Weight Loss and Fad Diets

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) diet. Acai diet. Grapefruit diet. Hollywood diet. Juicing diet. Let me just get this out of the way right now. Fad diets are all garbage. Every last one of them. They all involve one or many of the following:

  • Extreme calorie-cutting
  • Little or no scientific research to back them up
  • “Magic” foods that torch fat
  • Body wraps aka Glorified Saran Wrap

A lab-synthesized hormone found in the urine of pregnant (HCG). My personal favorite.

I can personally attest to the number of people who have failed at these diets just by looking at my Facebook feed alone. I remember when that HCG diet came out and all these women I know were totally convinced it was the miracle they were looking for. There’s nothing miraculous about taking a placebo and cutting your calories down to 500 a day. In fact, it’s downright dangerous and can be fatal.

I’m getting a bit off track and going on a tangent here, I know. So let me just hone in on the one thing that nearly all of these diets have in common, which is calorie cutting. Yes, it’s very true that you have to cut some calories to achieve weight loss. It’s nearly unavoidable. However, there is a magic number of calories that should be cut to achieve maximum results for most people. In my opinion, that number is anywhere from 300-700 calories a day from maintenance calories (how many calories you should be eating to maintain your current weight). Anything more and you’re simply asking for massive amounts of trouble in the form of muscle loss, metabolic damage, and decreased performance.

When you drastically cut calories, the initial loss of weight comes from both fat and lean mass (muscle). This ratio is around 50% fat and 50% muscle for the first several months. So for every two pounds you lose, one of those pounds is your precious muscle. Somewhere along the way, this ratio will slow down and you’ll start losing only between 15 and 25% muscle, but by then, the damage has been done.

So, you lost 50 pounds. Awesome! Just one very large problem. 15-20 pounds of that was muscle. Is that really that bad? YES! I try to pound this phrase into my client’s heads. “Your muscle is your metabolism.” What does that mean? Well, that means the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. Numbers range anywhere from 5-15 extra calories per day per pound of muscle. So let’s aim for the middle and say each pound of your muscle burns an extra 10 calories per day. You just lost 20 pounds of it. That’s 200 calories a day you just shaved off your Basal Metabolic Rate. The solution to your woes? Well, of course, cut more calories!

Eventually, you can’t cut calories anymore. You’re sluggish and in a brain fog most of the time. You can’t seem to lose any more weight. Your metabolism is in the toilet. You lost 20 pounds off your bench press. And why? All because you truly believed that a fad diet was the key to your success. I’m going to say this one more time, just to hopefully get it to sink in. Fad diets are doing more harm than good. Every diet. Every time.