10 min read
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: unless you’re prepared to perform drastic actions that WILL compromise your health, there is NO such thing as a “fast way” to lose weight. Now, with that public service announcement out of the way, there are a few hard truths you must swallow and understand about how to lose weight fast that will keep you in good stead.
Here is the thing: losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint. A lot of people on a weight loss journey either don’t realize this or despise it, and this is where the search for shortcuts comes in alongside snake oil salesmen. If you truly want to take the weight off and keep it off, then here are a few hard truths that you must appreciate.
Hard Truth #01: Fast Weight Loss is Clickbait
If you come across anyone promising you quick results that already signals that either they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re full of shit.
According to the World Health Organization (2016), there are over 1.9 billion obese adults globally, and the number is only rising. Now, think of how many of those people are potentially dissatisfied with their bodies or in need to scale down their weight for health reasons. Therefore, with such a large audience pool, content (articles, videos, posts, etc.) that supposedly contain all the answers to losing weight “quickly” become more enticing to create, especially in this day and age where clicks matter more than the quality of information being put out.
The truth of the matter is that losing weight takes time, and there are a number of reasons why this is so, but I want to focus on three specific reasons:
1. Just like how it took time to put on the weight, it’ll take time to lose it – therefore the more weight you have on, the longer it’ll take (this is assuming that, again, one is trying to approach things in a healthy and sustainable manner). Unfortunately, when we’re putting on weight, we rarely pay attention therefore when we notice we’re on the wrong side of the scale it feels like it happened overnight, and then when we want to lose the weight, we’re painfully aware of the entire process, making it feel like a lifetime.
2. Weight gain and loss work on caloric intake (Calories In, Calories Out – CICO). Depending on your genes and features (sex, height, age, weight, lifestyle, diet, etc.) we all need different amounts of calories per day to maintain our current sizes and shapes. When you increase in weight, you eat above this daily maintenance level, and when you lose weight, you eat below the daily level. The reason I mention calories is because how much you eat above or below your maintenance level will determine how quickly and drastically you’ll lose or gain weight. So, with this information you’re probably thinking that this means to lose weight all you need to do is just drastically cut back your food intake, but this is where the whole unhealthy weight loss thing comes in; cutting back so viciously has negative health ramifications because keep in mind that your body has a maintenance level that it has become accustomed to overtime, so you’re going to have to slowly reduce this level and allow your body to readjust. If you try to ham-fist things, your body will fight back, but if you go at it slowly, you’ll see how your body complies and adjusts accordingly to the changes you introduced.
3. Lastly is lifestyle. How you eat and live out your day will impact how your weight loss journey will go. You often hear of people who lost weight only to regain it all later. Chances are, these people either adopted a temporary diet or did something drastic. Hate it or love it, when you want to lose weight you have to change your lifestyle to accommodate the weight loss goal. This largely means changing your eating behavior, rather than being more active (although that would help). A lot of people who bounce back typically adopt a new diet that they adhere to for a bit before returning back to the old behaviors that got them to that weight in the first place. This is how the yo-yoing happens.
Speaking about food, that neatly ties into the next hard truth.
Hard Truth #02: Fad Diets are Red Flags
This is not to say that they don’t work, but when you want to adopt a diet plan critically assess what it is asking of you, especially if the diet is criminalizing certain natural food groups. If you boil them down to their core, fad diets are just doing what most people are afraid or incapable of doing – that is, controlling portions. Except, the only difference is that fad diets are taking it to an extreme (like telling you to completely cut out a food source or making you eat in certain windows or intervals so you can’t binge as easily).
The problem with fad diets is that they ask adopters to commit to extreme changes, and the problem with asking people to do this is that you have a majority of people adopt eating behaviors that they don’t like and will likely not adhere to because the process is not enjoyable.
For this reason, IFBB Pro Greg Doucette preaches about making diet changes that you love and can adhere to, but just ensure that these changes align with your weight goals. Therefore, if there are certain food items that you enjoy or dislike, it’s not necessary to completely abandon the stuff you love or force the stuff you hate into your diet; either adjust your food intake (for things you like/dislike), make the food taste better (for items you dislike), or find healthier alternatives (for the foods you love – where these healthier alternatives are more satiating/filling or carry less calories). Frankly, there are different approaches to how you tackle your weight loss and the best part is that it’s completely up to you on how you decide to skin the cat.
If you’re going to pick up a fad diet, it can work but you’ll have to maintain it – you don’t just diet once, then go back to your old eating behaviors. Learn lessons from the diet; exclude the things that don’t work for you, and incorporate the stuff that does. Steadily engineer a diet plan that works for yourself (through trial and error) that you can stick to in the long run. Fad diets don’t preach this, and instead, want you to be a slave to them.
Hard Truth #03: A Minute on the Lips, a Lifetime on the Hips
This expression embodies the idea that it’s quick and easy to eat food, but then it takes time to lose the weight you gain from it. Essentially, with this, we’re back again to lifestyle.
Did you know, depending on how sedentary or active your lifestyle is, you can or cannot get away with certain eating habits? Now, genetics still plays an important role on how we put on weight and its distribution across our bodies, but being more active in general goes a long way.
How many of you have skinny friends who seem like they can eat whatever they want with little to no ramifications? Genetics does help them, but chances are they may also be active. Mind you, an active lifestyle doesn’t always mean exercising; it can be a life where you move about a lot or an energetic one (just look at kids).
The takeaway here is that you can’t be complaining about how unfair it is that you pack on weight, but a good portion of your day is spent being sedentary. Take some responsibility for your situation; whatever your weight goal is, you don’t pick up or lose weight by “accident”, it happens from your actions, or lack of.
Hard Truth #04: Gimmick Products
Going back to the point of Hard Truth #01; they’re a lot of people out there dissatisfied with their bodies, and with this large number there are equally a lot of people out there trying to make a quick buck out of the uninformed among them. Besides clickbait articles promising you the world and giving you nothing, gimmick products are another offender.
Here’s the fact of the matter: you don’t ever have to spend a single dollar to lose weight, and that’s the reality of the situation. And once you appreciate that there aren’t shortcuts, you’ll understand that all these products on the market aren’t offering you anything unique, helpful, or of value. The only thing you need is information to empower yourself, and that information is available to you, for free, on the Internet. Those who sell products know this, and because of this, they try to oversell their products by making pseudo-science claims about their products. If something really works, it’ll speak for itself.
Hard Truth #05: Exercise Will NOT Overcome a Bad Diet
On Hard Truth #03, I emphasized the importance of lifestyle, but in an almost contradictory type of way, the reality is that no matter how much hard work you put into exercising, its contribution can never outweigh that of your diet. This is because, compared to the number of calories we take in from eating, the amount we burn from exercising is negligible. How you eat will always be the number one reason for your weight gain or loss.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore exercising, though. It does come with its benefits, like stimulating your metabolism, creating muscles (which require consuming more calories to sustain), and improving your overall quality of life, just for examples.
At the end of the day, though, you need to watch how you eat and try to maintain a low-calorie diet.
Hard Truth #06: HIIT Is Not For You. Try LISS
If you’ve reached this far, I hope you’re coming to understand that how you eat is the number one factor that will affect your weight goals, and everything else is supplementary. With that out of the way, if you do want to incorporate those supplementary habits, then exercising is a good one to add, and what you need to know about this one is that HIIT isn’t the silver bullet that most fitness influencers want you to believe it is, low-intensity steady-state (LISS) exercises may actually be better.
There is a lot of things wrong with modern-day fitness, but avoiding that rabbit hole, I wish to focus on the fact that fitness has a lot of trainers and experts. In that sea of trainers and experts, a lot of them (good and bad) want to stand out from the crowd. Again, I’ll tactically avoid another rabbit hole that concerns the (crappy) things people do to stand out, but an aspect I want to focus in on is how trainers try to be flashy to stand out (just look at the garbage all over Instagram and TikTok). And the thing here is that HIIT style exercises complement this focus on being flashy just too damn well.
Let me not vilify those who promote HIIT styled workouts, fact of the matter is that a lot of people aren’t motivated to exercise or don’t have the time/interest in doing LISS. However, although HIIT is a great form of exercising; it’s bloody hard, very few instructors actually get it right, and, on top of all of that, the strain from it might not be ideal. LISS, in contrast, is slower and boring; however, it’s easy, not difficult to perform correctly, and has much lower injury risks.
Personally, I’m not a fan of HIIT, and this fat loss and health benefits of LISS article by Corey Nelson, expertly uses studies and references to highlight the highs and lows of HIIT and LISS, and it goes over why exactly I personally prefer steady-state over high intensity.