It is well known that obesity is a silent killer. Being overweight makes a person prone to myriad diseases that can reduce the quality of life and a person’s lifespan. Many studies over the years have associated adverse effects on multiple systems of the body with being overweight. Therefore, achieving and sustaining a healthy body weight is the cornerstone of every fitness program.
There are several factors that contribute to excessive weight gain. Body weight is determined by the balance between the amount of calories we take in (eat or drink) and the amount of calories the body spends. When calorie consumption exceeds calorie utilization, our bodies store the excess calories in the form of fat. This results in weight gain. On the other hand, when calorie utilization by the body exceeds calorie consumption, the body breaks down stored fat to make up for the calorie deficit. This results in weight loss.
Knowing why the body stores or breaks down fat is important to devise strategies for losing weight. One such weight loss strategy depends on decreasing the daily calorie intake, so that the body starts breaking down stored fat to meet the calorie deficit. Another weight loss strategy involves increasing the daily calorie utilization by engaging in more physical activity, so that there are no excess calories to be stored. Ideally, weight loss programs should utilize both the strategies simultaneously. In other words, to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
Read more on obesity.
What is rapid weight loss?
Rapid weight loss is a reduction in body mass that occurs over a short period of time that infers a dangerous cause for the loss of body weight. This rapid weight loss may be intentional or unintentional. Most intentional causes involve extreme dietary patterns and sometimes extreme physical activity. Unintentional causes of rapid weight loss are usually associated and serious diseases, such as cancer.
Even though the basic formula for weight loss (eat less and exercise more) is well known, it typically takes a few months to notice significant weight loss. As is the case with most people, there is a strong desire to lose weight quickly. This strong human desire has led to a rapid increase in the number of weight loss fas that claim to help reduce weight quickly.
These fad programs often make incredulous claims that seem to defy all that are at times contrary to science. There is often initial weight loss and it may appear promising. However, in the long term it tends to be unsustainable and even dangerous. Most of these rapid weight loss programs are ultimately counter-productive to losing weight and keeping the weight off in the long term.
Rapid Weight Loss Methods
There are many “lose weight quick” programs in the market and most seem different. However, there are also come common effects and dangers among of these rapid weight loss methods.
Lose weight quickly through starvation diets
A variety of starvation diets have been touted for weight loss since the 1950s. In recent times, the so-called “cleansing” diets have become popular. Some of these “cleansing” foods, beverages and condiments provide bare basic nutrition. The very low calorie intake and dehydration that ensues does contribute to weight loss but it is usually not sustainable.
Dietary supplements and pills
A pill or powder may seem convenient as it is easy to consume without any significant dietary planning. Sometimes there is rapid weight loss but once again it is not sustainable. It is claimed that these pills work by increasing the rate at which fat is burned through metabolic activity or by decreasing the absorption of nutrients from the gut. However, there is sometimes no scientific evidence to back these claims and some pills are little more than diuretics, causing excessive water loss from the body.
Very low calorie diets
Most of our information about the effectiveness of weight loss diets come from medically supervised studies with very low calorie diets (abbreviated as VLCD). Putting people on such diets does cause rapid weight loss. However, such diets are not practical for the long term, and the effects of rapid weight loss may not be suitable for every person. It can also lead to side effects like drowsiness, lethargy and difficulty concentrating.
Is rapid weight loss possible?
Unlike in the case of drugs, the claims made in support of weight-loss supplements are not regulated by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration). The FDA considers over-the-counter supplements as food items rather than drugs. Consequently, weight loss pills and supplements do not need FDA approval before marketing. Therefore, manufacturers and suppliers of over-the-counter weight loss supplements, pills and lotions can make outlandish claims without any accountability.
In such a scenario, it is up to the consumer to evaluate the claims and make a decision about the product. To date there is no product or dietary plan that has shown to be effective for rapid weight loss and thereafter sustainability of a healthy body weight. While rapid weight loss is possible with dangerous side effects, the focus should always be on losing weight gradually and keeping the pounds off. After all, obesity does not arise overnight and an increase in body weight occurs over months and years.
Read more on weight loss myths.
Risks of Rapid Weight Loss
It is important to understand that rapid weight loss can have certain adverse consequences for the body. This includes:
- Gallstones: Around 12% to 25% of people who lose a large amount of fat in a short time tend to develop gallstones.
- Dehydration is a common problem in people who lose weight rapidly.
- Malnutrition: In their efforts to reduce calorie intake, people also tend to limit the intake of other essential nutrients. This frequently leads to malnutrition and loss of muscle mass.
- Electrolyte abnormalities: Along with dehydration, electrolyte imbalance is also a very common occurrence in people who lose weight rapidly. This side-effect can be life-threatening.
Other side-effects of rapid weight loss include fatigue, headache, dizziness, irritability, constipation, hair loss and menstrual irregularities. The longer a person is on an extreme weight-loss program, the greater are the chances of developing adverse side effects.