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Before jumping on the latest fad diet bandwagon, try losing weight in a more sustainable way.

The new year brings with it the promise of new beginnings, which is why many people make resolutions. One of the most common commitments made at this time of year is to lose weight, although many people are at a loss for the best way to get it done. While you may be wooed by fad diets that promise quick weight loss, you may want to give those diets a second thought.

Losing weight too quickly or depriving yourself of certain foods can lead to a number of health issues. It also makes it less likely you’ll keep the weight off. That’s because if you can’t sustain the changes you make (and with most fad diets, that’s hard to do), your body will put the weight back on as soon as you stop following the diet. In fact, many people find they gain back more than they originally lose.

What are the dangers of losing weight too quickly?

When you don’t eat enough calories or restrict whole food groups, you’re likely not getting enough nutrients. This can lead to health problems such as anemia, fatigue and hair loss. Nutrient deficiencies may also affect your digestive, cardiovascular and bone health.

Losing weight too quickly may also result in:

  • Muscle loss: You’re more likely to lose muscle mass. This can slow your metabolism, which causes your body to try to hold onto fat, stalling weight loss. You may also feel weaker and more tired and may notice that your body doesn’t look as toned.
  • Electrolyte imbalances: Electrolytes are minerals that are essential for the body’s normal functioning. If you don’t get enough of these important minerals, it can lead to health issues, such as heart problems, muscle cramps and even seizures.
  • Dehydration: When you’re losing weight quickly, you’re more likely to become dehydrated. This can lead to headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
  • Mental health issues: You may experience stress, anxiety and guilt over food choices. Restrictive diets may also increase your chances of binge eating.
  • Weight regain: If you can’t live with the changes you make to your diet indefinitely, your body will quickly try to get back to its old weight (and then some).
How can you lose weight more safely and effectively?

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes you can stick with for the long term. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Make small changes. Once one change to your diet and exercise routine becomes a habit, make another.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Focus primarily on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
  • Exercise regularly. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Both cardiovascular and strength training aid in weight loss.
  • Control stress. While this may not seem diet-related, stress not only plays a role in how much you eat and what kinds of food you reach for but can also slow weight loss.
  • Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can also cause you to eat more or make poor food choices.

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to be patient. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week by making sustainable changes you can live with. Give yourself time to turn each healthy change into a fully ingrained habit and you’re more likely to stick with your new habits for a long time to come.


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Date Last Reviewed: November 16, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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