If you’re trying to lose weight fast, an extreme weight loss diet that promises rapid weight loss may be tempting. But the truth is extreme weight loss diets can cause some pretty shocking health effects, and wreak havoc on your metabolism.
I’ve been in the weight-management biz for 18 years now, and I have seen it all – the cabbage soup diet, the dry fasting diet, you name it. But these extreme weight-loss diets are not sustainable, and cause you to crave MORE of the exact food you’re trying to avoid!
Regardless, it’s easy to keep falling back into the trendy weight loss diet trap and forget how you gained the weight back the last time. Don’t worry – I got you!
In this article, I’ll reveal the most popular extreme weight-loss diets, their nasty effects, and what to do instead for lasting weight loss.
What are Extreme Weight Loss Diets?
An extreme weight loss diet is any weight loss method that involves severely restricting calories, foods, or food groups to lose weight. These diets may be tempting to follow when you want to lose weight fast and just want to be told what to eat.
You may also see your friends trying them or people on social media boasting their weight loss results from them. If it “works” for them why can’t it work for me? Remember that you never know what is truly going on in their world.
Most of these diets are not designed by trained nutrition experts like Registered Dietitians who understand the science behind weight loss. They are often created by unqualified health coaches, “nutritionists,” celebrities, or self-proclaimed experts who just tried the diet themself. Sorry, Beyonce, I love ya but I wouldn’t take diet advice from you in a million years.
None of these people have the expertise to design a diet for weight loss, and this is where the major problem lies.
Here are 5 popular extreme weight loss diets. A few may surprise you as “extreme,” and this is where the marketing can get sneaky.
5 Extreme Weight Loss Diets to Stay Away From
Optavia is a widely popular diet that doesn’t outwardly appear to be strict. Many Optavia advocates promote it as a balanced diet that is not restrictive. In fact, some of their promoters are Dietitians (well, at least those who make money off of promoting it – a true red flag).
The Optavia diet consists of mostly branded meal replacements that are highly processed. It is very low in calories – usually less than 1000 calories per day. This calorie level is not sustainable and eventually leads to weight regain. This may partially be because it increases the intensity of food cravings (1,2).
- Master Cleanse
Ahh, the infamous cleanse. Whenever you see the word “cleanse,” I want you to run away as if your life depended on it! Cleanses are one of the worst types of extreme weight-loss diets, and are completely unnecessary.
This particular “Master Cleanse” was dubbed by Beyonce and is an all-liquid diet. On this cleanse, you are allowed to enjoy a delicious concoction of water, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper for 10 days, and…that’s about it!
You don’t need the Master Cleanse to lose weight, or any other cleanse for that matter. This is because our bodies do a fantastic job cleansing toxins out regularly, thanks to our liver (3).
Juicing is essentially another cleanse that involves consuming only fruit and vegetable juices. Juicing fans say that it helps detoxify the body, aids in digestion, and helps you lose weight fast.
It also may seem like a convenient way to get in more fruits and veggies, but there is a big catch. Fruits and vegetables in juice form lack fiber that is necessary to keep you full (4). Therefore a juicing diet is not filling, which can lead to increased cravings that are difficult to ignore.
- Very Low-Calorie Diet (VLCD)
A very low-calorie diet is exactly as its name implies – a very low-calorie diet that you can’t sustain longer than a couple of months. It is a diet consisting of around 800 calories a day that is medically supervised.
The medical supervision part may make it feel more legitimate and safe, but it is still an extreme weight loss diet. Many times these diets also involve extreme exercise recommendations as well as weight loss medications to speed up the process even more. These medications (and the diet itself) may also come with side effects.
The calorie amount is also way too low (5). And then what happens once you transition back to a more “normal” calorie level? Boom – your weight comes back on with a vengeance, and you’re back to square one.
Do you love soup? Even so, do you love it enough to only eat soup until you lose weight? This is what is required on the “souping” diet, which consists solely of blended so-called “detox” soups.
A typical soup cleanse is around 1200 calories per day, which is a bit higher than some of these other diets. However, it is still too low to be sustainable, and it’s just not as satisfying to eat liquid soup as it is to eat a real meal.
The act of chewing normalizes eating and makes you feel full, signaling your body that you’re done. Since there is no chewing involved with blended soup, those fullness signals are few and far between.
What are the risks of extreme weight loss diets?
Okay so these diets are strict, but how bad are they?
First of all, the rate of weight loss typically on these diets is too fast. In general, losing more than 2 pounds a week for more than a few weeks is considered excessive.
This is because, with this rate of weight loss, there is a higher risk for very unpleasant side effects. And some of these side effects can be pretty serious.
You are also more likely to gain it back, and then some.
Here are some of the crappy side effects of extreme weight loss diets:
- Muscle loss
A lack of enough protein or calories can cause this. Also if you’re not eating enough, you’ll probably have less energy to lift weights at the gym. Both of these factors play a role in causing muscle loss, which slows your metabolism and then makes it harder to lose weight the next time (6).
Having more muscle is also good for your health and immune system, so you want to hold on to what you have!
- Nutrient deficiencies
If you’re not taking in enough calories for more than a week, this can lead to nutrition deficiencies that can cause side effects such as (7):
- Hair loss
- Menstrual irregularities
- Constipation from lack of fiber (especially on very low carb or grain-free diets)
- Irritability and moodiness
- Lack of energy
These side effects make it harder to want to keep going, and can affect your everyday life.
Gallstones are very common, and in fact, occur in 12-25% of people on an extreme weight loss diet (8).
Key Takeaways: Extreme Weight Loss Diets: Why You Should Look Beyond the Before and After Pictures
Extreme weight-loss diets are tempting when you just want to see the results right away. But the truth is that true weight loss (fat loss, not muscle loss) takes time, and with patience and persistence, you’ll see results that stick.
Instead of trying to rush the weight loss process, try to take it day by day. Start by making small changes to your diet and exercise routine. For example, you can add one vegetable to every meal and walk three times a week. Once you meet these goals, move on to the next one. Slow and steady wins the race here, and leads to long-term weight loss!
Throughout this process, make sure you are addressing any emotions, stress, or barriers that frequently get in your way of keeping you on track. This is necessary and something that extreme weight loss diets never address (another reason why they suck).
You don’t have to starve yourself or go on one of these crazy diets to lose weight. You can do it the healthy way, and if you need help with this, give me a call.
Cheers to losing weight without extreme diets!!