There is a discussion on the netmums.com website that has been going on since 2008, has over 5,500 replies and over 781,000 views. It’s about a diet which is supposed to make you lose 14lb in a week.
According to the original post, the diet came from a heart consultant. This seems odd, because I’ve never heard of a highly qualified health professional suggesting someone loses a stone in a week. According to the NHS 12 week weight loss plan available here http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/loseweight/Pages/Loseweighthome.aspx, 1-2lbs a week is a safe and sustainable amount. This is the normal advice given by responsible people.
Whatever the story behind the original post, the fact is that ever since the post has been receiving infinitely more attention than a post entitled “lose weight the safe and healthy way” would have. Why is this? Why is it so easy to make people believe there is a miracle answer to their weight problems? Probably simply because they want to believe it. Losing weight is difficult, because it means a change of habits. The reason something like this is so appealing is that it is only for a week, so people think they can grin and bear it because there is an end in sight.
You can’t lose a stone of fat in a week. The only way to lose fat is to use it for energy – either for your body’s daily metabolism or activity. 14lbs of fat supplies 57,000 calories. Anyone who has been on a diet will know that an average woman needs about 2,000 calories a day. So if you ate NOTHING for a week, you’d only be 14,000 calories short of what your body needed! If you lost all of this in fat, this would only be about 3.5lb.
Now, there are some people posting who say they have lost a lot more than 3.5lb on this diet. The thing is, it’s not all fat they’ve lost. A lot of what they have lost will be water. When you starve your body of food it can use for energy, it breaks down its carbohydrate stores, which releases a lot of water. As soon as there is enough food coming in, these stores are replenished and the water is put back.
I know anyone reading this who wants to believe in miracle diets will have stopped reading two paragraphs ago. One of the main challenges for health and fitness professionals is how to convince people that if they don’t like being overweight, they have to accept that they have been mistreating their bodies and need to treat them better. Half starving themselves is only going to make things worse because it’s not beneficial to mental or physical health and any weight loss achieved isn’t likely to be sustained, because they will go back to their old habits as soon as the starvation exercise is over.
The weight loss industry is massive and any well-marketed new diet that comes out is likely to be a hit if it promises an easy solution. But I don’t know anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off by doing anything other than making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle.