Long gone are the days where slow and steady wins the race, instead people are looking for the quick fix. Weight loss strategies are no different. Rarely do people stop and think it took me years to put on this weight, so losing it in weeks, and keeping it off, is not a realistic goal. Instead, the “quick-fix” reigns without any regard to the health problems that could be associated with rapid weight loss. Low carbohydrate diets have been around for years, but they seem to be making resurgence.
Whether you chose Atkins, sugar busters, South Beach, Thrive, or any other version, they all have the same premise–put your body into ketosis, and you will loose weight rapidly.
But are these diets safe or even effective?
Ketosis is a state in which the body is burning fats and proteins for fuel instead of sugars. If your body is in ketosis it has no choice but to break down fat–and yes, it can use muscle too–to make energy because you are not fueling your body with sugars. During this process, many people notice they are losing weight rapidly, except they don’t realize it is mainly water weight.
When your body is in ketosis, ketones are excreted in urine and because the state of ketosis draws water and sodium out of your body, people notice weight loss. Ketosis alters your electrolytes and can cause harm to some individuals.
What we know about the long-term effects of prolonged low carbohydrate diets is limited, as there have been no long-term studies. But let’s face it, most people do not make it long term with low carbohydrate diets because the food choices are too limited. Studies have shown that the diets that are most successful incorporate exercise, a wide variety of foods, while being mindful of total calories and remaining low fat.
But if you choose to embark on a low carbohydrate diet, what can you expect?
First things people will start to notice are fatigue, headaches, sluggish feelings, nausea, dizziness, dehydration and constipation, or other gastrointestinal upset. This is all a result of having such a small about of sugar to fuel your body. So if you were planning on exercising during this diet, many people get frustrated with the lack of energy to do so. If that is not enough, bad breath may set in as your body switches into the starvation mode of ketosis. If you made it this far, you have probably started to see some weight loss, and now you are motivated to stick with it, at least for a little while. All you are seeing is weight falling off and summer bathing suit season right around the corner. What you do not see are the effects of ketosis and a diet high in fat on your body.
Diets high in fat especially saturated fats, will increase total cholesterol and LDLs (bad Cholesterol), which can lead to coronary artery disease. Studies have shown diets high in animal proteins, which includes most of the low carbohydrate diets, can lead to higher incidence of colon cancer.
Calcium is an important electrolyte in bones, which is lost in the urine when your body is in a state of ketosis and thus leads to higher risk of osteoporosis. And when you are excreting high levels of calcium, some people also have a higher risk of kidney stones. If you are predisposed to or have a preexisting kidney problem, the high load of protein and the chronic state of ketosis can lead to kidney damage. Not to mention possible liver damage and inflammation of the pancreas and gallstones.
The health risk associated with these diets may deter you from long-term low carbohydrate diets, but the quick weight loss dieter is still on board. So you noticed that water weight loss, then you noticed that I don’t seem as hungry as I was before I started the diet because the fat and proteins take longer to digest. And I have decreased my overall calorie intake. So, you think goal attained; I have lost weight!! Your fad diet quickly fades while your hopes of maintaining your weight loss does too.
Many people who lose weight on low carbohydrate diets gain it right back as they revert back to their old ways.
Why, you ask?
Their water weight loss is regained, the calorie deficit is regained, and they are not exercising. So the weeks of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and extra stress on their body was all in vain.
What’s the bottom line?
Eat healthy and exercise. Decreasing your total calorie intake and eating a low fat diet with many options will lead to more sustained weight loss. And remember, you didn’t gain that 20, 30, 40 pounds or more in a week, so stop trying to lose it in a week.
Remember, if you have any questions for Dr. Rosser, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org