Weight Loss Support - Losing Fast or Slow - Which is Best?

06-20-2006, 01:47 PM
I have been thinking about the two main schools of thought about losing weight by counting calories.

One says that it's best to reduce calories by a small amount in the beginning, i.e. if you are 250 lbs. you need 'x' number of calories to maintain that weight so you should only reduce your calories by a small amount from what you are currently eating. Then, as you lose weight, you need to gradually eat less and less calories till you reach your goal (as your weight decreases and you need less calories to maintain your body) at which time you will (hopefully) be eating the correct amount of calories to maintain your body at your goal weight. This method usually results in slower weight loss.

The other theory is that you immediately reduce calories to a much lower amount, say, 1200 calories and only consume more calories once you have reached your goal until you find the 'tipping point' where you begin to gain weight. The lower calorie route usually means you will reach your goal weight quicker than the above.

These are obviously diametrically opposed approaches and I was wondering which one is the more successful for long term weight loss. It would be interesting to hear from people who have tried either of these methods and been successful. :)

06-20-2006, 01:50 PM
I am a 1200 calorie a dayer! It works really good for me, and I love it. Id recomend it. It really works well for me. :carrot:

BUT Im new at it. 3 weeks. So no tipping point YET, <3

06-20-2006, 01:56 PM
Well, I don't know about anything scientific, for sure ...
But ... I jumped in at 1200 calories. Lost 30 pounds in two months and gained 20 of them back ... quick. Lots of folks sort of jump start and keep track of what's happening. Instead of thinking "I'm losing more than 2 lbs a week, I'd better eat a little more." I thought "Yahoo, can I make this go quicker."
Then I (stupidly) went back to 'normal' eating.
Only from personal experience can I say that tweaking sensibly as you go better prepares you for the transition to maintenance.

06-20-2006, 01:56 PM
Not everybody is the same.
I'm a calorie counter. No specific plan. 1200 would have been too low for me at any point. In fact, I started off at around 1500 and my nurse practitioner told me that was too low for me. So I raised my intake to around 1800 and still lost weight. I'm 5'6" and around 145 lbs now and am trying to maintain at this point. I aim for around 1800-2000 on an average day (which means most weekdays-not weekends, which are prob around 2200-2400)
I know that for ME, 1200 would have left me feeling weak and set me up for a binge. But everyone's different.

06-20-2006, 02:01 PM
I thought of something else ....
In a perfect world :D people would know how many calories they DO eat and could start cutting from the top down.

06-20-2006, 02:01 PM
I've lost weight with both methods. However, it has been gradually reducing calories that has provided me with long term results. Not only was it the least dramatic physically but it provided me with plenty of time to learn how to MANAGE my weight as opposed to only knowing how to lose pounds.

That isn't to say that dropping your calorie intake and staying there until you reach your goal won't work - it just didn't work for ME. I found, through trial and error, that I need more flexiblity in my day to day life than that approach allowed.

06-20-2006, 02:25 PM
I radically changed EVERYTHING when I decided to finally lose the weight. I was probably eating more like 900-1200 calories, exercising (cardio, weights and tennis) at least 2 hours a day, and changed the types of food I ate (no processed, no sugar) in addition to the amount. This may not have been the healthiest plan and I was hungry, but it sure worked. No plateaus, no cheats, and the types of food I was eating to lose are what I still eat. I've maintained the loss for almost 5 years.

During those 5 years, I radically altered my exercise and I think that's what has enabled me to maintain. I can eat more because I lift heavy, have a lot of muscle, and do a lot of cardio. I still don't eat a lot to maintain. Perhaps that's a funtion of having lost on such low calories for the amount of exercise I was doing, or from a 30 year history of food/exercise abuse, or just my age and personal metabolic profile. Whatever the reason, it is what it is. I personally need to lose quickly enough to keep seeing results. I lost at a steady 2 pounds per week rate after the first honeymoon week. I'm in awe of those of you who can live through long plateaus without losing your minds!

I really don't think there is a "best" way. I know we preach slow and steady and learn to maintain along the way, but unless I saw results, I know I would have given up.


06-20-2006, 02:26 PM
One advantage to starting at a higher caloric intake is that if you start to plateau at some point, you have some room to adjust your calories downward. If you start at your lowest possible calorie intake, the only thing you can do when you plateau is increase your exercise.

I started at 1200 calories per day and increased it to 1300 after a couple of months because I thought that with all the exercise I was doing I could eat another 100 calories. I lost about a pound per week pretty steadily on this diet for a while, but now that I'm down to the last ten pounds, my weight loss has slowed considerably. If I were at a higher calorie level, I could just drop my calories down some more.

- Barbara

06-20-2006, 02:29 PM
lipidful - Hi - congratulations. I am wondering what your activity level is and/or how often you workout or weight train. Our stats seem very much the same and I have been feeling so weak and tired on my low cal days, so I am wondering if perhaps I should increase my calories for a while.


06-20-2006, 02:32 PM
I've done both methods. Radical calorie restriction always led to 1 of 2 things:

1. I restricted so much, my body binged in a desperate attempt to get the nutrients it needed.
2. I would reach a goal weight and would "quit" because there was no way I could sustain that kind of deprivation and I was looking forward to eating what I wanted again.

Every time I lost weight by radically resisting calories, I always gained the weight back and I ALWAYS gained MORE weight. Dieting made me fat.

This is the only time I've actually lost weight and kept it off longer than a couple of months. I can clearly remember another time when I was at my goal weight for only a week before the weight started coming back on.

I was more focused on nutrition and long term health this time - I needed to eat enough calories in order to give my body the wide range of nutritional benefits it needs. I would find it nearly impossible to fit in 5+ servings of vegetables, 2+ servings of fruit, low fat dairy (try to get at least 1 yogurt a day), around 40-50 grams of healthy fat, lean protein at every meal, and whole grains eating only 1200 calories a day.

I said this in another thread, for most of my life, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. The forest was long term health and the trees were losing weight. I was so focused on losing weight that I didn't care what I was doing to my long term health, nothing mattered but getting the weight off - not starving myself, not being hungry and light headed, not eating crappy processed diet foods, the ends justified the means. Now I realize that if I focus on being healthy, the weight loss happens right along with it. I can be slender AND be healthy.

I did plateau for a very long time. I lost 50 lbs fairly quickly (in about 7 months), it took me an additional 9 months to lose the last 15 lbs. It was definitely worth it and I'm glad I stuck to it and never gave up.

Gaining weight back is heartbreaking. Not being able to fit into cute new clothes I just bought, seeing sympathetic looks from friends/family, feeling like a failure. I never, ever want that again. The odds of keeping the weight off are terrible, I want to beat those odds.

06-20-2006, 02:42 PM
Actually, I'm a little ashamed to admit that my activity level has been pretty low. I was exercising regularly for a while (maybe 4 times a week for 1/2 hour or so walking briskly or running on trampoline) and I got lazy and can't seem to get back into it. I think I must have a good metabolism-I never yo yo dieted. I only lost any significant amount once in my life and gained it back gradually. Other than that, any weight changes up or down were gradual. Plus, I think I'm young (Is 33 young? LOL) and I have a lot of natural musculature.
I hope I don't get too overconfident, though.

06-20-2006, 02:46 PM
I lost 122 pounds in about 50 weeks, which works out to about 2.5 pounds/week. I started at 1600 calories, dropped whenever my weight loss stalled, and ended up around 1200 calories. Never cheated. Hour of cardio every day, weights five days/week. I'm sure a lot of people might think that was 'fast' but it was really only as fast as my body wanted to let the fat go.

My story is a lot like Mel's ... I changed EVERYTHING overnight. I've said before that it was like dying and being reborn. Maybe I had to do it that way since I was 46 and had failed at diets for my whole life? I don't think babysteps would have worked for me; like Mel, I needed to get rid of all my old bad habits and see results. Or I would have quit for the thousandth time.

If I was to go back in time, I wouldn't change a thing. I'd do it exactly the same way. After all, the way I lost weight is the same way that I've maintained my loss and it's been four years of maintenance for me now. :D

Honestly, I don't think there's one best answer. In the end, it's all about perserverance.

06-20-2006, 03:43 PM
A wise friend told me to only do what I would be willing to do for the rest of my life. I have done both approaches withdifferent diets over the years. In the end I always end up going off "the plan" and going back to my bad habits. I am now trying new habits that I like and am willing to adopt forever. I am also dropping weight and I am happy too. I don't feel like I am waiting for something to be over. I feel like I am beginning the rest of my life. It is really encouraging and If it takes me 5 years that's okay. I would prefer faster but I know the heartbreak of gaining it all back time and time again.

I am borrowing ideas from all kinds of diet plans but basics are the easiest. I allow for slip ups and I don't beat myself over the head about it because there will always be a slip up. I just deal with it with more exercise and better eating.

Good luck in finding what suits you. I look at it like trying on shoes. Everyone wears a different size and not all of us like the same style. Keep shopping until you find what suits your taste.

06-20-2006, 03:52 PM
I am now trying new habits that I like and am willing to adopt forever. I am also dropping weight and I am happy too. I don't feel like I am waiting for something to be over. I feel like I am beginning the rest of my life.

:hug: "I don't feel like I am waiting for something to be over."

What a healthy statement!

06-20-2006, 03:57 PM
Yeah, I wish lipidful!!! Although we seem a lot alike, I think our metabolisms are complete different! :)

I think subconsciously I am always looking for the easy way out.

Thanks for sharing though.

06-20-2006, 04:37 PM
I'm not a calorie counter, but I changed my lifestyle and eating in small steps rather than all at once. I've focussed on exercise, the quality of what I eat and portion control, and I still look for ways I can make improvements in all three areas (although less so for portion control these days). I started by making each meal just a tiny bit better than it would have been, maybe by substituting brown rice for white rice or fruit for a snack instead of chocolate. Then I made bigger changes as I got used to the small ones, and added on change after change until my lifestyle is completely changed without me feeling like there was ever one point when I drew a line in the sand and decided to change completely. It worked for me. I lost 9lb in the first 8 or 9 months after the moment that kickstarted it all in July 2004, and have gone on to lose 105lb in total, most of that between March 2005 and March 2006.

06-20-2006, 06:53 PM
I know we preach slow and steady and learn to maintain along the way, but unless I saw results, I know I would have given up.

I am in the gradual changes camp -- gradual decrease in cals and increase in exercise -- but would classify myself as definitely seeing results -- so far over 90 pounds in 11 months. :) Maybe that's not as fast as those of you who made really radical changes, but I just wanted to clarify that it is possible for some of us to make gradual change and still see dramatic results.

I agree that there's no one right way, but that if you aren't having long term success with one approach, keep your mind open to other options...

06-20-2006, 07:03 PM
Yeah, I think it's a matter of doing whatever works for you. Weight loss is hard work ... sometimes it feels like I have a part-time job doing this! I tend to need to see immediate results with weight loss, so I am more drastic. I also vary each week. Some weeks are better than others, based on mood, schedule, money, etc.

06-20-2006, 07:26 PM
Thanks for your thoughtful responses everyone. So I guess the answer is.......there is no one way that works best - it depends on the individual and whatever works for you and your metabolism/lifestyle. It's obvious that people in both camps have lost a lot of weight and kept it off for a substantial amount of time.

I've learned a tremendous amount from all the good advice posted in this forum. How I wish you'd been around 25 years ago when I was doing daft things like 800 calorie diets under a doctor's "supervision" and having HCG shots three times a week! I lost 50 lbs. in 6 months and gained it back in 4 :(.

I'm continuing to learn from our 3FC community and have borrowed ideas here and there that have made all the difference! Just checking in every day helps keep me accountable and reminds me of my lifelong journey towards a healthy and slim body (with the emphasis on healthy!)

06-20-2006, 10:56 PM
I took a year to lose 100 pounds averaging 1200-1400 calories a week. I wasn't exercising much - just a couple 1/2 hour walks a day. That was 2003. Then I slowly gained back 15 pounds. Last summer I started using the gym membership I had already paid for a year on. (I get a REALLY good deal from work) I was attempting to learn about weight training when I bought the book Winning by Losing by Jillian Micheals - the female trainer from Biggest Loser. I started her 12 week plan of workouts last August. I also altered how I ate to monitor my calories as a percentage - 40% carbs, 30% fat & 30% protein...basically I just cut back on carbs and added more protein. Since then I have gone through the 12 weeks of circuits a couple times, now I am making my own workouts. I have come a long way in terms of being so much more toned. I still have a ways to go - but I lost the 15 gained plus an extra pound...:cb:

What was the question again? :lol3:

06-20-2006, 11:00 PM
I think you misunderstood me...for me, I didn't restrict too much. I've maintained for almost five years (and actually lost 10 more pounds than my goal) doing pretty much the same thing. I eat 5 small meals per day of unprocessed food. Loads of vegetables, PILES of greens, lots of lean protein, healthy fats, and enough complex carbohydrates to keep my brain working and my muscles plumped up. Every once in a while, I have a glass or two of wine. I don't (generally) eat candy, cookies, ice cream, beer, chips, prepared foods or cheap restaurant food. It's not a matter of restricting- it's not good for me.

One of the reasons that I've been able to continue to eat this way is how much better I feel. Forget the number on the scale for a moment- heck if I really wanted to "lose weight" I'd just stop lifting heavy! Pouf- 7-10 pounds of muscle would be gone within 6 weeks. When I got rid of sugar and processed food, I thought I'd found the cure for fibromyalgia and endometriosis, both which had nearly incapacitated me.

Another reason that I think I needed to lower my calories so drastically is that I have always exercised. Even at my highest weight, I did some resistence training, walked 3-4 miles every day, and played tennis 3 hours per week.

When I chose that way of eating, I knew it was for life. Not the 900 calories, but the foods. I didn't actually count calories, but that's my estimate based on what I now eat. My point was that everyone has their own path. There isn't ONE way to lose weight and keep it off sucessfully.