Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a big challenge for many people, especially in the United States with almost 50% of the population considered overweight or obese. Weight loss can become even more difficult for most adults suffering from obesity and obesity-related health problems because of several factors that contribute to a higher body mass index.
While losing a lot of weight can be a great accomplishment, doing extreme things that you see on ads and TV like very-low-calorie diets and juice cleanses can introduce a long list of unexpected side effects and dangers in the long run.
In reality, most of these weight loss schemes that promise quick and easy results can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. In this post, we will discuss what extreme weight loss is, the most alarming dangers of rapid weight loss you should be aware of, and some effective ways to lose weight quickly without risking your health.
What is Extreme Weight Loss?
Extreme weight loss, also known as rapid weight loss, is a type of short-term weight loss where you lose a lot of body weight quickly by following restrictive diets that deliver extreme results. Most of the common ads you see online like “Lose 7 pounds in 7 days” and “10-Day Weight Loss Challenge” to name a few, are promoting extreme weight loss in a short amount of time.
There are no exact guidelines on defining rapid weight loss as it depends on your age, weight, and physical activity level. While it’s possible to lose a certain amount of pounds in a week or month, it may cause negative short-term health consequences that may even set you up for weight regain in the long run.
Some of the most popular examples of extreme diets are very-low-calorie diets, cleanses and detoxification diets, meal replacements, crash diets, and using dietary supplements. These diets that typically promise quick and shocking results are almost always difficult to maintain in real life without feeling sluggish, tired, and moody most of the time.
Many experts agree that 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week is generally considered safe, healthy, and sustainable for most adults. This is based on the popular and effective advice of almost all articles and studies on weight loss: Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race.
If you don’t think you can stick to a certain diet or plan for a few months or years, it’s most likely an extreme and fast weight loss plan that can be downright dangerous for your health. At Beltline Health, we are committed to helping adults suffering from obesity by implementing evidence-based eating and lifestyle changes based on their individual weight loss needs and goals.
What are the Risks of Losing Weight Too Much or Fast?
It’s easy to fall into the traps of flashy ads that claim to help you achieve a beach-ready body in 7 days. If you consume fewer calories than what your body needs or choose to follow crash diets like egg diet and Hollywood juice diet, you are almost always guaranteed to lose a crazy amount of pounds in less than a week.
As most might already know, it is never a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight quickly as you’re likely bound to regain the weight you lost once you stop following the craze and go back to your old eating habits. But apart from weight regain, there are some serious dangers to extreme diets that should make you think twice the next time you take on another fad diet.
You become severely dehydrated
The quick weight loss results you experience after following an extreme diet might just be your body losing water than the real enemy, which is fat. This is a common side effect when you restrict carbohydrates or calories in your diet. When the body senses that you are not consuming enough calories, it goes into starvation mode and it burns your carbohydrate stores for energy.
Carbohydrates are literally carbons with attached water molecules in them, so as your body burns glycogen, a type of carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver, it also allows water to escape out of your system. If you notice a sudden drop in weight in just three days, watch out for signs of dehydration such as headaches, fatigue, low energy, and irritability as you are most likely just losing your water weight.
You lose more muscle mass instead of fat
When talking about healthy weight loss, the main goal is to get rid of the nasty stored fat tissue instead of muscle mass that gives us a toned look. This can be achieved through slow and conventional weight loss methods combined with regular exercise as it allows the body to build muscle mass while burning more calories and fat.
However, sudden and highly restrictive diets can trigger the body to break down muscle proteins for energy rather than using fat stores. This is one reason why you instantly lose so much weight during the first few days of a crash diet. Many studies have shown that you lose three times more lean body mass when you undergo rapid weight loss than you would if you took a slower and more sustainable strategy.
Your body slows down your metabolism
Aside from losing a lot of muscle mass, rapid weight loss causes your body to go into starvation mode, which then slows down your metabolism or the body’s ability to burn off calories. When you deprive yourself of your ideal calorie intake, your body attempts to conserve energy by decreasing the rate of calories being burned while walking, eating, sleeping, and exercising.
While you can drop off a lot of weight during the first few days of an extreme diet, your body will eventually struggle to burn calories and you will reach a weight loss plateau even when you strictly follow the diet. This will set you up for weight cycling where you lose weight and gain it again quickly once you go back to your prior eating and lifestyle activities.
You experience hunger and hanger
This might be a bit obvious, but when you go on 1,000-calorie per day diets, the hormone that regulates hunger and satiety called leptin gets really unstable. At normal levels, it signals your brain that you are full when you have enough fat in your body.
However, in a lower-calorie diet, the body tends to have unbalanced leptin levels, which causes you to feel hungrier than usual and more likely to overeat during your next meal. Aside from this, you can expect to have side effects like nausea, irritability, insomnia, and moodiness, which experts collectively call “hanger,” pertaining to the negative emotional state that kicks in when you’ve eaten less than your ideal food intake.
You become at risk for malnutrition
Many quick-fix and extreme diets are usually based on eliminating entire food groups or carbohydrates, which can be quite problematic from a nutritional standpoint. In order for your body to function properly, you need to consume certain amounts of protein, fats, and carbs, as well as a wide range of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
However, when you follow fad and crash diets like the paleo and ketogenic diet that are nutritionally imbalanced, you’ll eventually end up having nutritional deficiencies that can affect your energy levels, mood, and immune system. While you might be able to lose fat quickly, it can also lead to an increased risk of developing serious health conditions.
Is Extreme, Rapid Weight Loss Safe?
While there are lots of ways to approach your weight loss problems, taking on an extreme weight loss diet as a quick fix is not an ideal solution to achieve a sustainable weight. In fact, it can even set you up for weight regain soon after and it can be dangerous for your physical and mental health in the long run.
While there’s nothing wrong with cutting calories, your diet should contain a balance of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods without cutting more than 500 calories a day. It’s best to supplement your diet with an exercise routine that involves high-intensity strength and resistance training to help build muscle mass and promote fast weight loss.
With proper diet, regular exercise, and the right amount of focus and discipline, losing weight in a short amount of time is within reach without putting your health at risk. However, the real and bigger challenge for most people is keeping the weight off over the long term.
At Beltline Health, we work with thousands of people who struggle with their weight by providing surgical and non-surgical weight loss solutions to help them take control of their life. Our team of nutrition experts offers personalized and comprehensive weight loss plans based on body composition, medical history, and weight loss goals to help individuals lose weight, build healthy habits, maintain an active lifestyle, and experience a better quality of life.
If you’re ready to take the next step to a healthier and happier you, contact us today for a consultation with one of our nutrition experts. Head on to our website to message us or call us at (470) 419-4380 for more information about the services we offer.