Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition – fact or fiction?

I’ve been watching several episodes of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition lately. Its a TV show that is similar to the Biggest Loser however its over the course of a year and instead of a competition among several contestants, each episode is about one (sometimes two) participants looking to lose an extreme amount of weight. Each dieter is given weight loss goals in four phases – with the fourth phase meant to include skin removal surgery if the participant has met all their phase 3 goal.

What’s interesting about the show is that each loser is given a huge phase one goal, often more than a pound a day for the first 90 days. The show does not focus on what they do to lose the weight other than a few statements about diet and usually a new home gym build out at their house.

Watching the show makes you think, could I actually be 40, 50, even 80 lbs lighter in 3 months? Every weight loss app on the android and iphone market caps weight loss at 2lbs a week – not 7-10lbs. Every health article written by medical professionals suggest no more than 2lbs a week too. It seems like the magic number for weight loss pace is 2lbs a week, but we all have seen shows like this one where the contestants are often shown losing 5, 10, even 20 lbs in a single week!

Is it fact or fiction? Do contestants really lose this much weight? Is it safe to lose that much weight in that short amount of time? I heard one person say “its safer than carrying that much fat on your body!” Maybe that’s true – but why is 2lbs a week the magic number then?

Every app on the market today uses calorie math at 3500 calories a pound. If you want to lose 2lbs a week – you have to burn 1000 calories above your food intake per day. That’s 7000 calories a week deficit at 3500 calories a pound – 2lbs.

If I eat 2000 calories a day (most FDA charts suggest this is the correct amount of daily caloric intake), and I burn 3000 calories a day – then I will lose 2lbs a week. But what if I burn 4000 calories a day? Shouldn’t I then lose 4lbs a week? Is that “safe”? Isn’t the evolutionary reason our body stores extra calories as fat for times we burn more than we take in? So as long as I’m still eating over the bare minimum (apparently 1200 calories a day), then I should be ok to burn as many as I can, right?

Again, I have no idea what’s right. I also don’t understand how metabolism factors in. I know that if you can eat a lot of food without gaining weight, people say you have a high metabolism.

I think the only thing this post is proving is that I know almost nothing about weight loss despite having a weight loss blog for several years now. I don’t know if its safe to lose weight at a rate of a pound a day as is often the case in the first phase of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition… but I know that being under 200lbs in three months sounds awesome… and unrealistic.

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