As with most health and fitness questions, the answer is: it depends. Because we are all unique, what works for one person may not work for another.
Slow fat loss is generally advocated by fat loss professionals.
Weight loss is preferable because it is more sustainable, but as you point out, seeing quick results can be very motivating.
While in an ideal world, your motivation would be intrinsic (for example, performance or health-related) rather than extrinsic (based on aesthetic change), we all know how encouraging it is to see a physical change in your appearance.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, taking photos to track your progress is far superior to relying just on scale weight, which can fluctuate dramatically from day to day and does not always reflect fat loss or increase.
A diet did not ‘work’ if you regained the weight.
To lose weight, you must have an energy deficit, i.e. using less energy than you expend Calories are the unit of measurement for energy (technically kilocalories).
Any diet or eating plan that puts you in a calorie deficit — keto, intermittent fasting, carnivore — should result in weight reduction, but if you can’t keep it up, revert to your previous eating habits, and regain the weight, that diet did not “work.”
People who have lost and regained weight frequently look back on prior diets with rose-colored glasses and believe they worked until they quit. The diet, however, can never be successful if you are quitting rather than simply living a lifestyle you enjoy.
I took my time and didn’t do anything drastic when I lost a lot of weight about two years ago (after trying many fad diets in the past). I’m pleased to report that, despite minor fluctuations, I’ve maintained my current weight and dress size.
Slow weight loss is far more maintainable in general.
Regaining weight that you’ve previously lost can be quite discouraging, but as I mentioned in a previous piece on the subject, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. You simply learn from your mistakes.
Making tiny changes to your diet and eating in a little deficit is often recommended to avoid regaining, and this is what worked for me.
“From a motivation standpoint,” registered dietitian Alix Turoff told Insider, “it may be incredibly exciting to make significant adjustments to your eating and watch the scale drop rapidly, and it might even drive you to stay going for a few weeks.” “However, when your strategy is rigid, this motivation often lasts only a few weeks before you’re burned out and ready to stop.”
Slow dietary changes paired with work to modify your thinking should result in long-term results.
“When you focus on changing the behaviours that led to gaining (or regaining) the weight in the first place, you’ll see the weight come off slower (for the most part), but if you’re truly changing your habits and behaviours, you don’t have to worry about the inevitable weight gain that comes from doing something drastic that you can only maintain for a short period of time,” Turoff explained.
Losing weight in a tiny calorie deficit also means you’ll keep more muscle while losing fat, which means you’ll actually change your body composition – when individuals say they want to reduce weight, they usually mean fat loss.
Similarly, evidence suggests that keeping strength during ageing may contribute to a threefold reduction in the likelihood of having physical impairments.
- In some cases, higher calorie deficits for a shorter period of time can be beneficial.
- Despite the foregoing, there may be a case for some people in specific situations to lose weight quickly with a higher calorie deficit, albeit for a limited time.
“If we’re talking about someone who is severely obese, not someone who has 10-30 pounds to lose, there’s a substantial amount of research suggesting that more rapid weight loss in the initial stages, the first one to three months, can be very beneficial, both physically because obviously you can help remove a lot of extra stress on the joints, but more importantly, mentally and emotionally,” personal trainer and fat loss coach Jordan Syatt told Insider.
“Most of the time, people who are significantly overweight do not trust in their potential to achieve at all; they just don’t think it’s feasible, so for them to lose weight reasonably quickly at the start is often a means to demonstrate them it is possible,” he stated.
Indeed, according to a research conducted by the University of Florida, the more weight you lose in the first few weeks of a diet, the more weight you’ll lose in the long run, and the more successful you’ll be at keeping it off.
However, Syatt emphasises that if you start with a significant calorie deficit, it’s critical to transition into a more sustainable weight loss strategy of 2-6 pounds per month.
Similarly, as you get leaner, your progress will need to be slower in order to be both sustainable and pleasurable.
“If you’re relatively lean and you lose weight too quickly, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of losing muscle mass and developing disordered relationships with food, so the leaner you are, the slower it should be,” Syatt explained, adding that 2-4 pounds per month is ideal, but this will vary month to month and person to person.
You can’t afford to wait for motivation.
You say it’s difficult to keep motivated when you’re losing two pounds a month, but this actually sounds excellent – two pounds a month should suggest you’re enjoying your lifestyle, not restricting yourself too much, and yet losing weight.
The problem with motivation is that people always wait for it to strike before acting. However, as previously stated, action must come first, and motivation will follow.
For weight loss to be sustainable, it must be gradual (even if there is an initial rapid burst for individuals with a lot of weight to drop). When weight reduction is sluggish, the desired aesthetic changes are equally slow.
Again, setting performance-based goals, such as doing a pull-up, running a 5K in under 30 minutes, or drinking eight glasses of water each day, can be quite beneficial.
“When you focus on what your body can do instead of attempting to lose weight, it’s frequently easier to stay motivated because you can see progress day after day and week after week,” Syatt explained.