The race to lose weight is a marathon, not a sprint
With shorts and swimsuit season right around the corner, some consumers might be looking for a quick and easy remedy for shedding extra pounds.
And while many people would be thrilled with a rapid loss of weight, shedding pounds too quickly can both cause other health problems and signal you have other medical issues.
“If you are losing weight without trying or you lose as much as 10 pounds or 5 percent of your weight within a six to 12-month timeframe, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor,” says Sara Lopinski, a registered dietitian at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
Rapid weight loss — particularly if you’re not trying hard to lose weight — could be a sign of diabetes, thyroid disorders, Celiac disease, cancer, depression and other diseases and disorders.
Small fluctuations in weight — less than 5 percent of your body weight —are normal, according to the Mayo Clinic. But unintentional weight loss, especially in older adults, can be a sign of malnutrition, dementia or difficulty with doing daily living tasks like preparing food or planning meals. Losing more than 2 pounds a week is too fast.
In addition, any time you lose weight, Lopinski says, symptoms such as fatigue, excessive thirst, frequent urination and general malaise can point toward a problem.
Losing weight too quickly can cause negative side effects, according a pamphlet, Diet Myths, on the Weight-control Information Network website, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
A loss of more than 3 pounds per week can increase a person’s risk of developing malnutrition, broken-down muscle tissue, osteoporosis and gallstones. In addition, diets that require eating less than 800 calories per day can result in heart rhythm abnormalities.
Other signs you’re losing too much weight or losing weight too quickly:
- Low Body Mass Index (a BMI of 18 or lower for adults)
- Unexplained pain
- Loss of appetite
- In women, failure to menstruate (amenorrhea)
- Bone fractures due to osteoporosis
- Weak immune system
What you should do
Lopinski offers the same, solid advice you’ve heard before: If you’re trying to lose weight, slow, steady progress is what you want, and that your best bet is to make long-term changes in your life that will help you keep the weight off.
“Whatever you are doing to lose weight has to be what you’re willing to do for the rest of your life,” Lopinski says. “Making permanent lifestyle changes should be the primary objective when you’re trying to lose weight.”
Most health and fitness experts agree that lifestyle changes in fitness and nutrition are the best way to lose weight and keep it off, but the lure of fad diets and quick-fix programs often tempts consumers to purchase dietary supplements, meal plans and fitness gadgets.
In fact, more than $40 billion is spent each year on diet plans and products, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek website. Though it’s tempting to buy into a product or plan to lose weight quickly, it shouldn’t happen overnight, Lopinski warns.
“A healthy rate of weight loss would be 1 to 2 pounds per week — and that could be over a period of six months,” she said.
Lopinski offers advice to those trying to lose weight:
- Weigh yourself weekly instead of daily
- Gauge how you feel, and see how your clothes fit, rather than getting wrapped up in the numbers game.
Checklist for safe weight loss
- Healthy eating plans that reduce calories but do not forbid specific food groups.
- Tips to increase regular physical activity.
- Slow, steady weight loss (1/2 to 2 pounds per week)
- Advice from your healthcare provider
- A plan to maintain a healthy weight
- Products or programs that promise fast and easy results.
- Eating a dangerously low number of calories.
- Programs that promise “once-and-for-all” results without maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Sources: Weight-control Information Network (a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases), Federal Trade Commission