Healthy vs Unhealthy Weight Loss

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Healthy vs Unhealthy Weight Loss

Many of us want to achieve weight loss, but it’s important not to stray down an unhealthy path. This can jeopardise your chances of long-term success and have negative consequences on your overall health. But, what do healthy and unhealthy weight loss actually look like? Let’s dig deeper.

Healthy weight loss rate

While it’s tempting to want to shed the pounds as quickly as possible, this isn’t advisable. For most adults, a safe, healthy rate of weight loss is considered 1-2 pounds a week (0.5-1kg).1

To lose weight requires you to be in a caloric deficit, which will be achieved mainly through healthy eating, supported by exercise. For most men, this means sticking to a calorie limit of no more than 1,900kcal a day, and 1,400kcal for most women.2

Healthy meal option with fruit

Danger of losing weight too quickly

Losing weight in an unhealthy way, i.e. too quickly, can have a number of adverse health consequences, including:

#1 – Nutritional deficiencies

If you’re not eating enough calories on a regular basis, it’s hard to get all the nutrients and minerals needed to keep our bodies functioning. This can lead to:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Poor immunity
  3. Muscle weakness
  4. Megaloblastic anemia
  5. Osteoporosis3
  6. Weak or brittle bones
  7. Hair loss4

#2 – Muscle loss

Common misconception: weight loss always means fat loss. Wrong. In fact, you’ll also lose muscle too. If the number on the scale goes down fast, a lot of that weight loss will come from muscle and water loss.

Too much muscle can cause your metabolism to slow down, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories per day. This can not only make it more difficult to lose weight, but easier to gain it later down the line.5

#3 – Gallstones

Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. They can be a painful side effect of rapid weight loss, where chemical imbalances cause tiny crystals to develop in the bile that eventually turn to stones.6

Symptoms include diarrhea, itchy skin and a high temperature. There are many causes, but weight loss can be one of them.

Woman smiling

#4 – Other side effects

Alongside these, unhealthy weight loss can cause a number of other issues, including:

  1. Binge eating
  2. Fatigue
  3. Dizziness
  4. Constipation
  5. Dehydration
  6. Feeling tired
  7. Feeling unwell
  8. Irritability (the term ‘hangry’ didn’t come from nowhere!)

What are unhealthy weight loss habits?

From liquid-only detoxes to overly-restrictive diets, there are many tactics out there that promise rapid weight loss. It’s recommended you stay clear of all of them.

It can take years to put on weight, therefore you can’t expect to lose it overnight. Some unhealthy weight loss habits to avoid include:

Skipping meals

While you need to be in a moderate calorie deficit to lose weight, completely skipping meals isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons.

One of the main reasons is that it increases ghrelin levels, also known as ‘the hunger hormone’, which increases appetite.7 So, if you go too long between meals, you can end up eating more than you would normally.

Regular, filling meals are one of the best ways to suppress hunger and reduce appetite, helping you eat less.

Cutting out entire food groups

Every food group, even carbohydrates, fat and sugar, contain essential nutrients our bodies need. Completely cutting them out isn’t a good idea, as it can also lead us to crave them more.8 Everything in moderation is the key to long-term weight loss!

Going ‘fat-free’

Think you need to cut out fat to lose fat? Think again. Going ‘fat-free’ may not only mean your food is bland and tasteless, but fat is an important part of a healthy diet:9

  • Satiating, helping you stay fuller for longer
  • Helps you burn fat
  • Good for heart health

Of course, opt for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats over saturated ones, and ensure you exercise portion control. Counting calories can be useful here, as fat is high in energy.

Vegetables breakfast

Crash dieting

Crash diets come in many forms, but it’s essentially any weight loss diet that aims to cause fast weight loss on a short-term basis.10 It’s particularly tempting if you have an upcoming event or holiday you want to lose weight in time for.

Some of these diets see people eating as little as 500 calories a day, less than the recommended amount for a 7-year old.11 They inevitably lead to extreme hunger and can see people overeating after a period of time, only to pile the pounds back on.

Doing juice-only cleanses

Juice cleanses are a popular weight loss method, but another missguided one. Juice has no protein, and very few calories, meaning you often put weight back on when you go back to eating solids. Protein is essential when it comes to losing weight, for a number of reasons:

  • Boosts metabolism
  • Reduces appetite
  • Has a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%). This is the number of calories used to digest and metabolise food
  • Cuts cravings12
A hand reaching for two weight management shakes

What should you do to lose weight?

People who lose weight gradually and healthily have the best chance of keeping it off for the long term.13 So, what does healthy weight loss look like and how can you achieve it?

Some tips for success:

  • Make realistic changes to your diet and exercise regime. Workout more regularly (aim for 150 minutes a week) and eat clean, home cooked meals
  • Cook in advance to give you more control and make eating healthy easy, this is commonly know as Meal prep
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Cut down on sugary drinks
  • Eat more protein
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Cut down on portion sizes

Slow and steady wins the race

Losing weight is only half the battle – keeping it off is part of it too. So, while it can be tempting to shed the pounds as quickly as possible, it’s unlikely to be sustainable, and can cause adverse health effects.

You need to ensure you’re in the right headspace to lose weight. The more hungry and irritable you are, the less likely you are to succeed. It’s not something that should make you unhappy and unhealthy, rather, the opposite. Take the necessary steps you need to live a healthier life, in the right way.

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