When Doc Says You're Losing Too Fast

What it means when your weight loss is going a little too well.
My Doctor Says I’m Losing Too Fast

So your weight-loss program is going great. Maybe too great?

The pounds are melting off, but rather than being pleased with your progress, your doctor keeps telling you you're losing too much too quickly. But can losing too quickly really be bad for you?

Simple answer: Yes.

Joe Piechota, 37, started going to Weight Watchers meetings in the middle of 2006, when he weighed more than 500 pounds. From June to December, he lost an average of between 7 and 8 pounds per week.

“At the beginning of 2007, I started having gallbladder attacks,” said Piechota. “I’d never experienced a pain like that in my life, it was so bad.” As the year went on, his attacks became worse and more frequent. After two back-to-back attacks, he went to his local emergency room.

Key Points

When it comes to losing weight, sometimes more is not always better.
  • On average, 1 to 2 pounds per week is a safe weight-loss rate for men.
  • If you are losing more, make sure that you are eating your full daily and weekly PointsPlus Allowances.
  • If you’re still losing too quickly, slowly increase your daily PointsPlus Target by 2 to 3 PointsPlus values at a time

“They found out that my gallbalder was infected and full of stones,” he says. “It was really bad, according to them.” To top it all off, after the operation to remove his gallbladder, Piechota was so happy to be able to eat without pain, he ceased following the Plan, got back into his old bad habits and regained all of his weight.

“We recommend that both men and women lose up to an average of 2 pounds a week after the first three weeks,” says Stephanie Rost, RD, director of corporate program development for Weight Watchers. “Two pounds a week is based on years and years of scientific evidence that shows dramatic health risks associated with losing a rate greater than that.”

“It’s a big, big, huge problem,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition to potentially damaging the gallbladder, says Gerbstadt, other risks of losing too much too fast include kidney failure, thyroid problems, osteoporosis (especially in young men), increased estrogen production, lessening of sexual functions, heart irregularity and changes in blood pressure. It can also be the start of an eating disorder (and no, you aren’t accidentally reading a story for young women).

“We have so much new information about eating disorders in men, which we used to think was 99.9-percent a female thing,” says Gerbstadt, who sees an increasing number of men, generally under 30, being diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, which has the highest death rate of any psychiatric diagnosis.

So what should you do if you’re worried that you’re losing too much too quickly?

If you’re in the first few weeks of your weight-loss program, it is perfectly normal to lose more than the recommended 2 pounds. This is your body adjusting to a healthier, more nutritious diet. Also, remember that 2 pounds is an average, so if you lose more one week and less the next, no worries, as long as it evens out over a four-week period.

If you’re losing more than an average of 2 pounds a week over a month-long period after the first three weeks of your weight-management program, you should make the following adjustments:

Weight Management Adjustments
  • Make certain you consume your full daily PointsPlus Target and your full weekly PointsPlus Allowance.
  • If you’re still losing too fast, Rost recommends slowly increasing your daily PointsPlus Target. For example, if your daily PointsPlus Target is 30, she recommends increasing it to 32 or 33. Keep doing this until your weekly weight loss falls to the recommended average.

For more information on Weight Watcher’s view of weight cycling, read the following feature in our Science Center.

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