their previous habits. No diet or nutrition plan is going to work if you return to your former bad habits.

Losing weight takes effort.  Weight loss fast is sure appealing, but fast methods rarely work.  Focus on consuming low glycemic foods, getting regular exercise, and it doesn’t hurt to have your hormone levels measured to see if they are optimal to facilitate safe weight loss. To be successful a diet has to more of a live it – something you can do indefinitely.

See “How to Lose Weight Fast”.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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