Advertising
Advertising

5 Sources of Fake Weight Loss Results In Your Body

5 Sources of Fake Weight Loss Results In Your Body

In this article, you will learn 5 different ways in which your body can trick you with “fake” weight loss results on just about any weight loss diet. I call these results fake, because they can make it look like you’re losing a lot of weight even when you’re hardly losing any body fat at all.

In other words, fake weight loss is any weight you might lose that won’t come out of your body fat reserves (such weight is also known as your non-fat body weight, or your lean body mass). Many rapid weight loss diets (or crash diets, if you will) take a huge advantage of this. They trick you with an illusion of fast weight loss, but as soon as you’re off the diet, you gain most of the lost weight back.

This is nothing new, we all know this as the dreaded yo-yo dieting effect. Except, only a handful of people understand exactly why this happens on so many fast weight loss diets.

In this article, I will use a combination of weight loss science and personal experiments to show you what actually happens in your body during (and after) most crash diets.

I will not only explain the 5 five different sources of fake weight loss results in your body, but I’ll also try to estimate by how much each of these 5 sources can mess up your weight loss results.

1. Dehydration (loss of body water)

Back in 2004, I did an extreme weight loss challenge to demonstrate how to lose the most weight in one day. I have shown it’s possible to lose almost 20 pounds (or 9 kilograms) of weight in just 24 hours. But you should know that what I did IS extremely dangerous. When taken to extremes, dehydration can literally cause your heart to fail [1], so do not repeat what I did under any circumstances.

I specifically designed my extreme weight loss experiment to lose as much water weight as possible in those 24 hours. I hardly drank any fluids during my challenge, and I used a couple of natural diuretics to force even more water out of my body. On top of that, I exercised in intense heat to lose huge amounts of body water (through sweat).

But given how many calories I actually burned in those 24 hours, I couldn’t have lost a lot more than a pound of body fat. So at least 18 out of the 20 pounds I lost didn’t come from my body fat reserves.

Not getting in any fluids, diuretics, heat, and exercise can all dehydrate in your body. But there are two more specific reasons why our bodies release even more water weight during extreme weight loss.

So let’s get those two out of the way first.

Advertising

2. Glycogen

Your body stores energy in a couple of different ways. While a huge majority of that energy is stored away in your body fat reserves, some of it is also stored as glycogen. Burning away your glycogen reserves can also make it look like you’re getting great weight loss results, even when you’re not necessarily losing any body fat at all.

Our bodies store about a pound (or a little over 400 grams) of glycogen on average [2], but every gram of glycogen also binds about 3-4 grams of water to itself [3]. Because I ate almost no food while exercising for about 6 hours during my extreme weight loss challenge, I wiped out most, if not all of my glycogen reserves. As my body kept burning away glycogen for energy, the number on my scale started dropping pretty quickly. But again, that didn’t mean I was actually losing a lot of body fat, I was simply losing the weight of glycogen (and the water that was bound to it).

Now, while an average person stores about a pound of glycogen, some people can store more than two pounds of it. In other words, if you completely wiped out your glycogen reserves, the number on your scale could deceive you by as much as 7.7 pounds (5 kilograms) [2] of fake weight loss.

3. Salt (sodium)

Salt, or more precisely, sodium (sodium is the main component of salt), plays a huge role in our modern diets. Even if you’re not adding any extra salt to your food, there’s a good chance your diet already contains a lot of sodium. Sodium isn’t just added to junk foods like pizza and hamburgers, but also to foods like bread, turkey breast, chicken noodle soup, and lots of other processed foods.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “more than 75% of the sodium Americans eat comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods.” [4]

Okay, but what does all this have to do with fake weight loss results?

All that extra sodium we eat with our food, can force our bodies to hold on to quite a lot of extra body water (to keep that sodium diluted in concentrations that aren’t harmful to your body). Because I exercised and sweat a lot in my weight loss experiment, I also lost a lot of sodium and the water that was bound to it (we lose a lot of sodium as we sweat [5]).

So pretty much like glycogen, the loss of sodium (and the water bound to it), can trick you into believing you’re losing a lot of weight, even when we’re not necessarily losing any body fat at all.

How much fake weight loss can sodium actually cause?

This information was pretty hard to come by, but based on one study [6] and my own sodium weight loss experiment, it’s possible to lose as much as 6 pounds (3 kilograms) of body weight if you get rid of any extra sodium in your body.

Advertising

4. Muscle mass and vital organ tissue

The loss of your muscle mass and vital organ tissue (your vital body mass) is another critical problem you’ll run into, if you try to repeat what I did in my extreme weight loss experiment. Because, once you start running low on glycogen, your body simply can’t extract enough energy from your body fat reserves alone. So after you wipe out your glycogen reserves, your body will have no choice but to start burning away some of your “structural proteins” for energy [7].

Where will those structural proteins come from?

Proteins are the basic building blocks of your muscles and vital organs. This means your body will literally start eating itself away, just so it can keep you alive during times of extreme weight loss.

How bad can this get?

If I “just” stopped eating food during my extreme experiment, I could end up losing as much as 1 pound (0.5 kilograms) of vital body mass in a single day [7]. But if you keep exercising after running out of glycogen, you can lose over 100 grams of your vital body mass for every hour of exercise. I began my experiment with full glycogen reserves, but then exercised for about 6 hours. So in those 24 hours, I probably lost somewhere around 2 pounds of muscle mass and vital organ tissue in total.

My experiment was extreme, so the destruction of my vital body mass was extreme as well. But the same destruction of your vital body mass will happen on pretty much all but the slowest of weight loss diets (although it won’t be nearly as extreme as in my experiment). Explaining the science on why that happens – and more importantly, how to prevent this without slowing down your fat burn rates – is definitely a story for another article.

So let me just wrap this part up by saying that your final weight loss results will also look better if you’re losing your vital body mass on a rapid weight loss diet. Again, this will have nothing to do with your body fat and is something you’d want to avoid at all cost.

5. Food waste

Let’s take a look at the one last thing that can cause a fake drop of the number on your bathroom scale. I ate almost no food during my 24-hour weight loss experiment, but I could have gone even more extreme. I could have taken a laxative, or use any colon cleansing method to empty out my colon.

If I got rid of all food waste from my colon, this too could make my final weight loss results look even better on paper. I could be “bragging” about an even bigger drop of the number on the scale (without losing any extra body fat).

Colon cleansing is something that actually gets recommended on a lot of different diets/cleanses. Also, if you do any kind of a juice/liquid diet, or simply eat less food overall, you could again be looking at “better” weight loss results at the end of the weight loss diet. The less (solid) foods you eat, the more your colon will empty out, and the better your final weight loss will seem.

Advertising

How much fake weight loss are we talking about here?

According to one study [7] – in which they tested “industrial-strength” colon cleansers (the stuff they use in medicine to prepare patients for surgery) – you could end up losing up to 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) of weight, simply by clearing out your colon.

For the last time, this quick drop of the number on the scale would have absolutely nothing to do with your body fat.

What are the maximum possible fake weight loss results?

To sum up the maximum potential for fake weight loss results on just about any rapid weight loss diet, here’s how much weight you could lose from all 5 sources of fake weight loss results in your body:

  • up to 7.7 pounds (5 kilograms) of weight by wiping up your glycogen reserves
  • up to 6 pounds (3 kilograms) of weight by reducing the amount of sodium in your diet
  • up to 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) of weight by emptying out your colon
  • up to 1 pound (or more with exercise) of muscle mass and vital organ tissue per day.
  • on top of all this, you could keep dehydrating your body to the point where it becomes the very last thing you’ll ever do (but I am counting on you to NEVER try anything like that).

Ok, so these are the maximum possible numbers, and they at least roughly add up if I compare them to my real-life results. In my extreme 24-hour weight loss experiment I lost at least 18 pounds of non-fat weight, which can be explained with the numbers above.

If I wanted to precisely measure how many of the 18 pounds I lost came from each of the 5 possible sources, I would need access to some pretty expensive & complicated equipment. But exact number aren’t important. The important thing is that you now have a good enough idea of just how big of an weight loss illusion crash diets can create.

And what happens when you break off a rapid weight loss diet and return to your normal diet?

The real reason for fast weight regains after a crash diet

If you return to roughly the same diet you were on before you started a crash diet, all the non-fat weight you lost during the diet will return pretty quickly.

Your glycogen reserves will refill, your body will regain the water it lost because of dehydration, you will gain back the sodium-bound water weight, and your colon will fill back up again. In my extreme weight loss experiment, it only took two days to gain back almost all the weight I lost (but I did eat more food than I normally do).

Now, if you do a crash diet and then start eating too many calories once you’re off the diet, you WILL gain back any body fat you lost over time (and likely add some on top). But those first couple of pounds you gain back very quickly will have nothing to do your body fat.

Advertising

The only way to make sure if a diet has actually helped you lose body fat instead of just dropping your non-fat weight temporarily (or worse, destroying a lot of muscle mass and vital organ tissue), is to measure your body fat percentage before and after the diet. The important thing is that you now understand what happens “under the hood” if you do a fast weight loss diet and then quickly gain back some weight.

You will no longer think that the diet didn’t work, that you did something wrong, that your metabolism has been “crippled” by the diet, or even that you’ve lost and regained pounds and pounds of body fat in a matter of days (which is simply not possible).

Can crash diets deliver only fake weight loss results?

Let’s put something into perspective. Even though I lost “just” a pound of body fat in my 24-hour weight loss challenge, it would still take a week or two to lose the same amount of body fat on most standard weight loss diets.

If my experiment didn’t involve dangerously dehydrating my body and destroying a lot of muscle mass and vital organ tissue in the process, we could actually be talking about one of the fastest fat burn methods on the planet (but we can’t, cause what I did is simply too dangerous).

Crash diets have gained a very bad reputation because of the rarely understood yo-yo effect, but some well-designed rapid weight loss diet can actually target your body fat reserves extremely well (and do so without the destruction of your muscle mass and vital organ tissue).

The problem is, only a handful of rapid fat loss diets have ever been scientifically proven to be able to deliver those kind of results [7]. I have to wrap this article up, but if you’re interested in more information on this, look up muscle sparing fasting (or as scientist call it, protein-sparing modified fasting).

This was a long read, but congratulations for making it all the way to the end.

My hope for this article is to eliminate at least some of the confusion, frustration, and disappointment people usually run into when they regain weight after a rapid weight loss diet. If you know someone who ever suffered through such feelings, do them a favor and share this science-based explanation of the yo-yo dieting effect with them.

Featured photo credit: pixabay.com / geralt via pixabay.com

More by this author

Little-known health dangers of water fasting Water Bottle Arm Muscle How Much Muscle Mass Can You Lose During a Water Fast? Weight Loss Results 5 Sources of Fake Weight Loss Results In Your Body

Trending in Health

1 7 Best Probiotic Supplements (Recommendation & Reviews) 2 Signs of a Nervous Breakdown (And How to Survive It) 3 How to Find Weight Loss Meal Plans That Work for You 4 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go 5 How to Manage Anxiety: Sound Advice from a Mental Health Expert

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

Advertising

3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

Advertising

6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

Advertising

9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

Advertising

Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

Read Next