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What Is Considered Rapid Weight Loss?

author image Stephanie Dube Dwilson
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

Rapid weight loss can lead to nutritional deficiencies, anemia and electrolyte imbalances. If you are overweight, losing weight is important for your health, but too rapid weight loss can lead to different health-related problems.

Over 2 Pounds a Week

On a traditional diet, rapid weight loss is the loss of more than 2 pounds in 1 week. According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so losing more than 2 pounds in 1 week would require a calorie deficit through some combination of dieting and exercise of over 1,000 calories each day. If you create the deficit through diet, it can be very difficult to get the nutrients you need. If you create the deficit through exercise, you risk over training. Cutting 250 to 500 calories from your diet each day and burning an additional 250 to 500 calories through exercise can lead to a safe, healthy weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds each week.

Ten Percent in 6 Months

Not all weight loss is intentional. If you are not dieting but notice that you are losing weight, it may be a sign that you are ill. According to Katie Clark MPH, RD, a registered dietitian, anyone who loses over 10 percent of her body weight in a period of 6 months and who is not intentionally dieting should visit a physician. Unexplained weight loss can be the result of digestive issues, hyperthyroidism, type 2 diabetes or cancer.

Development of Gallstones

Whether weight loss is intentional or unintentional, if you develop gallstones as a result, the weight loss is too rapid. According to the National Institute of Health, the gallbladder is responsible for metabolizing bile. If the body is trying to process fat for fuel at too quick a pace, which is what occurs during rapid weight loss, the bile contains high levels of cholesterol. This cholesterol-filled bile hardens into painful gallstones.

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