I bet that headline caught your attention, right? How about this one: “Gain That Six-Pack You’ve Always Wanted Without Exercising or Giving Up Your Favorite Desserts,” or “Lose Fat and Gain Muscle in Only 5 Minutes A Day.” I’m sure you’ve seen similar claims in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet. We’re all looking for a quick fix, but does one really exist? Is there a special diet that works for you? Are there special exercises or training equipment that really “melts the inches off”?
The short answer is “Yes, absolutely.” For example, since our bodies comprise approximately 70% water, you can quickly dehydrate yourself by severely limiting your water, sodium, and carbohydrate intake, and then sweat out whatever else you can in a sauna for a day. You’ll probably lose at least 10 pounds in less than 48 hours. Of course, as soon as you stop this ridiculous undertaking and start drinking normally again, you’ll put all the water weight back on. You could also get liposuction (although recent research has shown that the weight just comes back in other areas of the body) or even cut off a limb or two. Personally, though, I would say any of the above options are really bad ideas.
The more appropriate long answer, however, is “No, and here’s why…”
You should always be wary of any fad diet, “miracle pill,” “super workout,” or “revolutionary exercise equipment.” Quite simply, if you can’t sustain the diet or activity for more than a few weeks, chances are it’s not a very healthy idea in the first place and likely can’t and/or shouldn’t be conducted at all. Furthermore, any changes that may occur by following these alleged claims will more than likely be temporary at best and may harm you at worst.
As I’ve found out myself the hard way, restricting or over-exerting yourself too much for too long will ultimately rebound on you. Becoming and being healthy must be an intrinsic part of your lifestyle if it is to be sustained. In fact, the true meaning of the word diet means what you eat, not what you don’t eat. Actually, if you want to get technical about it, the word diet originally came from the Old French word diete, which came via Latin from the ancient Greek word diaita, which meant “a way of life”—it did not mean “not eating cake and cookies” (because a world without cake and cookies would be a sad world indeed—more like a “way of death” than a “way of life,” don’t you think?).
Losing weight is not the goal; losing excess fat is the goal, being healthy is the goal. Let me remind you that muscle is metabolically active tissue (i.e., it burns energy) and fat is not (it just hangs around your body, waiting to be used during those “emergencies” such as a famine). If you stop eating for a “prolonged” period of time (and I mean, even as little as 3-4 hours), your body is far more likely to start eating away at your muscle for its energy source, rather than your fat. After all, if you were driving a car with a hybrid engine in a remote location, and you found yourself running low on gas, what do you think you should do—toss the excess baggage from the car, or toss the engine battery? Your body works the same way; if there isn’t enough food being consumed and therefore not enough energy entering the system, better to keep the battery (i.e., the fat) for its energy reserves, than use those precious few calories that are coming in to maintain heavy muscle that only burns calories.
The irony is further amplified by the fact that, when your body has less muscle, it therefore needs fewer calories to function. This is one reason why reducing your calories to lose weight may work initially, but then the weight loss will ultimately come to a grinding halt, which is typically when people do the absolutely worst thing they can do: cut their calories even further, thereby descending into a metabolic negative spiral.
So, can you really lose 15 pounds in one week? Not permanently, not healthily, and not enjoyably—no, you can’t.
So what can you do to lose your “excess baggage”? Eat a balanced diet (including three meals per day with snacks in between); consume fewer calories than you burn; exercise regularly; don’t eat anything within two-three hours of going to sleep at night, and get enough sleep at night (ideally seven or more hours per night). Do this, and the fat will come off. It will come off slowly, yes (ideally at a rate of no more than one to two pounds per week), but it will come off. To quote fitness trainer and fat loss coach Tom Venuto, you must “burn the fat, and feed the muscle,” i.e., eat to maintain your lean tissue (muscles, bones, organs, etc.), and exercise to consume the excess energy reserves hanging around your body (i.e., excess fat).
The cold, hard fact is that, once again, what your parents always told you is ultimately quite correct: “Anything worth having usually doesn’t come easily or quickly.” Be wise, be patient, and work hard; in the end, that’s all you ever need to succeed in anything you want to accomplish in life.
Chemmie Sokolic is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Frum & Fit LLC. Chemmie can be reached at [email protected]. Visit www.FrumandFit.com or www.Facebook.com/FrumandFit for more information.
By Chemmie Sokolic