How Losing Weight Too Fast Can Backfire

Woman with Scales

Although we may be drawn to the allure of rapid weight loss advertising, health experts have traditionally recommended a slow-and-steady method. 1/4 kg to 1 kg per week is what’s universally considered safe and sustainable.

Losing weight too quickly, especially through VLCD (very low calorie diets) can result in a number of side effects, some more downright dangerous than others. The most significant one is that when people lose weight too quickly, they’re often not able to successfully keep it off. In fact, research has found that after losing weight, about two-thirds of dieters gain more than they initially dropped.

That’s just one of the ways rapid weight loss can backfire, though. Below are some other ways that slimming down too quickly can do more harm to your health than good.

1. You could be missing out on important nutrients

Many quick diets and eating plans cut out whole food groups, which means you could be missing out on key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that you need to stay healthy. A dairy-free diet could possibly result in a calcium deficiency while a diet that completely cuts carbs could mean you’re not getting enough fibre. Even on a lower-calorie diet, it’s important to get a range of nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, folate, and iron.

2. Your metabolism can get slower

Rapid weight loss usually occurs from extreme calorie deprivation, for example, people who go from eating 3,000 to 1,200 calories a day.

The problem is that our body recognizes this as a sign of limited food supply and goes into starvation mode. When your body goes into starvation mode, your metabolism will slow down to help you conserve energy and your body will hang onto more fat.

3. You might be losing muscle, instead of fat

When we lose weight, we want to get rid of true adipose tissue (fat) and not muscle mass. But if you cut calories too quickly, muscle tone will seriously suffer. Calorie restrictive diets may cause your body to break down the muscle for energy and fuel.

In addition to waving goodbye to your shapely guns and rear, a loss in muscle mass can slow your metabolism. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. That means one kilo of muscle burns more calories a day than one kilo of fat. So, a loss of muscle means you’ll burn less calories a day.

4. You could become really dehydrated

Thanks to water weight, it’s common to see slightly faster weight loss in the first two weeks. Especially on low-carb or no-carb diets, people will lose a lot of water weight. Trouble is, rapid water loss can lead to dehydration and a host of unpleasant side effects like constipation, headache, muscle cramps, and low energy.

Make sure your weight loss plan emphasizes hydration! Watch out for these signs of dehydration, especially in the first two weeks.

5. You could feel ravenous (extremely hungry)

When you go on quick-fix, low-calorie diets, your levels of leptin - the hormone that controls hunger and satiety - can go "out of whack".

When leptin levels are normal, it tells your brain when your body has enough fat, which signals the brain that you’re full. But on very-low-calorie diets, unbalanced leptin levels can result in an obsession with food. You may be more ravenous, hangry, and likely to binge.

Go for steady and healthy weight loss

Although slow and steady weight loss doesn't sound as promising, it’s the best way to ensure that the weight actually stays off. It’s also important for your health and maintaining physical energy.

Weight maintenance depends on the person, but drastic weight loss measures are potentially harder to maintain.

So, what’s the best way to lose weight?

Healthy, sustainable weight loss includes many factors: better food choices, more sleep, increased physical activity, reduced stress, and focus on mental wellbeing. Make sure to also create moments of joy in your journey. If you don’t like high-intensity workouts, try hiking where there are slight inclines. It’s fine to have a treat every now and again, like a piece of chocolate or small bag of chips.

The Pitch

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