Extreme Weight Loss Methods and How They Work

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Adjusting weight on a scale

Individuals hoping to shed pounds quickly sometimes turn to extreme weight loss strategies to get the job done. These solutions promise to be fast alternatives to systems that require more time and consistent effort, but do they work? While they may be effective in the short run, they each have their benefits and disadvantages.

Elimination Diets

Choosing between salad and cake

An elimination diet is a way of eating that removes certain food items or groups for the purpose of reducing inflammation and/or weight gain due to food sensitivities or caloric density. There are a number of different types.

  • The Ketogenic Diet involves eliminating starches, grains, and sugars in order to get your body to use fat as fuel, a condition called ketosis.
  • The Paleo Diet cuts out heavier carbs along with dairy.
  • The Candida Diet excludes the same foods as the Paleo diet, plus mold-containing foods, caffeine, alcohol, and fruit that is high in sugar.
  • The Raw Food Diet requires limiting your intake to foods that haven't been exposed to heat higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most of these plans are meant to promote better digestion through enhanced gut health. When followed strictly, they have been shown to be effective in helping people lose weight.

Liquid Detoxes

Fresh broth for a liquid detox

Liquid detoxes typically involve consuming only fluids for a period of two to seven days.

  • The master cleanse instructs you to drink a cocktail made with lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water twice a day.
  • A juice fast involves using a juicer to create your own refreshments made from fruit and vegetables.
  • The cabbage soup diet limits you to drinking just the broth of cabbage soup.

An article published by the Harvard Medical School suggests that these diets are dubious at best. The authors maintain that you will lose weight at the outset due to the extremely low calorie count, but most people regain the weight once they begin consuming a normal diet again. However, after a few days of restriction, you may benefit from controlling the types and amounts of foods you eat. If you reintroduce solid foods in a controlled manner and make healthy choices, you may be able to make some long-term progress.

Stomach Restriction

Before and after sleeve gastrectomy

Surgery is an option for those who have tried other weight loss methods but haven't been able to see stable progress. Two common recourses are a gastric bypass and a lap band. A gastric bypass involves sectioning off the stomach so that food can only go through a small portion of it. A lap band is placed around a section of the stomach to compress it. Both methods keep you from overeating by restricting the total amount of food that can fit in your intestine.

  • Requirements include having a BMI over 35, weight related health issues, and reduced quality of life from being overweight.
  • You have to achieve a certain weight before the procedure can be done.

Although results are immediate after the surgery, they can only be maintained if you stick to a healthy, well-portioned diet afterward. Otherwise, your stomach will stretch to accommodate overeating and you risk gaining the weight back, as well as putting your body at risk for health issues.

Tapeworms and Gut Parasites

Close-up image of a tapeworm

One fad that has many stunned is the practice of acquiring a tapeworm specifically to lose weight. If you don't naturally get it from contaminated food, according to Healthline, you can swallow a pill that contains a tapeworm egg. Weight loss may be one possible side effect, but there are many others that make this method dangerous for your health.

  • Intestinal infections
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Impaired organ function
  • Seizures
  • Impaired brain function

While infection doesn't always lead to such drastic complications, the risks outweigh the benefits. It's probably best to avoid willingly contaminating your body.

Healthy Diet for Lasting Results

When it comes to sustainable weight loss, there are no short cuts. Most extreme weight loss plans and methods come at a cost and are difficult to maintain over time. In the end, the safest and most lasting way to lose weight is by adopting and maintaining a healthy diet. Before you choose any one method, make sure to consult a nutritionist or your primary physician to make sure that it is safe for you.

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Extreme Weight Loss Methods and How They Work