One of the questions I've been asked frequently since I joined the Biggest Loser team is whether such big weekly weight losses should be encouraged, and are they safe.
It;s a great question, and the answer is, it depends. The commonly recommended 'safe' weight loss goal of 1-2lbs a week may be appropriate for someone who only has a stone or so to lose, but let's take a look at someone like Kevin from this season's UK show. At a starting weight of 32 stone (that's 448lbs) it would take Kevin around 5 years to reach a healthy weight for his age and height - around the 14 stone mark - if he were to aim for a 1lb per week. Now, Kevin is a super motivated guy, but even he may lose the will to live if the goal posts were that far away. So, is it appropriate and safe that he should lose more than 1-2lbs per week? Yes. When the body's nutritional needs are met, but caloric requirements are not exceeded, excess fat is burned as fuel and with the right combination of diet and exercise, often at an accelerated rate.
I often train people at my fitness club, Phoenix Pro Fitness, who drop a stone in a month following a 6 meal-a-day nutrition program and training 3 or 4 times per week. They report feeling fitter, healthier, slimmer and happier having lost 3-4lbs a week, and their looks reflect this. Is this safe? Completely. In fact they often tell me how easy it was.
What isn't safe, or maintainable, is crash dieting, super low calorie strategies that don't meet the body's nutritional requirements, and training programs that aren't appropriate for your level of fitness or don't allow adequate rest and recovery. The Biggest Loser contestants undergo a highly intensive training schedule, combined with a carefully constructed nutritional protocol, which allows for higher than normal weekly weight losses, but they are under the constant supervision of both the training and medical team, and still have to contend with the factors that affect every slimmer - stress, hormonal patterns, water retention, aches and pains (never to be ignored), and not to mention cravings! Even in this environment weight loss is never linear, but it does lead to much faster results.
Whatever the rate of weight loss, there are a few key factors to bear in mind.
Firstly, in addressing the physical one must also pay attention to the psychological aspect of weight loss. Big transformations are fantastic but it's essential to recognise the circumstances that led to being overweight in the first place, and this can take some time to unravel. Food is often used as an emotional crutch and long term maintenance of a healthy weight requires a proper understanding of where and why the dependency originated from.
Secondly. weight is not the only measurement of progress. Circumference measurements and body fat % are also brilliant indicators of progress being made and provide an indicator of body composition changes that weight measurement alone cannot. To give you an example, when I competed in my first figure competition last year I dropped 10% body fat in 7 weeks and 2-3 dress sizes, but only 11lbs. The closer you are to a healthy weight, the less significant the number on the scale becomes.
Finally, remember that each individual will change shape, and weight, at different speeds and in different ways. Some people will look dramatically different due to an increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat, but show relatively little difference on the scale. whereas others will shed weight like there's no tomorrow. Don't compare yourself to others. Just have a plan and stick to it.
If you are interested in an intensive training program and fast results, check out my Ultimate 2 Week Body Blitz program. It's the most comprehensive weight loss kickstart around!
Member since: 13th February 2012
Owner of Godalming based fitness club, Phoenix Pro Fitness, trainer on ITV1's weight loss show, The Biggest Loser, & also strength and conditioning coach to the England lacrosse team. Personal Trainer...