Is Rapid Weight Loss Possible and Sustainable?

The weight loss and fitness industries generate billions of dollars worth of revenue per year for businesses such as gyms, personal fitness training studios, nutritional supplement companies and exercise equipment manufactures. One claim that is common claims amongst many, if not all, of the weight loss marketing campaigns is guaranteed, sustainable, rapid weight loss. Is it truly possible to lose body weight and keep the undesired pounds off? Below is a discussion of some of the variables associated with rapid weight loss and the likelihood of maintaining the lower body weight.

Water Weight Loss

Initially, upon beginning a weight loss program, a significant amount of body weight can be lost in a very short amount of time. It is not uncommon for someone to lose as much as five percent of their total body weight within a seven day period of time. That means that a two hundred pound person could lose as much as ten pounds of body weight within the first week of dieting. Certainly people have experienced greater amounts of weight loss but those results are not typical. It is important to understand, however, that the majority of the initial weigh loss will be that of water. With a drastic caloric reduction, the body loses its ability to retain water, as the components of the typical Western diet, specifically sodium and carbohydrates, encourages the storage of fluid in the body. When those components are drastically and rapidly reduced, an immediate elimination of water from the body occurs. The initial weight loss is usually sustainable as long as the nutritional intake remains constant. However, maintaining a diet that is devoid of carbohydrates and sodium is not sustainable. Therefore, a slight increase of water weight gain should be expected upon diet modification and progression.

Lean Muscle Weight Loss

A reduced calorie diet will usually be accompanied by a loss in lean muscle tissue. Unless regular, rigorous resistance exercise is introduced, muscle tissue will be metabolized for energy and cellular function. While the weight loss associated with muscle catabolism is not nearly as rapid as that of water weight loss, it is important to be recognized. The existence of lean muscle tissue is essential for a healthy and efficient metabolism and with a gradual reducing of skeletal muscle, a proportionate reduction in metabolic function should be expected.

Body Fat Weight Loss

Ideally, the majority of weight loss over the long term should be from reduction of body fat. According to Dr. Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D., this requires careful manipulation of nutritional practices including selection of low glycemic carbohydrates, food timing, moderate ingestion of dietary fat and consumption of adequate quantities of quality protein to support lean muscle tissue development and maintenance. According to The National Strength and Conditioning Association, "the maximum rate of acceptable body mass loss appears to be approximately 1% of body mass per week". The ideal mode for losing excess body fat is regular cardiovascular and resistance exercise accompanied by sound nutrition principles.


By taking a healthy, consistent approach to weight loss, sustaining a lower body weight is possible. As with many other lifestyle modifications, to truly maintain weight loss, one must discard old, unhealthy habits that led to the existence of excess body fat in the first place. Goal setting and patience are the keys that will aid in the achievement of the desired, lower body weight. Healthy habits, determination and discipline will help sustain it.