Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lose 10 Pound in 4 Days! What?!

First off, let me go on record as saying I am totally opposed to crazy diets. In the short term, they seem miraculous; in the long term, they are disastrous. I know.

So what's with the title of this post? Well, you see, I have this friend. Not me. A friend. And he made a bet with a co-worker. The terms were these:
  • The bet spanned Q2 2008, three months.
  • He had to lose a pound and a half a week, she had to lose about a pound a week. (Men lose weight more easily, and since he weighs at least one and half times what she weighs, it makes sense he should have to lose one and a half times as much weight.)
  • They each put in $5 a week, for a total end-of-the-bet pot of $130.
  • If neither makes their goal, the pot rides and the bet continues for another quarter.
  • If both make it, they can either split the pot or let it ride.
  • If only one makes goal, that one takes the money and runs.

So the bet terminates on Monday, four days away. The co-worker is two and a half pounds from victory, and she is hitting it hot and heavy: running, eating salads, the whole nine yards. She wants it.

My friend, on the other hand, got off to a good start, but languished in the final stretch. Now, with 4 days to go, he is 10 pounds away from his goal weight.

So my friend comes to me, distraught, panicked. I resist retelling Aesop's grasshopper and the ant story. Instead, I unroll a map and spread it out on the table between us.

"What's this map got to do with it?" he asks.

"Nothing," I answer. "It's just for effect. Like a couple of officers planning a nocturnal assault."

"You have no idea what to do, do you?" he asks.

Rather than waste my breathe responding to his pessimistic fatalism, I lay out his path to victory:

First, you cannot lose 10 pounds of fat in 10 days. Not without lyposuction. A pound of fat is the bodies way of storing 3,500 calories you took in but didn't put out. For example, if I need 2,500 calories a day to exist -- for my heart to beat, my lungs to breathe; to move myself around, etc. -- and I eat 6,000 calories, for instance 10 Big Macs, I will gain one pound of fat. Pure and simple.

Now, by the same token, if I need 2,500 calories a day, but I only take in 2,000 a day, that represents a 500 calorie/day deficient. That means I have to take out a withdrawal at the fat bank that is my midsection. At the end of a week (7 days times 500 calories a day deficit), I will have withdrawn 3,500 calories. In other words, I lost one pound.

That's not true, I hear some of you saying. I went on a crash diet and lost 10 pounds in one week. Yes, you did. But you didn't lose 10 pounds of fat. The majority of that 10 pounds was water and waste. (Yuck.)

To prove my point, I need you to do a little test. Step on a fairly accurate scale. Write down your weight. Now go fill up a container with 32 ounces of water and drink. (Hey, Marines have to do this all the time. The DI says "Drink," and they have to down their entire canteen.) It might take you a while, but when you're done, step back on the scale. Since a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, and since a quart is a "quarter" of a gallon, you will weigh 2 pounds more after drinking the water. Did you gain weight? Yes, in that you now weigh more, but no, in that after a trip or two to the potty, you'll be back to normal.

This is all complicated by the fact that high sodium foods make your body retain more water. It is also complicated by the fact, that at any given point in time, there is a good deal of food in various stages of digession coursing its way through your body. (I will not go so far as to suggest experiment #2: weighing before and after using the restroom, but you get the point.)

So, after explaining all this to my friend, I suggest the following:

  • Eat a healthy, low sodium, moderate calorie diet for the next four days.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables than anything else. (These are high fiber and high water content -- you get the picture.)
  • Get moving -- all four days, but particularly the morning of the weigh in. (I won't recommend one of those crazy vinyl suits, but two or three sets of good cotton sweats wouldn't hurt.)

"That's it," he says. "That's all you've got?"

"Okay, eat cabbage and celery. They're diuretic."

"They cause high blood sugar?"

"No, idiot. Diuretic. They'll make you pee more."


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