Unhealthy Weight Loss?

How to Know if Your Weight-Loss Program Is Healthy or Not

NOTE: This is a blog post about healthy/unhealthy weight-loss programs.  Eating disorders are not part of the conversation for this post.  While eating disorders play a significant role in unhealthy weight loss, I am not an eating disorder specialist and am not qualified to have that conversation.

We are a weight-obsessed society.  Some people step on their scale multiple times a day (what are you, a Wall Street day trader?).  Others use their weight as their primary indicator of progress with their health.

Weight can be a very misleading indicator.  It's kinda like a tax return amount.  If I receive a huge tax return, does that mean I paid in way too many taxes last year?  Does it mean I had a really bad year financially this time around?  Weight can be a confusing indicator of health progress just as a tax return can be a confusing indicator of financial progress.

Recently I had a debate online with a trainer buddy of mine.  He had read something about the amount of weight my clients were losing with my Virtual Boot Camp program.  He became concerned.  To him, it appeared as though my clients were losing weight at an unhealthy pace.

I understand and appreciate his concern.  Weight loss at any cost is very dangerous.  In the case of Virtual Boot Camp, I have built my program in a very specific way which triggers a very specific type of weight loss.  Although the weight-loss numbers can be high, the results are healthy.

So, what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy weight loss?

Healthy Weight Loss Removes Unhealthy Sources of Weight

Have you ever cleaned the area behind your refrigerator?  It's pretty gross, isn't it?  Over the course of 12 months, that area behind the fridge can become one of the dirtiest areas in our home.  A heavy-duty cleaner and a scraper might be involved in cleaning up that often-neglected area.  If that area was never cleaned, bugs and bacteria would thrive there.  Over time, the fall out from the dust and grime could force the fridge to work harder and perform inefficiently.

The human colon is like the area behind the fridge.  The average human has 10-20 lbs. of feces stuck in their colon.  Let that hit home.  Most people have 10-20 lbs. of awful waste just sitting in their body.  Since this is the case, one of the first things I recommend for my clients is a colon cleanse (if they haven't had one in awhile).  There is nothing unhealthy about quickly getting rid of cancer-causing toxins that are in your fecal matter.

Fecal matter and excess fat are unhealthy sources of weight.  Any program that focuses on losing unhealthy weight is on the right track.  There are, however, some programs and some trainers that under-nourish or over-train.  One way to know if you are losing healthy is weight is to take note of how you feel.  If you are constantly tired, constantly sore, and constantly drained, you may be off base with weight loss.  If you have abundant energy, fly through your day, aren't constantly sore from workouts for longs periods of time and do not need an unusual amount of sleep, you may be on the right track.

I'm sure my trainer friends are thinking, "Healthy weight loss can be determined by how you feel???"  It's one gauge.   A better way would be to look at your specific program to see how the nutrition and training are being allocated.  This, however, can be a tricky diagnosis (if you'd like some help figuring out if you are on the right track or not, send an email to adam@rapidresultsfitnessmn.com and I'd be glad to help).

Bottom line: if fecal matter and fat loss are the targets of your weight-loss program, you have a good chance of being on the right track.

Unhealthy Weight Loss Removes Healthy Sources of Weight

Our bodies need water.  Our bodies need muscle.  Some people try to lose a few quick pounds by shedding water (via a water pill or other forms of dehydration) and doing things to tear down muscle.  Bad idea!  Any program that loses healthy sources of weight like water and muscles are usually off the mark.

There are many programs out there, big famous programs, that are totally broken and off base.  If your program does not specifically address what nutrition looks like before and after a workout, your program is broken.  In fact, if you program has "weight" in its title, it is probably broken.  But Adam, how can you say that?  Lots of people have been SO successfully on some of the big/national programs.

I can say that because programs that focus simply on weight loss omit the "needing muscle" portion of the health conversation.  Programs that do not specifically address ways to spare/grow muscle with precise exercise and nutrition are missing the mark.  They are leading you to use muscle as a source of weight loss, and that is USUALLY unhealthy.

A muscle cell burns 70% more calories than a fat cell.  So, if you are losing muscle, you are losing your ability to burn calories.  I can hear the ladies saying, "But I don't want to look like a body builder."  If you are currently out of shape, the likelihood of you suddenly looking like a body builder is as likely as you working part-time as a fast food joint and suddenly getting too wealthy.

Maintaining and growing some lean muscle is never a bad idea.  After all, muscle is a healthy source of weight.  And the presence of muscle in your body is great news for your metabolism and calorie-burning capacity.

Bottom line: Keeping the body hydrated and keeping muscle fed are important.  Any weight-loss program that focuses on the opposite is off the mark.


Adam Erwin is a nutrition and fitness coach, based in chilly Minneapolis, MN. (where the lakes are outnumbered only by the taxes).  Adam helps people across the United States to attack the lifestyle problems that are negatively affecting health.  In 2009, his 28-day Virtual Boot Camp program has helped people lose an average of 13 lbs.  To learn more about Adam and how he can help you have the best food and fitness month of your life, send him an email at adam@rapidresultsfitnessmn.com and also peep www.rapidresultsfitnessmn.com.