The Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss Plans

When fad diets claim quick results, dieters often fall victim in hopes to shed that unwanted weight. While losing weight too fast may seem enticing, doing so can be quite dangerous.

The Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss Plans

When it comes to dropping weight, we wanted to lose it yesterday. So when fad diets claim fast results, dieters tend to fall victim to such fallacies in hopes to shed that unwanted weight fast.

While such claims are enticing, rapid weight loss diets do not bare lasting results and can come with a myriad of health concerns.

The Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss Diets

Though "dropping a dress size in a week" and "losing 30 pounds in 30 days" is a favorable outcome, caving into such schemes can be dangerous both physically and mentally. Besides, such a fast weight loss pattern is considered to be virtually impossible.

What Is Considered Rapid Weight Loss?

Most health experts encourage losing no more than a pound or two each week, equating to about four to eight pounds monthly (not 30 pounds), for safe and sustainable weight loss.

To put this into perspective, and although calories are not the only focus for successful weight loss, a pound of fat equals approximately 3,500 calories. This means you would need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound per week. So to lose two pounds per week, you would then need to double calorie burn or restrict 7,000 calories.

Whereas rapid weight loss diets come in a number of forms, including detoxes, cleanses, and supplements and pills, they often have one thing in common: Major caloric restriction.

In the short-term, especially if new to a certain diet or exercise plan, you may lose weight rapidly in the first week or two when significantly restricting calories. During this initial phase, however, the pounds dropped is not necessarily fat loss, but rather water weight.

Think of it this way: When consuming fewer calories than the body burns, it relies on stored energy from glycogen. The glycogen in the body is bound to water, so when it is burning glycogen for fuel, the body also releases water which is then excreted and lost.

So after the early stages of calorie restriction, weight loss tends to slow down and maybe even plateau. The halt in progress often leads dieters frustrated, triggering them to throw in the towel and regain any weight they lost.

Do Any Rapid Weight Loss Diets Work?

Most rapid weight loss diets fall short to their claims. It is also worth mentioning the FDA does not regulate supplements on the same standards as medications, making weight loss pills a marketable scheme without surefire results. Lesser regulatory standards also make it difficult to know what exactly you are receiving from products.

But there are instances in which rapid weight loss is warranted and considered to be safe practice. Also known as very-low energy diets (VLCEs), very-low calorie diet (VLCDs) intrigue dieters based on the rapid weight loss they can bring. Followers of a VLCD often lose between three to five pounds weekly through the provision of nutritional formulas, which are designed to supply high-quality protein and adequate vitamins and minerals.

While losing weight so quickly is appealing, VCLDs come with a high price tag and are not recommended for everyone. Very-low calorie diets are primarily for severely or morbidly obese individuals needing to lose weight for medical purposes or desiring rapid weight loss in a safe manner. VCLDs are administered under the care of a medical team, in which they adamantly monitor weight, blood pressures, and other vitals.

Rapid Weight Loss Side Effects

Though it may be exciting to see the scale tip quickly, losing weight too fast can be harmful to health. More immediate side effects of caloric deprivation and rapid weight loss include:

• Extreme hunger

• Feeling cold

• Dizziness

• Fatigue

• Irritability

• Dehydration

• Changes in bowel patterns, including diarrhea and constipation

Especially if unsupervised by a medical professional, rapidly losing weight in a matter of weeks can further place the risk of:

• Losing muscle mass, especially in the absence of adequate protein

• Slowing down metabolism, even after the diet has ended

• Nutritional deficiencies, which may compromise immune function, lead to anemia, weaken bones, and other imperative body functions and structures


• Loose skin and stretch makes

• Menstrual irregularities in females

• Disordered eating patterns and a negative body image

• Yo-yo dieting, further placing the risk of heart disease and premature death

The Safe, Successful Way to Lose Weight

If you are considered to be a normally healthy individual, a short bout of calorie restriction is likely to not cause harm. Still yet, you should always consult with your doctor to lessen the risk of potentially harmful and dangerous rapid weight loss side effects.

And while it may not be the answer you are hoping for, the safest way to lose weight is in a slow gradual fashion. But on the bright side, the time it takes to lose weight safely is worth the payoff, as most of dieters who lose weight on restrictive diets often regain the weight they lost and potentially even gain more than what they started with.

Overall, tried and true methods of weight loss include:

• Incorporating more whole foods in the diet, including whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy fat sources.

• Reducing intake of products with empty calories and lack nutritional value, such as refined breads and pastas, pastries, convenience snacks, and sugary beverages.

• Dismissing a sedentary lifestyle and increasing physical activity, which may involve 150 minutes of cardio exercises weekly complemented with at least two to three days of weight training.

• Managing stress with positive coping techniques, including exercising, practicing yoga, meditating, calling a friend, and reading a book.

• Sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours each night, as inadequate sleep can heighten cravings towards comfort foods and plummet energy to be active throughout the day.

Moreover, the best way to lose weight is adopting a lifestyle that works for you and that can be sustained long-term. Working with a doctor, dietitian, or integrative healthcare team can help you determine and create a safe, appropriate plan based on personal goals, preferences, and needs.

Over 150 Doctor-Designed, Chef-Prepared Meals

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

Find the Right
Program for

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
Lifetime Network
The Biggest Loser
The Doctors