When you’re trying to lose weight, it definitely feels like the extra pounds can’t come off soon enough. Unfortunately, losing weight too fast can be unhealthy. The risks of rapid weight loss range from mild to extreme. Obese people who are just beginning a weight loss program may see the weight fall off quickly, but after the first two or three weeks, you should generally aim to lose no more than about 1-2 pounds per week.
Some popular diets, such as different types of cleanses or detox diets, are just variations of a starvation diet. They require you to eat an extremely limited number of calories per day. Eating too few calories can put your body into “starvation mode,” slowing your metabolism and causing your body to conserve energy by discouraging the burning of calories and promoting the storage of fat. This can diminish your muscle mass and eventually result in weight gains instead of loss. Minimum calorie requirements for weight loss vary by individual, but experts say that dieters should never go below 1,200 calories per day.
Losing weight too quickly can cause headaches, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, constipation, menstrual irregularities, muscle loss, hair loss, irritability, and lethargy. You might also feel depressed, moody, or anxious. In addition to simply feeling terrible, if you’re using extreme methods to achieve rapid weight loss, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining your diet. You may get frustrated and give up or burn out too quickly. The side effects of losing weight too fast can lead to feeling deprived and result in binging. Even if you lose weight successfully, when you reach your goal weight and return to your old patterns of eating, the weight you lost in this fashion will quickly return.
Losing weight too fast can also cause gallstones. While gallstones are usually considered an affliction most likely to be suffered by obese people, rapid weight loss can also cause them.
Bone loss is another potential result of losing weight too fast. A radical diet can also cause deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. A diet that is extremely low in protein can result in a loss or weakening of muscle and bone. An extremely low-carb diet can lead to kidney problems or gout. Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies increase your risk of osteoporosis, and thus put you at an increased risk of fractures.
Losing weight too fast puts serious demands on your body, and can come with serious risks, including dehydration, malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, kidney or thyroid problems, and lessening of sexual function. Drastic diets that lead to rapid weight loss can also signify the early stages of an eating disorder.
Rapid weight loss can put extra stress on your heart, which must adjust to accommodate more or less body weight. This increased stress on your heart and circulatory system can result in an irregular heart rate, called arrhythmia or changes in your blood pressure. Your body will also produce more stress hormones, which may cause diabetes. The more time you spend on a drastic diet, the more likely these risks become.
While it may feel that the faster you lose weight the better off you will be, it’s important to use common sense and a balanced approach. As with anything, slow and steady wins the race!