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Obesity and Weight Management

Did I Lose Too Much Weight?

04/15/2010

Question:

I just finished a "biggest loser” contest at work and won, but at what cost? I started out on the nutri-system diet and did very well the first month. However, I got carried away the next 2 months, lowering my total caloric intake to about 6-800 calories. I lost a total of 63 pounds in 3 months. That’s 24.5 % of my body mass. I read recently that you should never lose more than 10% of your body mass in less than 6 months. The after affects are frankly horrifying. My muscle mass is depleted in my upper torso. In particular, my shoulder girdles appear skeletal to look at. I lack energy and fatigue easily despite resuming a 1500 calorie low fat low carb diet. I force myself to eat as I no longer have a sensation of hunger as was the case at the onset of this diet. Also, I am feeling light headed whenever I stand up, and lately even when I’m sitting down. My bowels stopped moving as they once did and I urinate like a racehorse. Most disturbing to me is the effect on my mentation. I’m feeling constantly in a fog. Memory and concentration are way off the norm. Are these effects permanent? Should I seek a medical workup to try and correct, what seems to me to be, a metabolic crisis? What can I do the reverse these effects?

Answer:

I admire the effort you made to lose your excess weight; however, I am concerned about how you went about it and the resulting problems that you mention. Losing weight too quickly and without proper nutrition (including calories) can cause many health problems. A safe weight loss is approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week and should focus on small, gradual changes to your diet so that you can form new, healthy habits for a lifetime.

Diets that provide less than 1200 calories per day are not adequate in nutrients, no matter what you choose to eat, and can put your body in starvation mode. This results in a slower metabolism (the opposite of what you would want), since your body is conserving energy for vital functions. Too few calories also deprive you of energy and vital nutrients. 

 

You mention following a "low fat, low carb" diet. Carbohydrates (including grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, and dairy) are our body's primary source of energy. Without adequate amounts of carbohydrates, you will feel tired and may not have enough glucose (the main source of energy used by our brain) to think clearly and function well. If you have too little fat in your diet, you could be lacking essential fatty acids and not be absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (vit. A,D,E & K) properly. Following a high protein diet often lacks enough fiber and can affect your bowels. 

 

A healthy, more reasonable weight loss diet would be approximately 1500 cals/day for most women and 1800 cals/day for most men. It should include ALL food groups and daily physical activity. If you visit the website http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ you can calculate a healthy diet for your gender and body type. 

 

In the meantime, I recommend that you see your doctor as soon as possible and discuss all of your health concerns. Once you've seen your doctor, it would also be a good idea to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian (RD). The RD will work with you to design a personalized diet to meet your weight and health goals.

 

Good luck! 

 

 

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University