Fighting the battle of the bulge can range from following a sensible diet to making ill-guided efforts that can have serious health consequences.
“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,” says Michelle May, MD, who teaches mindful eating.
Here are seven dangerous strategies you should avoid when trying to lose weight.
Starvation, Fasting, or Very Low-Calorie Diets
Severely slashing calories may lead to weight loss, but the lost weight includes precious muscle and lowers metabolism. Drastic calorie restriction also causes a shift toward a higher percentage of body fat, which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Unless medically supervised, don’t cut calories below 1,200 per day. Otherwise, you will struggle to get enough nutrients to fuel your activities and satisfy your hunger. Keep in mind that when you lose weight quickly, you may be at risk to pack it back on -- with more fat and less muscle -- especially if you're over 50.
Supplements That Make Grand Promises
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unlike makers of prescription drugs, companies that make supplements don't have to prove that their products are safe or effective before putting them on the market. Even products that claim to be natural aren’t necessarily safe or good for you.
If you're thinking about taking any weight loss product, ask your doctor first. It's best to focus on what's proven to work for weight loss, including your diet.
Cleanses or Detox Plans
At best, cleanses cause weight loss from water and stool weight. But they can be dangerous. They carry risks of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and more.
“Losing lots of fluid without medical supervision is risky, and when it's combined with fasting, even riskier," May says. "Your body is uniquely fine-tuned to detoxify and excrete toxins. So cleanses are unnecessary and can lead to serious complications by messing with your body’s system.”
Instead of detoxifying, be more mindful of what you eat. If you want to cleanse or detoxify your body, drink plenty of water and eat lots of high-fiber foods.