Rapid Weight Loss – Is It Good For You?

Medically reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, RD (Registered Dietitian) Merlin Annie Raj Merlin Annie RajRD (Registered Dietitian) facebook_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
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“Lose 6 pounds in 1 week.” Rapid weight loss is such an overhyped trend now! Everyone wants to lose weight quickly and look and feel good instantly. But most of us forget that building a positive connection between the body and mind is more important, which is only possible through long-term weight loss. Yes, rapid weight loss will give you your five minutes of fame, but it might backfire too. Read on to understand the potential dangers of quick weight loss, who should avoid rapid weight loss, and much more. Swipe up!

What Is Rapid Weight Loss?

Weight loss over 1-2 pounds per week can be termed as rapid or quick weight loss. The healthy range of weight that you must aim to lose per week is 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg). Losing less than this range is too slow, and that means that either your diet and workout plan is not working for you or you are not adhering to the plan.

Your weight loss depends on a few factors like age, weight, height, medications, medical history, genes, etc. You will lose a lot of water weight in the first week of your weight loss journey, and it might seem like you are losing a lot of weight. Also, when you are overweight, a little discipline in your lifestyle will bring a lot of change in terms of flab loss. The more you advance, the more difficult it will become for you to lose weight. Hence, you need to change your diet and workout plans as you progress through various stages of weight loss.

Now, coming back to quick weight loss, there are four major types:

  1. Starvation – The main principle of this method of rapid weight loss is the less you eat, the more you lose weight. When you consume fewer calories, you may lose weight for a while, but your metabolism will slow down. And in the long term, you will gain weight instead of losing it.
  2. VLCD – Very Low Calorie Diets, like the 500-calorie diet, are misused by dieters. This type of diet is not recommended for people who can lose weight by tweaking their lifestyle. You should do this only if your BMI is over 30, and/or you need to undergo surgery, and your doctor recommends VLCD for a limited time.
  3. Weight Loss Pills – There are many miracle weight loss pills, supplements, and powders in the market that claim to cause rapid weight loss. But when you take a closer look, you will see that they do not work alone. You also have to follow a healthy diet and workout regularly to see results. Moreover, a few of them are banned in various countries.
  4. Weight Loss Creams And Devices – Like weight loss pills and supplements, weight loss creams and devices have also become popular. But it is best to use these only if your doctor recommends.

Speaking of doctors, did you know that most doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists recommend slow weight loss? Why are these expert professionals against fads and rapid weight loss? Find out next.

Why Do Doctors Recommend Slow Weight Loss?

Rapid Weight Loss - Why Do Doctors Recommend Slow Weight Loss
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Doctors and experts are aware of the long-term effects of rapid weight loss, one of which is lean muscle loss. This ultimately slows down your metabolism, leading to eating disorders and numerous health issues. Let me tell you what happens in much simpler words.

When you lose weight at the right rate (1-2 pounds per week), you will burn around 3500 calories (1 pound fat = 3500 calories) per week or 500 calories per day. When you lose weight quickly by consuming fewer calories, instead of losing fat, you will start to lose muscle mass. This leads to a reduction in the number of mitochondria, thereby slowing down your metabolism. By this, you may be losing fat, start storing more fat, become lethargic, and all your organs will slow down. So, try this fast metabolism diet for fast weight loss.

Now, let us understand the real dangers of rapid or quick weight loss.

Dangers Of Rapid Weight Loss

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  • Muscle Loss – When you lose weight quickly, instead of losing fat, you lose muscle. This, in turn, slows down metabolism, and you start storing fat instead of losing it. Scientists have found that slow weight loss prevents a drastic change in the body composition of postmenopausal women (1).
  • Loose Skin Anyone who has lost a lot of weight in a short period can see folds near the smile line, batwing arms, sagging breasts and lower abdomen, loose skin near the jawline, flabby inner thighs, etc. And they don’t look good. You might look slim, but you will also look tired, worn out, and malnourished. When you lose weight slowly, you will be beaming with energy, positivity, and inner peace.
  • Heart Problems Your heart is a large chunk of muscle that’s working continuously, pumping oxygenated blood to all the cells and carrying away the deoxygenated blood. When you lose weight rapidly, you will lose muscle mass. And this affects your heart as it has to change the way it works in a short period. This can lead to arrhythmias and other heart problems (2).
  • Makes You Look Aged – Yes, I know you thought it was the opposite, but here’s the brutal truth – with the lines exaggerated on your face and neck, loose skin, and sloppy posture, you will look older than you are. Unless you are into this look, it might be a bad idea to follow a quick weight loss fad without thinking it through or without legit professional help.
  • Compromised Immunity Your immune system protects you from pathogens and diseases. And without proper nutrition, it weakens. This is especially true when people suddenly change their diet, starve, and start taking weight loss pills/powders without consulting a physician. You will feel low, tired, and weak all the time. You will fall sick often and be prone to cough and cold. You might suffer from anemia, osteoporosis, brittle nail and hair, skin problems, brain damage, and infertility.
  • Leads To Eating Disorders Your body image is what you perceive your body shape or size to be. You might be in the perfectly normal weight range and still feel like you need to lose weight, which leads to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating. Forcefully vomiting food out, consuming very small quantities of food, and eating too much too often are all signs of eating disorders. If you want to lose weight rapidly, it is best to consult a doctor to find out the best way to do so (3).
  • Affects Your Mood When you restrict yourself from eating the right amount of food, it affects your brain. You will not only become slow physically, but the lack of nutrition will also make you prone to depression, anxiety, increased anger, and an overall negative mood (4).

Let’s now look at some other common side effects of rapid weight loss. 

Other Side Effects Of Rapid Weight Loss

Apart from the above-listed dangers, here are a few more side effects of rapid weight loss:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Stress
  • Low blood pressure

Now, let’s understand who should actually follow rapid weight loss programs.

Who Can Follow Rapid Weight Loss Diets?

Though there are many dangers associated with rapid weight loss, people with a BMI over 30 and whose life is in danger due to too much fat in their body are allowed to follow rapid weight loss diets. However, keep in mind that you have to be guided by your doctor. Otherwise, following a sudden low-cal diet and too much exercise can weaken your heart and might also cause death. Always keep your doctor, fitness trainer, and nutritionist in the loop so that they can guide you.

If you do lose weight quickly by following a diet prescribed by a registered dietitian, can you maintain the weight loss? Find out next.

Can You Maintain Quick Weight Loss?

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Very unlikely. Quick weight loss doesn’t become your lifestyle/habit; slow weight loss does. When you lose weight quickly, consuming fewer calories and working out regularly is a short-term change in your life. You are focused for a short span of time, and when you have achieved your target weight, you will feel that you “deserve” to eat all the sugary treats and fried foods. And before you even blink your eyes, you will regain at least 50% of the weight. However, if you go on a quick weight loss that’s been monitored by trained professionals, you will be less likely to regain the weight as quickly.

Now that you know if quick weight loss is for you or not, let me give you a few tips to lose weight at a healthy rate.

How To Lose Weight Safely At A Healthy Rate

Rapid Weight Loss - How To Lose Weight Safely At A Healthy Rate
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  • Keep your weight loss goals realistic. Aim to lose about 1-2 pounds every week.
  • Write your weight loss goals down and plan your day in such a way that you eat at the proper time and also hit the gym or do your favorite workout every other day or every day.
  • Eat good – consume veggies, fruits, lean protein (skinless chicken breast, mushroom, eggs, fish (with or without skin), lentils, tofu, beans, etc.), full-fat dairy, whole grains, herbs, healthy fats, nuts, and seeds.
  • Avoid junk and sugary foods.
  • Avoid energy drinks, carbonated drinks, diet soda, and packaged fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism active.
  • Snack healthy.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Reduce your calorie intake by 300-500 calories every two weeks. And enjoy a cheat day once every week.
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Meditate every day whenever and wherever you get time and space.
  • Read positive and fitness motivation quotes.
  • Build your social support so that you don’t have to compromise on your weight loss goals every time you go out.
  • Workout regularly. And it doesn’t have to be only at the gym. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk around every one hour, take your bike to work or school, walk your dog in the evening and morning, walk to nearby places or go on hiking or biking adventures on the weekends.
  • Do what you love. Yes, you may hate your job, but what about that hobby that you are so passionate about? Taking out 15 minutes for it is better than being hooked to Netflix for 2 hours.
  • Talk to your close friends and family regularly.
  • If you cannot talk about your real problems with your close ones, seek the help of a professional therapist. Venting out toxic stress will aid weight loss.

You do not require any weight loss pills or magic wand to transform yourself. Take your health seriously and do what’s right for you. Go for quick weight loss only if it is suggested by your physician. Otherwise, stick to a better lifestyle, and you will slowly realize that the magic lies in the way you understand your body and yourself. You will be more productive, positive, and happy. That’s my guarantee. Take care!

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Merlin Annie Raj
Merlin Annie RajRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist
Merlin Annie Raj is a Registered Dietitian based out of Hyderabad, India. She has 14 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition as well as teaching Nutrition and Dietetics to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She was awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the 47th Annual National Conference of the Indian Dietetic Association, 2014.

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