Why you should consider NOT trying the diet that helped him lose 20kg in 3 months
Timothy recently went on the miracle diet X and lost 20kg in 3 months. Glenda and Josiah, who were looking to lose weight, saw the transformation Timothy had and were hyper impressed. As such, they decided to give miracle diet X a go. After all, after trying for so long, they are now desperate for a miracle.
In the eyes of the Glenda and Josiah, diet X that helped their friend, Timothy lose 20kg in the last 3 months seemed like a miracle diet. Yes, maybe it’s torturous to even think about going through the diet, but it worked for him. So the train of thought would go towards, ‘maybe it will work for me’. If you’re a trainer, nutritionist, or within the fitness industry dealing with a weight loss client, you can probably relate well to this conversation. Now, you’re going to learn how to help your client decide whether or not they should try miracle diet X.
What was Timothy’s starting weight?
The starting weight of a person determines the potential amount of weight they can lose. This is largely affected by Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), and in general, someone with a higher body weight will tend to have a higher metabolic rate. In our case scenario, these are the starting weight of our friends.
As you can see, despite having a relatively similar body fat percentage, the resting metabolic rate between Timothy, Josiah and Glenda are vastly different. Between Timothy and Glenda, we’re looking at more than 1000 Kcal difference in RMR. This means that it’s 1000 Kcal easier for Timothy to lose 1kg daily!
Key point/Practical Application:
A person’s starting weight and body fat% determines where their RMR, which determines their potential rate of weight change.
How much was Timothy eating?
You will generally want to be eating near your RMR to create a decrease in weight. For Timothy, that wouldn’t be too bad considering how he’d be eating at around 2400 Kcal. However, Timothy is looking to lose weight fast and therefore decided to go for Miracle Diet X, which requires him to go way lower than his RMR (2400 Kcal). As such, Miracle Diet X has Timothy consuming a low 1500 Kcal worth of food. After all, the lower the better… right?
In general, eating below RMR will cause your RMR to decrease. The body will enter into an energy saving mode (like your laptop) because it believes that it doesn’t have enough nutrients. Thus, a decrease in RMR would occur in an effort to keep the body alive. In Timothy’s case, eating so far below RMR may reduce his metabolic rate, but after accounting for the reduction in metabolic rate, Timothy’s RMR will still be high enough to help him reduce his weight. This situation however may not be the same for Josiah and Glenda as they both have lower starting-RMRs to work with and thus, a shorter period of time for weight loss to occur while the RMR reduced to meet the intake of Kcals on Miracle Diet X.
In Josiah’s case, consuming 1500 Kcal lowers his RMR since it is still lower than his starting RMR of 1655 Kcals. However, considering how close his RMR is to 1500 Kcal (only 155 Kcal), instead of seeing a weight loss, Josiah might see weight maintenance, or a very, very slow rate of weight loss (i.e. 0.01kg/week). In Glenda’s case, since her RMR is below 1500kcal so for her, consuming miracle diet X may not help her lose weight, but may even cause her to gain some weight if she leads a very sedentary lifestyle.
Eating below your RMR usually does NOT benefit your weight loss goals long term.
Now, in terms of practical application, whether Josiah/Glenda/you/your client can really maintain 1500 Kcal also depends on:
- Eating behavior
- Type of food
- Macronutrient distribution
- Individual lifestyle differences
- Individual food preference
- Adherence rate [Which in the language of Singapore, many will say.. “Eh lose weight need motivation sia. So hard to eat clean”]
What was Timothy’s lifestyle and exercise habits like?
In the controllable world of energy balance, aside from food (Energy In), we also need to look at lifestyle and exercise (Energy Out). Since Timothy, Glenda and Josiah work in the same company, they have a relatively similar lifestyle; office work, little movement, lots of sitting. Glenda and Josiah have started working out after realizing that Timothy’s success to weight loss had also been attributed to exercise. As such, they end up producing a similar overall physical activity rating of 1.5. As such, the total amount of energy output Timothy, Glenda and Josiah would ultimately produce weekly would look like this:
Let’s take a moment to understand how much exercise a weekly physical activity rating of 1.5 requires:
- In terms of TOTAL daily steps count, the individual would be hitting between 15,000~20,000 steps.
- In terms of total daily energy output, the individual is likely exercising between 1.5~2 hours daily with no rest days, or a 1-hour high intensity workout on a daily basis with no rest.
Apart from food intake, your total energy output from lifestyle & exercise affects your rate of weight loss.
In terms of practical application, whether Josiah/Glenda/you/your client maintains said energy expenditure now depends on:
- Total amount of days they exercise
- Recovery rate (Overtraining due to lack of rest = Reduced RMR, Reduced Performance, Increased Injury Rate, Increased Injury Potential and Loss of exercise opportunity for a period of time to name a few)
- General lifestyle (Does their work require them to move around often, or are they office people sitting at a desk all day?)
- Exercise Duration & Intensity
- Adherence rate (Are they able to keep up to this level of lifestyle intensity?)
Piecing the story together
Assuming that both Josiah and Glenda constantly ate (1500 Kcal/day), trained and lived like Timothy (office worker, trains 1.5 hours everyday with no rest days), this would be the general trend of their body composition change on a weekly basis;
**Results are typically not linear as shown in graph, and the reduction in RMR has not been accounted for
As you can see, while Timothy lost almost 20kg by the end of month 3, the same amount of work and time will reap Josiah a loss of 9kg, and 5kg for Glenda. This can be explained by the total daily calorie deficit from their starting RMRs.
Thus, if Glenda & Josiah followed Miracle Diet X and exercised the way they planned to, they’d definitely some weight, but to be very honest, they probably would also lose weight no matter what diet they decided to go on as long as their food they consume does not exceed the total amount of energy they expand. That said, Glenda and Josiah are living in an ideal world in this case scenario. Let’s take a reality check and look at the Josiah and Glenda of the reality.
The truth is, Glenda and Josiah live in Singapore. They lead an average 8am to 5pm office job and are only able to commit a maximum of 1 hour to hit the gym. On a good week, they might be able to hit the gym 5 times, however; on a bad week where overtime happens due to increased workload, they may cancel all their training and focus their energy on finger exercise (a.k.a keyboard workout). This would usually bring their physical activity rating down to 1.2~1.3.
Assuming they’re still eating 1500 Kcal (once again, in reality, is this feasible for Josiah?), a typical trend would now look like this:
**Results are typically not linear as shown in graph, and the reduction in RMR has not been accounted for
At this point, it’s easy to see that Glenda’s daily calorie deficit has reduced from 487kcal to 91kcal, and therefore will see a very slow weight loss. While statistically speaking, she’ll lose 1kg in 7 weeks, how many of us know that 7 weeks is really long, and in reality will feel like nothing has changed?
Josiah on the other hand would have a 458 kcal deficit per day, which allows him to lose 1kg in about 3 weeks. However, due to the lower calorie intake, RMR will also reduce over time. Thus, in reality, he will likely take longer to see the change in weight.
Key Point: The physical average activity rating in Singapore tend to travel between 1.2 for most office workers who’re sedentary, and 1.3 for those who exercise
At a practical level, losing 1kg in 7 weeks is way too long for Glenda, and Josiah may not be very excited about the fact that he can only see 1kg of weight loss in 3 weeks. Thus, it’s important to check in with them (or you/your clients) on the following:
- Are you okay with the rate of weight loss?
If you/they are, that’s fine and you can probably stick to Miracle Diet X. If you’re not, here are a few more things to consider:
- Are you willing to increase exercise levels so that you can not only consume more nutrients, but also lose more weight?
- If you have a Josiah situation (where you’re currently eating below your RMR), are you willing to increase the amount of food you’re eating? The rate of weight loss doesn’t differ compared to eating lesser than your RMR anyway, but the added energy can do so much more (Eg. Perform better at training & work, lower risk of getting sick)
Other Key Considerations
Consideration One: Weight Loss or Fat Loss?
Putting aside the controllable factors of energy (using calories as a representation throughout the article), one would also want to consider body composition. If Josiah and Glenda want to lose fat but gain muscle, then Miracle Diet X may not be the answer. After all, Miracle Diet X is aiming to help you lose total weight by reducing calories. The composition of your food has not been accounted for at this point. If losing weight but maintaining muscle is the goal, then Miracle Diet X will not be the answer.
Key point: If losing weight but maintaining muscle is the goal, then Miracle Diet X will not be the answer.
Consideration Two: Is Performance Involved?
An athlete often needs to make weight for their competition. However, said athlete might also need to perform well. We’re looking at performance sports such as boxing, weightlifting and powerlifting. Aesthetic sports like bodybuilding may also need the energy to perform an awesome routine. In such a situation, the composition of your food is once again key to your success.
Key point: Performance sports need to consider the composition of their food
Consideration Three: Is There a Better Way?
Before taking up Miracle Diet X of any sorts (Ketogenic, plant based diet, Low-Carb diet, Liquid diet, Powder diet, every other diet in the world), one should consider if there is a better way.
Will Miracle Diet X work? Yes. Why? Because of the calorie deficit.
Will every other method in the world work? Yes. Why? Because of the calorie deficit.
I can’t tell you not to take the hard road of Miracle Diet X, but before starting out on your weight loss journey, you should at the bare minimum consider your own preference of food, general lifestyle, and ability to commit to exercise.Very often, you’ll find a better way to lose weight than to try going on miracle Diet X. Losing weight after all, is more science than miracle.
There are more than one way to lose weight, and very often the most sustainable method is not only good for the body, but also for the mind. Thus, aside from just looking at the results someone has achieved with the diet, one should put into considerations their food preference, lifestyle and ability to commit to exercise along with their RMR before deciding the adjustment in diet they intend to perform.