To some extent, everyone wants immediate results — especially when it comes to weight loss (cue fad diets and “miracle” diet pills). Eating healthy, staying active and cutting calories are proven ways to lose weight, but they are part of a gradual process that’s not always easy. So, which path should we take for achieving long-term weight-loss success?
Gradual weight loss, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a loss of 1–2 pounds per week, or eating 500–1,000 fewer calories per day. Note that this is a general recommendation that doesn’t take into account individual factors. Since no two bodies are the same, an acceptable rate of weight loss will also depend on your individual health. While experts decry rapid weight loss, losing over 2 pounds per week is considered rapid. The general consensus is that slow and steady is better than rapid weight loss — but let’s examine the pros and cons of each.
FAST WEIGHT LOSS
If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose and you’re under medical supervision, you may be able to get away with losing it at a rapid pace. For example, patients who have gastric bypass surgery may be prescribed extremely low-calorie diets of 300–600 calories per day. Very low-calorie diets of about 800 calories may also be prescribed to someone with a lot of weight to lose; oftentimes, these plans involve special meal replacements and supplements to meet all nutrient needs.
Let’s not forget about marathon exercise sessions, detoxes and cleanses. These drastic methods of periodic cutting and exercising are popular for dropping pounds quickly (mostly in the form of water weight), but it’s difficult to keep up with this tiresome and strict lifestyle, so the results are often short-term and not recommended.
SLOW WEIGHT LOSS
For most of us, gradual weight loss is more realistic and achievable. It doesn’t ask you to drastically cut calories or bump whole food groups off your diet. Instead, you set your own pace and instill simple healthy habits — such as swapping soda for water or taking walks after dinner — that benefit your health in the long term. There are many options and routes to get active and eat clean; take time to explore and choose what’s most enjoyable for you. When you’re happy, your goals are easier to stick with and achieve.
What it boils down to is this: Slow and steady weight loss is more achievable, sustainable and realistic for the majority of us, compared with rapid weight loss. Quick fixes don’t last, as many people revert back into old eating and activity habits after losing weight. A gradual pace allows you to learn how to eat healthy and exercise, one step at a time. Experiment with your weight-loss strategy, consulting medical professionals as necessary, to see what works best for you.
Myth #1: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.
Fact: Physical activity will increase your strength and range of motion, making you more independent.
Myth #2: Using a cane or walker will make me more dependent.
Fact: Canes and walkers help people maintain or even improve mobility and stability. With improved mobility comes greater independence.
Myth #3: I’m too old to exercise.
Fact: The British Medical Journal found that simple exercises improved the strength, function, and participation in daily life among people 70 and over.
Myth #4: Taking medication won’t increase my risk of falling.
Fact: Medications may increase your risk of falling by making you sleepy or dizzy.
Myth #5: There is no need to get my vision checked every year.
Fact: People with vision problems are twice as likely to fall as those without an impairment. Get your eyes checked every year and update your glasses, if necessary.