Ugh. I hate titles like this. It panders to our American nature of constantly needing fast results. We try a new program or diet, give it 4 days to work, and then move on. If we’re generous, we may give it 21 days or even a full month. But if the results aren’t there in that amount of time, we’re out.
What if the headline was "How to Lose 4 Pounds in 2 Months"? Would you have even clicked on this post if that was the title? These results are hardly impressive, and requires patience and diligence. Yet, this is far more realistic. But most of us are not okay with results like this. We want more and we want it sooner.
The secret. Here, let me tell you how to lose 4 pounds in 4 days--Drink only water and lots of it. Eat only fish or chicken breast (4oz at a time, tops) and broccoli and leafy greens, without sauce or dressing. Run on the treadmill for 45 minutes each day to sweat buckets. And voila, you just dropped 4 pounds. Of pure water. (Another method works just as well...I easily lost 4 pounds last week with the stomach flu.)
The real results. What you probably also did in that amount of time is destroyed your metabolism. It only takes a couple days of calorie restriction to affect your hormonal profile, especially your thyroid gland, the one that produces hormones to keep your metabolism buzzing. So after just these 4 days of restriction, your body has started to slow down and exert less energy (i.e. burn far fewer calories to function).
Severe calorie deficits like this are also stressful, both mentally and physically. Not only does it require a lot of willpower, but it’s hard on your body. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels increase, signaling to the body to store more energy as fat. So this restrictive eating behavior really starts to backfire internally.
Once your metabolism slows down and your cortisol levels increase, it’s even more difficult to lose fat. Many women in this position think that the most logical solution is to restrict the calories even further and exercise more. No wonder we end up with bad relationships with food and exercise! At some point along the journey, it becomes horrible torture.
You need to understand that your body is so much more complex than calories in - calories out.
This is like saying rocket science only involves simple mathematics, like addition and subtraction. This is simply not the case.
If your goal is to lose bodyfat, you must create a perfect balance of appropriate nutrition and exercise to optimize your efforts, not sabotage them.
How do you do it right?
First of all, you need to be satisfied with slower progress. Don’t give up if you only lose 1 or 2 pounds in a whole month. THIS IS PROGRESS! And very good progress at that. It reflects a body that is functioning well, methodically and appropriately getting rid of its fat stores. You’re doing a good job at keeping your metabolism humming and holding your stress in check. At the same time, you’re probably maintaining a good relationship with food and exercise. Hopefully it’s fun and you're not viewing food as evil!
Secondly, you need to decide upon a balanced nutritional plan, one that emphasizes including good foods, not excluding everything. And stick with it. The Healthy Eating Habits are a perfect place to start. You need to learn how to eat foods for their nutrients and not just for their lack of calories. And you need to learn how to eat the right amount so you’re not overdoing it or underdoing it.
Most importantly, once you implement a nutritional plan, DO NOT STOP. Remember our addiction to quick fixes? No, no...you’re in this for the long haul. Give yourself at least a three month timeframe to see if it’s working.
Finally, you need workouts that improve your metabolism, not tank it. The workouts that do this best are fast paced and build muscle. Every single workout I design provides this metabolism-boosting effect. I prefer to put exercises in groups or circuits that you can quickly move through, combining multiple movements and using some form of resistance. These types of workouts are fun and interesting, compared to logging minute after minute on the cardio machine. Check out all my free workout plans here.
Loving the process, not hating it. In the end, with a good nutrition and exercise plan in place, you may even learn to love the process, not hate it. You won’t feel like you’re in a torturous cage of calorie counting and burning. You will look forward to your meals and your workouts, maintaining a good relationship with all of it. And you will see real results that last, even if they take longer to achieve.
The next time you see a headline that brags it will help you lose 4 pounds in 4 days or 30 pounds in 30 days, don’t buy into it. Understand that severe calorie restriction or anything similarly drastic will not set you up for success. Set yourself on a steady track to do it properly. Slow and steady wins the race, my friend. Be patient.
*I want to know your story! Do you have experience with calorie restriction and exercising for calorie burn? Did it work for you? Were the results long lasting? How did you view food and exercise because of it? So many of us have stories about this, and I'd love to hear yours!
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Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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