The Problem with Weight Loss Competitions

Scenario: Brandon is competing with Joe to see who can lose the most amount of weight.  Both are 6’2″, performing the same amount of activity, and are at a similar starting weight of +25 pounds over their reasonable goal.  Brandon is 35 while Joe is 45.

Client: Brandon came to me complaining that he is not losing weight despite eating only 1200 calories/day.  He states that he is doing a mix of cardio, weights and muscle groups, exercising at least 5 days per week.  “Joe is killing me, last week he lost 4 pounds!”

My Response: You need 2900 calories to maintain your present weight.  You can lose 1 pound per week by running a net deficit of 500 calories, or 2 pounds through a net deficit of 1000 calories.  This net deficit = intake + output, not just food and beverages alone.  Let’s assume you are working out on average 45-60 minutes a day.  I would suspect you are burning ~500 calories during this period if you are doing cardio/spin/run or 300-450 with less intensive activities.  Your current calorie intake is far too low.  When the body is underfed it rebels by slowing down your metabolism.  It also begins to break down muscle in order to compensate.  Since muscles burn more energy than fat, this becomes a 1-2 punch and weight loss slows.  I would suggest you not go below 1900 calories/day when you diet.

Something to consider, maybe you and Joe should be looking at your percentage of lean body mass change in addition to weight.  The problem with looking at weight alone is that you can sand bag each other by eating protein only and dropping your carbohydrate (bread, grains, pasta, cereal, fruits, dairy) below 50 grams/day.  This throws the body into a state of ketosis where ketones build up in the blood and the only way for the body to correct itself is by flushing them out in the urine.  It’s not really safe and can be quite dangerous for some individuals, but it is quick weight loss.  It’s how Atkins and many fad diets jump-start people.  The body is 2/3rd’s water it’s easy to have huge weight loss through huge water loss.  These people regain the water weight when they decide they can no longer live without more reasonable quantities of carbohydrate.  Ketosis also causes bad breath, headaches, nausea and fatigue, so it’s not great for your “spirit” in the long run.  I’m not suggesting Joe is sand bagging you, but measuring the percentage of change in lean muscle and weight may be a better tool.  I have a scale that also measures your weight, fluid status and body fat in addition to bone density. I’d be happy to help you and Joe determine what your baseline is in each of these areas and help you lose body fat, while increasing your lean body mass in a more healthy manner.  Also keep in mind that a safe and reasonable amount of weight loss is 0.5-2.0 pounds per week.

Bottom Line: It’s good to partner with someone in your weight loss efforts.  It is motivating and you can hold each other accountable.  Choosing someone from work can be beneficial since we spend much of our waking hours there, family and friends are also good supports.  Drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, 30 minutes of daily activity, and eating breakfast daily can also become good challenges for you to compete on.  I’m an advocate of becoming a “Biggest Winner” instead of the “Biggest Loser”.




Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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