Column: Be realistic about weight loss goals 


Commentary by Daniel Miller

Weight loss promotions are a common theme of many articles and advertisements. They are usually directed toward women and focus on a specific low-calorie diet plan. Recently, a ‘drop 19 pounds in 10 days’ magazine headline caught my eye. Maybe it was referring to dropping 19 pounds of water into a water basin over a period of 10 days. I hope that is the case, because promoting a weight-loss plan where 19 pounds of fat is lost in a period of 10 days is pure and complete ignorance.

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One pound of fat stored in the body is equivalent to 3,500 calories of energy. To lose 19 pounds of fat, you would have to metabolize 66,500 calories of energy. Over a 10-day period you would need to run 665 miles, or 66.5 miles per day. I am not a huge fan of distance running, but the weight lifting, swimming or biking equivalents would also be impossible.

Losing 19 pounds in 10 days would require lost water weight as well as muscle mass. It is common knowledge that adequate hydration is necessary for a healthy body. Unfortunately, the number on the scales often matters more to some than adequate hydration. It should be common knowledge that maintaining muscle mass is necessary for a healthy body. Unfortunately, the social push for a skinny body image matters more than adequate muscle tissue. Extreme diets will force the body to burn the next most convenient fuel source, your own muscle tissue.

Burning muscle mass is unfortunate, but the final straw is the energy drain you are imposing on your internal organs. Your GI tract will not process food as quickly, and your body will become more apt to store as much energy as possible. If there is ever an abundance of carbohydrates available, as much energy as possible will be stored as fat. Even losing 19 pounds in 30 days would likely be short-lived, which is why this type of dieting is frequently part of the ‘yo-yo’ effect.

If you are exploring weight loss options, initial goals should include building muscle mass in order to support your healthy body. As you continue a consistent exercise routine you will begin to use stored energy within your fat tissue to achieve your goals.

Daniel Miller is a Carmel resident who has advanced degrees in chemistry and psychology. You can view more of his work at