With summer rolling around and the hopeful signs of our communities reopening, many of us are scrambling to get tank-top or bathing suit ready, with the looming question in our mind: “is quick weight loss healthy?” While a diet that promises 10-pound weight loss in 10 days is certainly appealing, the long-term impact of such a plan may be less than desirable. Plans that make these bold claims are often very low calorie, unbalanced, or both. As your local dietitian, let’s take a look together at how these types of diets that boast quick weight loss affect your body:
Your body is constantly in “starvation” mode.
When we don’t feed our bodies the amount of calories they need each day to function, our bodies assume that we are unable to get the amount of food necessary for survival. After a few days of this calorie deficit, alarm bells start to ring our bodies, telling all the cells “save your calories while you can!!!” and “no more food is coming our way!” Our cells then become conservative calorie-users, meaning you burn fewer calories than you typically would burn. The end result: your metabolism (the thing burning the calories) drops and your weight loss stalls.
Your cravings are crazy.
If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping while hungry and come home with a bag full of carbs, sugar, and unplanned snacks you’ll understand this issue. When we follow a very low calorie diet, our cravings between meal times often result in our over-indulgence of carb-rich foods. This is because carbs break down into glucose, our body’s favorite form of energy. Without enough “fuel” for the day, our bodies look for a quick pick-me-up in the form of carbs.
You’re missing key nutrients.
If a diet promising quick weight loss is unbalanced (read: cuts out an entire food group), you are at risk of becoming deficient in key nutrients like iron, folate, calcium, and more. For example, a diet that cuts out carbs also cuts out valuable fiber. Fiber keeps us full, keeps bowel movements regular, and even lowers cholesterol. Similarly, protein and fat provide valuable nutrients that carbohydrates alone can’t give our bodies. The healthiest diets contain a balance of all these three macronutrients.
Now that we’ve established that quick weight loss diets are not the healthiest approach, we’re left with the question “what can we safely do to start losing weight?”
The good news is that there are healthy ways to start seeing weight loss progress! Things like drinking half your body weight in ounces each day, watching your portion sizes, and upping your movement all help jump start the weight loss process. These small changes alone can yield big results. To make sure you’re losing weight at a safe pace, aim for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ recommendation of 0.5-2 pounds per week.
Above all else, remember this golden rule of weight loss: if you find a diet online that seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Always prioritize your long-term health over your short-term goals.