Why Extreme Ways to Lose Weight Can Do More Harm than Good

Extreme diets might lead to enticing weight loss but they don’t come without danger. Find out what safely works—and what doesn’t—ahead!

Why Extreme Ways to Lose Weight Can Do More Harm than Good

While extreme weight loss methods and fad diets may seem appealing at first, unhealthy ways to lose weight fast can have serious consequences. Even short-term, extreme ways to lose weight can have long-term costs. 

Read on to find out what is considered extreme weight loss and what to try instead of extreme diets for weight loss. 

What Is Considered Extreme Weight Loss?

Unexplained or unintentional weight loss might sound nice, but it can actually lead to dangerous health conditions. Fat loss can occur without extreme measures, but rapid methods often seem attractive and flashy. 

Unexplained weight loss is generally defined as a loss of 5% body weight (or more) over a time period of 6 to 12 months. To put this in perspective, if you weigh 200 pounds then a loss of 10 pounds or more would be considered unexplained.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you should lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds a week over the course of six months if you are trying to lose weight intentionally. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people who lose and sustain weight at this rate are more likely to maintain their progress.

Losing amounts larger than 1 to 2 pounds per week could be considered extreme, and may even lead to dangerous consequences.

The Risks Of Extreme Weight Loss

At this point, you may be thinking “I wish I could lose 10 pounds in the next 6 months”. However, there are some other things you may lose along with dropping body weight that quickly. Rapid weight loss can cause: 

• A reduced metabolism
• Calorie deficit 
• Constipation
• Dehydration
• Dizziness
• Drops in blood pressure
• Electrolyte imbalance
• Fatigue
• Gallstones
• Hair loss
• Headaches
• Loss of nutrients 
• Mood swings
• Muscle loss
• Regaining the weight quickly
• Unbalanced hunger hormones

When you don’t get enough calories, you may lose weight. However, that weight loss comes in the form of losing valuable muscle mass and nutrients (instead of fat). This can make you unhealthier in the long run, even though the number on the scale is going down.

3 Unhealthy Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Unhealthy ways to lose weight seem to exist around every corner. While this list is by no means extensive, it lists some of the top ways you may be exposed to extreme or fad diets for weight loss. 

Here are three extreme diets or practices to stop if you want to encourage long-term health. 

1. Supplements Marketed for Weight Loss

When it comes to “natural” supplements, it is best to beware. The use of natural supplements marketed for weight loss can be harmful, and that there is insufficient evidence to support common claims. 

Experts are quick to remind users that you’re unlikely to see the outcomes you desire with weight loss supplements, and may even see some unwanted consequences. Side effects of fat burning supplements range from slight digestive discomfort to liver or kidney failure. 

2. Time-Restricted or Fasting Diets

Another class of diet plans lacking evidence is a type of calorie restrictive diet called time-restricted dieting. These include popular plans such as: 

• Ketosis-inducing diet 
• Extreme fasting
• Fasting mimicking diet 

The “science” behind these diets may seem to make sense, but the health benefits are inconsistent. Plus, they are often promoted for health conditions they aren’t medically approved to treat. 

3. Rapid Weight Loss Diets

Rapid reduction in weight is not only extreme but can be unsafe. If you’re a “yo-yo dieter,” meaning you go on and off new diets all the time, you may be susceptible to extreme diets that promise rapid weight loss. 

Ultimately, a lifestyle of well-balanced, nutritious meals combined with adequate exercise is still the best method for sustaining weight loss over a longer period of time. 

What to Try Instead of Extreme Weight Loss Methods

As mentioned above, short-term methods rarely bring long-term results. Instead of quick, so-called solutions, here are some science-backed practices to try (starting as soon as today). 

Meet with a Dietitian

This may sound like cliche advice, but it actually works. One study reported that people who met with a dietitian lost an average of 2.6 pounds between sessions while those not meeting with a dietitian actually gained 0.5 pounds. 

A dietitian can help you plan nutritionally adequate meals for weight loss that won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. 

Don’t Label the Weight

Water weight, baby weight, and the list goes on. Instead of labeling the weight, start thinking of what you could do to start living healthier (regardless of where the weight came from). 

Choose positive eating habits over crash diets for lasting success keeping those unwanted pounds off. 

Focus on Whole Foods Instead of Restriction

Healthy eating should be focused on the abundance of options, not a restriction of food choices. A healthy diet, even one focused on fat loss, can include the following: 

• Fruits and vegetables
• Lean protein
• Whole grains 
• …and even dessert (on occasion) 

Remember to Support Yourself 

Beyond weight loss, be sure to support your health in helpful ways. This can include: 

• Quality sleep 
• Exercising regularly (but without obsession)
• Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake 

The Last Word On Extreme Weight Loss

The bottom line is that a “quick fix,” “magic pill,” or overnight transformation won’t work in the long term. Instead of extreme weight loss, slow and steady progress should be your goal.

Pursue more sustainable methods, like regularly eating well and exercising in ways you enjoy each day. 

References:

Amidor T. How to Tell If You’re Losing Weight Too Fast. Food Network. Published July 2021. https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/losing-weight-too-fast

Curley C. Want to Lose Weight? Researchers Say a Registered Dietitian May Be Your Best Bet. Healthline. Published February 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/registered-dietitian-may-be-best-for-weight-loss

Grieger L. Why You Shouldn’t Rush Weight Loss. Everyday Health. Published February 2022. https://www.everydayhealth.com/weight/why-you-shouldnt-rush-weight-loss/

Is It Bad to Lose Weight Too Quickly? Cleveland Clinic. Published October 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/risks-of-losing-weight-too-fast/

Joshi S, Mohan V. Pros & cons of some popular extreme weight-loss diets. Indian J Med Res. 2018;148(5):642-647. 

Napoleão A, Fernandes L, Miranda C, Marum AP. Effects of Calorie Restriction of Health Span and Insulin Resistance: Classic Calorie Restriction Diet vs. Ketosis-Inducing Diet. Nutrients. 2021;13(4):1302. 

Shiffer E. 5 Worst Eating Habits for Rapid Weight Loss, Says Dietitian. Eat This, Not That. Published July 2022. https://www.eatthis.com/worst-eating-habits-rapid-weight-loss/

Unexplained Weight Loss. Cleveland Clinic. Published August 2018. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17770-unexplained-weight-loss

Wharton S, Bonder R, Jeffery A, Christensen RAG. The safety and effectiveness of commonly-marketed natural supplements for weight loss in populations with obesity: A critical review of the literature from 2066 to 2016. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(10):1614-1630.

Over 150 Doctor-Designed, Chef-Prepared Meals

  • Real Results
  • No Contracts
Your first week as low as
$8.24
per meal

Find the Right
Program for
you

At bistroMD, food + science is the foundation of what we do.

Ready to experience the power of food as medicine yourself? Let's find out which program is right for you.

Take this quiz and we'll match you to a science-backed program that will work best for you.

Take the Quiz

as seen on...

Dr. Phil
NBC
Lifetime Network
The Biggest Loser
The Doctors