What happens to our bodies if we lose weight too quickly?
Losing weight is not easy, and usually, we want to lose it as quickly as possible.
You’ve probably heard that losing weight slowly and steadily is better because losing weight too quickly can harm our bodies, causing many health problems.
This article is about what happens to our bodies when we lose weight too fast.
What is considered to be rapid weight loss?
Weight loss is usually considered rapid if 2 lb or more are lost during the week.
This rate of weight loss can be achieved through extreme calorie restriction, such as crash diets (800 calories per day or less) or excessive exercise.
It should be added here that you can lose 4 to 6 pounds of weight in the first week by adjusting your eating habits because the body removes excess water. This is entirely normal and does not pose any health risks.
Read more about water retention HERE.
Myths about quick weight loss
Rapid weight loss is actively discussed in all women’s magazines, blogs and social networks. And since journalists and other commentators on this topic are usually not nutritionists, the information they provide is not always correct. This is how myths are born.
Here are some of the most common:
- Crash diets are effective for long-term weight loss.
In fact, diets that promise rapid weight loss are not sustainable and can cause a Yo-yo effect – when the lost weight is quickly restored. This is confirmed by many studies. When comparing different methods of weight loss, it was found that those who lose weight gradually are more likely to be able to maintain a new weight for a long time.
- Fat can be reduced locally – only in one or a few parts of the body.
In fact, targeted “torture” of specific parts of the body (for example, abdominal press exercises to reduce fat on the stomach or squats to reduce fat on the thighs) will not be effective. As a result of physical exertion, the total amount of fat will decrease, but in which part of the body it will decrease more and in which less is determined by your genetics, not by which muscle groups you work more. Losing weight locally is impossible.
- The best way to lose weight is to cut down on carbohydrates and/or fat.
In fact, while lower carbohydrate and/or fat intake may indeed lead to initial weight loss, studies show that low-carb or low-fat diets are not superior to other diets for long-term weight loss. On the contrary, the weight lost during the diet is in many cases regained.
In addition, both carbohydrates and fats are essential for our bodies.
- Dietary supplements are a safe and effective way to lose weight.
In fact, the effectiveness and safety of many nutritional and weight loss supplements are highly questionable and some of them may even be harmful.
Risks of rapid weight loss
If we lose weight too quickly (taking in much less energy than our body needs to survive), we put the body under enormous stress. This can cause several health risks, for example:
- Muscle loss. If we do not provide our body with enough energy, it begins to break down muscle tissue to survive. Losing muscle slows down our metabolism, making weight loss even more difficult.
- Lack of energy also causes fatigue and weakness and impairs concentration, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
- Nutritional deficiency. All plans for rapid weight loss significantly limit the consumption of “harmful” products. As a result, our diet becomes depleted, and deficiencies of various nutrients may occur, which, in turn, affects both our immune system (and, consequently, our overall health) and our well-being and appearance.
- Bone fragility. If you don’t get enough nutrients, especially vitamin D and fat your bone density may decrease.
- The gallbladder secretes digestive juices, whose task is to break down the fats in food. If you take much less food than usual – your gallbladder will not empty regularly, and gallstones may start to form from bile salts, which can cause severe pain and indigestion.
- When losing weight quickly, our body also loses a lot of water, which can lead to dehydration, which in turn can lead to fatigue, headaches and other health problems.
- Electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes play a crucial role in the functions of our body, including regulating the heartbeat, balancing the pH level and controlling muscle contractions. Losing weight too quickly can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to muscle weakness, cramps, and even heart palpitations.
- Hormonal imbalance. Losing weight too quickly can disrupt our hormonal balance, leading to several health problems, including hair loss, irregular periods and fertility problems.
- Hair loss and other beauty problems. Our body, first of all, provides energy and nutrients for life-supporting functions – brain activity, heartbeat, breathing, etc. By following a crash diet, you get too few nutrients. That is, the body does not receive enough nutrients to meet all its needs, and hair loss, hair and nail sections, as well as various skin problems, may begin …
- Sagging skin. If body weight is rapidly reduced, the skin “doesn’t keep up” and becomes “loose”. The view is not very aesthetic and can cause discomfort and self-esteem problems;
- Mental health problems – including anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
How long can you starve?
When you try to lose weight with a strict diet, you soon find that losing weight (by following a diet) becomes harder and harder. Hunger torments you more often, and the temptation to indulge is getting stronger and stronger.
Don’t blame the lack of willpower. These feelings are caused by your hormones, and they do exactly what they are designed to do – promote energy and nutrient intake.
That is, the body senses a threat and tries to improve the situation.
No matter how strong your willpower is, you will give up after a while.
Your appetite will be good, and you will eat a lot …
The lost weight will probably return after some time, and you will again look for a new miracle diet. Or will you give up thinking about losing weight by telling yourself that your genetics are to blame for the extra pounds, that you have wide bones and dozens of other reasons … 😊
What to do?
Make your goal not fast but healthy and steady weight loss.
Forget about the “all or nothing” strategy – weight loss is not a campaign of weeks or a few months. Long-term weight loss can only be achieved by changing your eating habits and lifestyle.
But it’s not easy. Therefore, make changes gradually – gradually start eating more vegetables, gradually give up ultra-processed food, and gradually diversify your physical activities …
Forget about weight and judge your slimming success by how you like your reflection in the mirror and how the circumferences of your body change.
There is no one diet that would suit everyone. But there are some general recommendations that can help you lose weight and maintain it in a healthy way.
Healthy weight loss isn’t just about what you eat. If you want maximum results, physical activities are necessary.
Cardiovascular training, such as simple brisk walking, is a good “calorie burner”, but strength training increases the proportion of muscle in your body.
And the greater the muscle mass, the more calories you “burn” even at rest, even while sleeping.
In addition, you also:
- Improve balance and reduce the risk of falls;
- Reduce joint pain and arthritis symptoms (so you can keep moving and lose weight);
- Strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Take care of your sleep quality
Have you noticed that when you are tired, you want to eat more? Your hunger hormones kick in, and it becomes harder to give up treats.
Even the best weight loss plan will be difficult to implement if you are regularly sleep deprived.
Find the balance
Think about your diet in the long run – what should you change to make it healthier? Could you eat like this for the rest of your life?
If yes, great! Try to stick to it. It may not work right away, but if you truly want to change your eating habits, you will gradually start eating more and more healthily.
To decrease your weight, reduce your daily calorie intake by 200-500 calories. You can calculate exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose weight HERE.
Or, if you don’t want to count calories and make a menu yourself, sign up for my weight loss challenges HERE.
Changing our habits is difficult, but it can be done.
If you drastically limit the number of calories you take in, hormonal changes cause appetite – it is your body’s protective reaction to prevent nutrient and energy deficits.
Choose a diet that allows you to eat a piece of chocolate or pizza from time to time. The less restrictive the diet, the easier it is to follow.
Conversely, the more restrictive the diet is, the less likely it is to be sustainable.
Losing weight shouldn’t be a punishment -you’re doing it for yourself.
Losing weight is not easy, so don’t do what you don’t like and don’t limit yourself unnecessarily. For example, if you like chocolate, you don’t need to exclude it from your menu, but maybe you can switch to sugar-free chocolate and eat just one or two pieces a day, and believe me – this way, it will become even tastier 😊.
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Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans
Impact of long-term lifestyle programs on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese participants
Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition
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Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity
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Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults
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Dangers of Dieting: Why Dieting Can Be Harmful
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