Celebrities, gossip magazines proclaim, lose weight with miraculous speed. "10 pounds in 10 days!" the headlines regularly shout. A popular singer lost "up to 20 pounds" on the Lemon Water Diet, and an international model walked the runway in lingerie just 2 months after giving birth. Can you--should you--try a celebrity diet? Rapid weight loss diets pose many health risks and few lasting benefits, doctors and nutritionists say.
Different Motivations, Same Risks for Celebrities on Extreme Diets
For celebrities, their paycheck may depend on a flawless figure. They have million-dollar reasons for embarking on fasts and extremely low-calorie diets to lose weight rapidly. But celebrities and everyday folk face health problems and dietary setbacks --regaining lost pounds--when they lose weight too quickly. One celebrity, a long-time follower of both raw food and macrobiotic diets, suffers from severe vitamin D deficiency and was recently diagnosed with osteopenia, an illness that can lead to the serious bone disease osteoporosis.
Dangers and Ineffectiveness
Tania Ferraretto, an accredited practicing dietitian for Nutrition Professionals Australia in Adelaide, is among many dietitians who warn that rapid weight loss is both unhealthy and ineffective. "These effects can range from fatigue or constipation through to more serious health risks like heart disease or osteoporosis." She continues, "Long-term dieters may notice dry skin and nails and hair may even start falling out, and those who lose weight too quickly may have a heart attack."
The Worst Fad Diets
Some fad diets are worse than others, Ferraretto says. Followers of the the Zone Diet have reported constipation, bad breath, stomach cramps and nausea as side effects of the diet. The Lemon Water Diet is a starvation diet that provides its only nutritional value through maple syrup. It can make you sick and gain fat, Ferraretto says, because your body's metabolism slows down when it tries to protect itself from food deprivation.
Post-Pregnancy and Rapid Weight Loss
Women who've recently given childbirth and want to regain their pre-pregnancy figures as quickly as possible may also put their health at risk. Pregnancy normally puts a strain on a woman's body, and it can take a year for her body to fully recover. Crash diets deprive her of important nutrients that she needs to regain her strength and care for her baby, says dietitian Sarah Keogh of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. She says women shouldn't even think about dieting until at least six weeks after giving birth and should lose weight through healthy eating and physical activity.
Obesity and Extreme Diets
Diets extremely low in calories may have a place in the diets of obese patients, particularly those who must lose weight for surgery, a recent report concluded. Dr. Frankie Phillips said in "GP Magazine" that a very low calorie diet, defined as one that includes between 450 and 800 calories a day, should not be followed for longer than 12 weeks and that medical supervision is recommended for any diet that involves fewer than 500 calories a day. She did not recommend a very low calorie diet for the average person but said it may be helpful for an obese person whose weight has reached a plateau on a standard diet or for someone who needs to lose weight before surgery.
Fad Diet Dangers
If you want to try one of the diets promising fast results, Ferrareto warns of these possible risks: fatigue and iron deficiency in the Baby Food Diet; irrational and dangerous attitudes toward food, nutrient deficiency and irritable bowel or constipation in the Meal Replacement Diets; fatigue, nutrient deficiency and, over time, osteoporosis in the Raw Food Diet and Macrobiotic Diet; bloating and long-term weight gain in the Cabbage Soup Diet.
- "Irish Mirror, Eire Edition"; Celeb Diets Putting Young Mums at Risk; Experts Warning on Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss After Childbirth; Maeve Quigley, July 16, 2006
- "The Sunday Mail"; Celebrity Diet Dangers; Liz Walsh; July 25, 2010
- "GP Magazine"; The Role of Very Low Calorie Diets; April 9, 2010