When embarking on a weight loss journey, many of us are excited, if not a little obsessed with the idea of shedding a large number of kilograms in a short period. Over and over again, people find themselves looking up ways to lose weight fast and following eating plans and exercise regimens that are quite restrictive and unhealthy in the pursuit of this goal. What might come as a surprise to you, however, is that slow weight loss is a much healthier alternative than fast weight loss.
In this article we are going to shed more light on the question ‘why is slow weight loss better than rapid weight loss?’ by showing you scientific evidence that supports this. We’ll also tell you of all the advantages that come with slow weight loss as well as the disadvantages and health risks that come with the alternative route.
What Is Slow And Steady Weight Loss?
When trying to shed those extra pounds, slow and steady weight loss is a factor that is often enforced upon by doctors, certified nutritionists, and gym trainers. But what is it exactly? Does it mean losing 1 kg every month for the rest of the year or something else?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slow and steady weight loss is one that allows you to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week (0.5 to 1 kilogram a week), until you reach your desired body goals and weight. This form of slow weight loss is not achieved via quick fix diets or spending countless hours at the gym. Instead, it is achieved through an ongoing lifestyle that incorporates daily healthy, well-balanced eating habits as well as exercising (20).
What Are Some Eating Habits That Can Help You Achieve Healthy And Slow Weight Loss?
When it comes to weight loss, some claim that your diet is actually more important than how much work you put in at the gym. While you can lose some mass through exercise alone and no dietary changes, you have to put in more effort than if you had fixed your diet instead. Good nutrition has a large impact on your body and weight that exercise does (11).
Here are some dietary changes that you can make to help you achieve slow weight loss without putting your health at risk:
Start with a calorie deficit
Weight gain is often a result of consuming more calories than you burn. Being on a deficit ensures that you are consuming less food energy than you expend which ultimately leads to weight loss. For you to achieve the slow and steady weight loss mentioned above, you are required to cut your food energy intake by 500 to 1000 calories a day, amounting to 3500 to 7000 less calories a week (4).
Eat more protein
Consuming a high protein diet automatically helps you reduce the amount of food you consume in a day. When consumed, it influences your hunger and satiety hormones, reducing and increasing then respectively, thus keeping you fuller for longer.
During digestion proteins have a higher thermic effect of food, making the body use more calories to digest them that it does digesting either carbs or fats. This in turn boosts your metabolism to a point where you may end up burning 80 to 100 more calories a day (9).
Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol
They are high in sugar and hidden empty calories, which many of us do not consider as we consume them. It leads to us going over our recommended calorie intake for slow weight loss. Replace such drinks with water, unsweetened tea and coffee, which are much better for you.
Avoid simple carbs and fill up on complex carbs
Also known as refined carbs, simple carbohydrates include food options such as baked treats (cakes, cookies, white bread and pasta, etc.), sodas and juices, and more.
The problem with refined carbs is that they may lead to overindulging and obesity. They are low in important nutrients, full of sugar and have little to no fiber, which means that they are digested quickly, making you want to eat more, sooner (23).
On the other hand, complex carbs are not only packed with all their nutrients, making them better for your general health, but they are also loaded with fiber, which when consumed, keeps you fuller for longer, drastically reducing your daily caloric intake. Examples of complex carbohydrates to add into your diet include:
- Wholegrains such as anything made from whole-wheat flour
- Starchy vegetables
- Brown and wild rice
- Fruits such as bananas, apples and all kinds of berries
Eat more vegetables
Slow weight loss requires you to eat and not starve yourself. Vegetables are a great way to do this as not only are they low in calories, meaning you can eat large amounts of them and not affect your calorie deficit, but they are also high in fiber, which not only helps in bowel movements, but is also more filling helping you control and maintain your weight (10, 5).
A point to note is that, whole diet plays a huge role in losing weight, the results are always boosted by working out. It is recommended for slow weight loss that is sustainable in the long term, it is recommended that you try and get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 or more days per week (8). Examples of workouts that can help you achieve this include, walking, swimming, jogging, weightlifting/strength training, HIIT, yoga, etc.
Why Is Slow Weight Loss Better Than Rapid Weight Loss?
Here are some reasons why you should stick to the slow and steady race instead of rushing to see quick results:
It prevents yo-yo dieting
Yo-yo dieting is defined as an eating plan that leads to a life-long cycle of weight loss and weight gain. This form of eating plan, often associated with rapid weight loss plans, leads to negative side effects such as increased risk of heart disease, long-lasting negative impacts on metabolism, greater risk of mortality, etc (17).
In 2017, a study showed that weight variability (more drastic ups and downs) was associated with poorer long-term weight loss outcomes. The study was conducted on about 183 overweight and obese participants, all with a mean age of 51 years. Researchers followed these participants for about a year and they found out that those who had more weight fluctuations i.e. the cycle of losing-gaining-losing and so on, ended up with poor weight loss results at the end of the study period (18).
Prevents loss of muscle
When people see the scale going down rapidly during the first few days/weeks of a weight loss journey, they get quite excited. What they don’t realize, however, is that most of the weight lost in these instances is usually either water weight or muscle mass. This is often caused by eating too little, thereby not giving your body enough food to use as energy and thus it turns and starts to digest and siphon energy from your muscles. While you think that you are quickly losing weight and fat, your body is truly just losing muscle mass drastically and fat remains where it is.
You keep the pace of you metabolism intact
One of the side effects of rapid weight loss is a slow metabolism. For those who are unaware, your metabolism is the process through which the body turns the food and drinks consumed into energy that is then used by the body for mundane activities such as blinking and breathing to other things such as walking, gardening, running etc. Those with a faster metabolism are able to quickly turn food stores into energy while those with a slower one end up with their food turned into fat instead.
When you lose weight too quickly, especially through the lack of enough food intake, your body thinks that you are starving and takes precautions to keep this from happening. It goes into starvation mode where your metabolism slows down, making you store energy and fat to keep you from dying (13). Because slow weight loss advocates for healthy eating habits, you are not at risk of slowing down your metabolism as you are not undereating in the name of weight loss.
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Keeps your mental health intact
When thinking about losing a couple of pounds, many people do not consider the mental health side effects that it could bring. We all think about how confident we may feel but forget that pushing ourselves too much could cause mental health issues. Rapid weight loss has been associated with serious issues such as body dysmorphia, anorexia, or bulimia (13), which can lead to hospitalization or even death. With slow weight loss, you are able to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and your body which can help prevent such deadly illnesses.
Malnutrition or nutrient deficiency is an issue caused when the body does not receive or absorb the many many different vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and macronutrients that are crucial for both its development and disease prevention. Because rapid weight loss is caused by bad eating habits, nutritional deficiencies may occur leading to diseases such as anaemia, eye problems, short-term memory loss, dementia, depression, skin problems and more (14). With slow weight loss, such issues are easily prevented due to the advocacy of consuming a healthy well balanced diet that does not exclude any food groups.
Rapid weight loss also has some other side effects (15) such as headaches, irritability and mood swings, unexplained fatigue, dizziness and confusion, constipation, hair loss, and menstrual irregularities, which are rarely seen in slow and steady weight loss. It can also cause the development of gallstones which can cause unbearable pain, vomiting, and digestive problems such as an upset stomach, indigestion, heartburn, and gas
Weight Loss For Slow Metabolism: How To Boost Your Metabolism For Faster Results?
Sometime during your weight loss journey, you will start to see that the number on the scale is no longer going down, and neither are your clothes feeling looser. This may make you frustrated, especially if you are still working out and eating healthy, leaving you with questions such as ‘why is my weight loss so slow?’ and ‘why does weight loss slow down?’, etc.
If your eating, sleeping, and workout habits have been consistently good, then the reason for slowed down weight loss could be attributed to a weight loss plateau. However, you do not need to fret. Weight loss plateaus are quite normal and are often caused by a decline in the metabolism as you continue to lose weight (7).
As we have seen above, your metabolism is quite important in losing those extra pounds. Here are some tips for weight loss for slow metabolism (16):
Eat five to six times a day
When you consume the normal 3 large meals a day, it leaves you with several hours in the day where nothing is being digested thus your metabolism slows down only to pick back up when you eat. Consuming more meals in a day, keeps your digestive system working and your metabolism revved up helping you to constantly burn calories.
Add more spices to your food
Adding some chilli or pepper to your food is said to increase your metabolic rate albeit temporarily.
Eat more protein
As we stated above, the body uses more energy to digest proteins than it does either carbohydrates or fats. Make sure to have at least one healthy protein source in all your meals.
The power of caffeine
Coffee and teas such as oolong and green tea can help boost your metabolism due to the presence of caffeine. A clinical trial done in 1980 showed that participants who drank coffee had an increased metabolic rate for 3 hours after ingestion. The results also showed that caffeine also leads to fat oxidation when consumed (3).
Reduce your stress levels
When you are stressed out, this triggers your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response leading to the production of the hormones epinephrine (aka adrenaline) and cortisol. An imbalance of these hormones in the body can cause weight gain as it holds on to fat, especially in the belly region.
Eat more fiber
Because it is harder to digest, the body has to use more energy to break it down thus burning more calories in the process (1).
Reduce your carbohydrate intake
Multiple studies on low-carb diets have continuously shown better weight loss results than low fat diets (19). Not only do they have a positive impact on your metabolism, but they also induce weight loss and may reduce your risk of type II diabetes (12).
If low-carb dieting has not worked for you, you could try slow carb weight loss using the slow carb diet. This is described as a low-carb diet with a twist. It involves consuming five food main groups (animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats, and spices) four times a day, for six days of the week, while giving you one free cheat day where you can eat whatever you want (21).
The rules of this eating plan include:
- Avoid all processed carbs for 6 days a week. If you have to have them anytime during these six days, only consume them 30 minutes after a weight lifting session. Whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are still okay.
- Stick to the above mentioned five food groups i.e., animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats, and spices.
- Only drink water and unsweetened coffee and/or tea – alcohol, juice, smoothies, sodas, and other sugary drinks must be avoided.
- Avoid all fruits.
- Have one cheat day a week to indulge.
If you find yourself wondering ‘when does weight loss slow down?’, it often happens six months into a weight loss journey, and while doctors are not sure why it happens, they theorize that it happens because of (22):
- A metabolic slow-down
- The body is now used to your weight loss and thus you may need to change it up
- You may have stopped following your health habits
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How To Slow Down Weight Loss On Keto?
While this diet has been shown to help with weight loss in short periods of time, you may find that you are losing more weight than you anticipated and at a rapid rate. What can you do to slow it down? Here are some things that you can do (6):
- Consider adding more protein and/or healthy fat to your meal plan
- Work out more, especially weight training exercises to help your build more muscle
- Add more carbs to your diet to help reduce ketosis – But only low glycemic carbs and fruits
However, what if your problem is not that you are losing too much weight but rather slow weight loss on keto? What might you be doing wrong? (2)
Consuming too many carbs
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that has strict regulations on how much carbs one can consume in a day. If you notice slow weight loss on this eating plan, go back to the drawing board and calculate how many carbs you are actually consuming per day.
You are eating too much junk food
Being that keto is quite high in fat, many people jump to thinking that they are now allowed to eat all the ‘bad and fatty’ foods that are not allowed on other meal plans. While keto may allow ghee, butter, and extra servings of cheese, it does not mean that you shouldn’t watch what you eat. Always go for the healthier versions of all food options.
You are not on a calorie deficit
The trick to every weight loss game plan is a calorie deficit. Irrespective of what diet you are on (keto included), if you are not on a deficit, you will not see any results.
You might be on a plateau
As mentioned above, weight loss plateaus are common occurrences that often occur when your metabolism slows down during weight loss. If you are sticking to the ketogenic dieting rules and working out, you might be going through a plateau. To get out of it, follow the tips mentioned above.
The Bottom Line
If you are overweight or obese, slow weight loss is something that you should be aiming for. Do not be tricked and tempted by promises of rapid weight loss about losing two jeans sizes in two weeks or 10 pounds in ten days. Such plans will only serve to lead you down a path of yo-yo dieting and other health issues.
If you are planning a weight loss journey and are unsure of the best way to go about it, please first speak to your doctor and dietitian so they may show you the best way forward. If you can afford it, enlist the help of a trainer so they can get you on a workout regimen to help you reach your body goals. Always ensure to put your health first above all else.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Fiber Rules to Follow for a Revved up Metabolism (2018, wellandgood.com)
- 8 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto (2018, healthline.com)
- Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals (1980, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (2018, mayoclinic.org)
- Rapid Weight Loss (2019, webmd.com)
- Getting past a weight-loss plateau (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- How much should the average adult exercise every day? (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally (2017, healthline.com)
- How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight (2020, cdc.gov)
- Is Nutrition More Important Than Exercise? (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Low-carb diet: Can it help you lose weight? (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Metabolism to Mental Health: 7 Ways Losing Weight Too Fast Will Backfire (2018, healthline.com)
- Nutritional Deficiencies (Malnutrition) (2019, helathline.com)
- Rapid Weight Loss (2019, webmd.com)
- Slideshow: 10 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism (2019, webmd.com)
- The Hidden Danger of Yo-Yo Dieting You Need to Know About (2019, health.com)
- Variability in Weight Change Early in Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment: Theoretical and Clinical Implications (2017, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What is healthy weight loss? (2020, cdc.gov)
- What Is The Slow-Carb Diet? Everything To Know About The Low-Glycemic Eating Plan (2020, womenshealthmag.com)
- What to do about a weight loss plateau (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Why Refined Carbs Are Bad For You (2017, healthline.com)