6 Things Never to Do to Lose Weight
Fighting the battle of the bulge can range from following a sensible diet to making ill-guided efforts that may include extreme or even downright risky behaviors. Some tactics are unlikely to cause harm because they cannot be sustained long enough to do damage. But others can have serious health consequences.
Michelle May, MD, an Arizona-based weight management doctor, says, “People get so focused on weight loss they are willing to do unproven and potentially dangerous things that can backfire and cause serious health problems.”
And eating disorder specialist Connie Diekman, RD, says extreme dieting can significantly increase the risk of developing eating disorders. .
Here, are six very dangerous strategies you should NOT use to lose weight.
Starvation, Fasting, or Very Low-Calorie Diets
Severely slashing calories leads to weight loss, but the lost weight includes precious muscle mass and poses health risks -- and most people end up regaining the weight plus extra pounds.
“Rapid weight loss by critical calorie restriction," May, the author of Eat What You Love and Love What You Eat, says, "causes water, some fat, and muscle loss, which ultimately decreases metabolism so the body needs fewer calories to survive.” It also causes a shift toward a higher percentage of body fat, which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Don’t cut calories below 1,200 per day. Otherwise, you will struggle to meet nutrient needs, fuel your activity, and satisfy your hunger. Keep in mind that when you lose weight quickly, you tend to pack it back on with more fat and less muscle, which lowers your metabolism and calorie needs even more.
Dubious Supplements and Over-the-Counter Diet Pills That Make Grand Promises
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Diet pills, potions, and concoctions purchased over the counter or ordered on line are unlikely to be effective and are not necessarily safe or capable of delivering on the oft exaggerated promises.
Over-the-counter diet pills may not appear to be dangerous, but they can still cause harm. Diekman, who is director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, says, “Most diet pills are nothing more than a quick fix loaded with caffeine and diuretics that can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance."
The FDA does not give supplements the same scrutiny as prescription drugs. Some over-the-counter or Internet products “can be harmful, ineffective, and a waste of money,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, RD.
And remember, the fact a product claims it's natural doesn’t mean it's safe or good for you. Some doctors even dispense risky therapies that are not approved for weight loss from their office. The FDA urges people to report dangerous supplements through its MedWatch program.
The hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) diet is a good example of a plan that is not FDA approved for weight loss. Yet legions of dieters are using it. Weight loss from the hCG Diet, May says, likely has more to do with the 500-calorie restriction and not the hCG obtained from urine of pregnant women. It has the same risks as a very low-calorie diet along with unknown risks associated with long-term use of hCG.
Forget supplements and diet pills. Instead, Gazzaniga-Moloo says, rely on healthy foods to help you lose weight.