Academic Health Center
Stay Connected

The potential dangers of dramatic weight loss

Image courtesy of Lukasz Lawreszuk,

It’s a sad reality, but our society remains quick to judge others deemed “too skinny” or “too fat.”

Outside of perhaps high school hallways, nowhere is societal judgment more prevalent than on social media where the weight of celebrities is debated endlessly and jokes about the weight of others are posted with reckless abandon.

The incessant need of some to comment on the appearance of others via Facebook and Twitter truly took shape after the winner of the most recent season of the Biggest Loser was scrutinized online for her drastic weight loss. As she emerged for her presentation, speculation sparked across the internet about whether unhealthy habits had aided her in dropping a show-record 155 pounds.

We at Health Talk don’t get wrapped up in such debates. But what we can do is share some healthy weight loss facts that can help you in your own quest for a healthier life.

According to Simone French, Ph.D., director of the Obesity Prevention Center and a professor in the School of Public Health, generally, for people who are following a balanced, calorie-limited diet, losing about 1-2 pounds per week is considered typical.

“Most weight loss diets prescribe about 1200-1500 calories per day, creating about a 500 calorie per day deficit,” explained French. “This should produce about 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week, depending on the person’ starting weight.”

The risks associate with rapid weight loss really depends on the person’s starting weight and health, and whether they have issues with binge eating or other eating-related problems.

“At the very least, an otherwise healthy person who restricts their calorie intake dramatically and loses weight rapidly will probably experience fatigue, irritability, and other mild discomforts,” said French. “At the worst, other health problems could arise, which all depends on exactly what methods the person is using to lose the weight.”

Usually some degree of structure is helpful, such as:

  • Planning when and how much to eat
  • Monitoring trouble situations like snacking after work or late at night
  • Learning about portion sizes and nutrition
  • Enlisting a support system

People who are extremely obese can potentially lose a great deal of weight rapidly on medically supervised diet such as a liquid fast, because of the extreme caloric restriction. Although this can be done safely under a doctor’s supervision, French made it clear that fasting is not recommended without medical supervision.

Overall, since a person must adopt healthful eating and exercise patterns for a lifetime, French explained that only thinking in terms of temporary change, losing weight before a wedding for example, is not the most helpful approach.

“Those interested in healthy weight loss, should discuss their eating with a professional, who can help them create a flexible plan that meets their nutritional needs, and that includes foods that they will enjoy eating, so that they can maintain the changes over the long run,” said French.

Photo courtesy of Sprayedout.

  1. August 5, 2014 12:57 pm | weight loss diets Says:

    As you rightfully pointed out to have a correct and disciplined weight loss structure is absolutely a must if a slimmer is really serious about losing weight and keeping it off afterwards. Some just look for a magic pill and cannot be really bothered to follow a realistic and effective weight loss plan.

Join The Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *