What Constitutes a Healthy Weight Loss?

We often see articles and people on TV talking about weight loss, how to lose weight, what the latest tips & tricks are, the latest detox etc. But out of all these discussions it can be hard to understand what a healthy weight loss actually is.


In generic terms, a healthy weight loss is what we want to be achieving when looking to lose weight. However, that can be different for everybody. Many people get addicted to look at the numbers on the scales or exactly how many calories they're consuming each day.


Healthy weight loss is actually more about the changes that you make in the long run. It is about recognising unhealthy weight loss and unhealthy choices so that you can start making choices and lifestyle changes that will contribute towards becoming healthier.

So what can be considered unhealthy weight loss?

Many of us have tried different diets, detoxes and some of the latest fads to shift those stubborn pounds. Some of these, over the years, have been shown to be ineffective and even dangerous. The long term goal is to avoid any dodgy or damaging habits so that we can reach a healthy weight in a sustainable way - this will enable you to lose the weight and keep it off!


Of course, anyone that’s struggled to lose weight will want to see results and fast! But it’s important to remember something and we often forget this - weight loss takes time.


It isn’t something that should be rushed, despite how eager we are to see the weight drop off. Rather than being tempted into trying quick, faddy & unhealthy methods of losing weight, we should focus on steady progress. This involves making the right choices, which is often very difficult to do when you constantly have cravings and an insatiable hunger.


Studies have shown that training yourself to live a healthier lifestyle is more likely to help your physical and even your mental health in the long run. It also sets you up to be in a healthier mindset for sticking to healthier eating regimes and reducing the risk of relapsing into old habits.


And what do 'unhealthy' weight loss habits look like?

Psychologists have identified several unhealthy weight loss habits, most of which stem from or involve our perception of ourselves and how we feel about ourselves.


For example, it’s common for people to become disheartened when they don’t lose much weight one week, making them feel that they are failing or to feel like giving up. But please know that fluctuations and plateaus are completely normal during weight loss. Yes, it is difficult, but you should try to avoid becoming obsessed with the number on the scales and continue to focus on making those positive lifestyle changes.


Another example can be extreme fad diets, which can involve extreme methods such as very low calorie deficit diets, extreme fasting rituals, cleanses, detoxes and restrictive eating. This can lead to skipping meals even if you’re hungry, not eating enough food in order to get the nutrients that your body needs, or eating small amounts of food to avoid gaining weight. This may appear to help you lose weight initially and in the short run, but your hunger and starved body will prevail and the weight will start to come back as your body cries out for nourishment.


Extreme exercising whilst restricting calorie intake has become more common in the weight loss arena, more so in America and Canada. Whist exercise is a great way to boost your weight loss, it should be done in moderation and with an eating regime that ensures you are getting enough nutrients to account for the energy being burnt off.


Let's not forget that your body still needs energy to carry out everyday tasks and functions, so too low a calorie intake can sometimes lead to malnutrition, as well as other health issues. You should also ensure that you aren’t cutting out entire food groups. Cutting out entire food groups, such as carbohydrates (oh, hello Keto & Atkins!) is not only really tricky, but often completely unnecessary!


Carbs are one of the most nutritious food groups that you could be eating - it's about making sure you're eating the right ones! Avoiding the starchy, refined carbs such as white rice, white pasta, white bread etc. can help reduce your carb intake and your waist line but remember that you can have healthy carbs - for example, did you know that a lot of vegetables contain carbohydrates? Most of your energy naturally comes from carbohydrates in a regular diet, so cutting them out could lead to fatigue. The Keto philosophy is that because your body has no carbs to create fuel to burn for energy, your body turns to its fat stores to burn. This can however lead to muscle wastage, vitamin deficiency, or even cardiovascular risks if they are focused on keto foods high in fats.


Liquid diets (e.g. the soup diet, the juice diet etc) are another classic method of fast weight loss – often used to fit into clothes before a holiday, or as a crash diet to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Whilst it can produce fast results, these can be pretty bad for you, as it is essentially a form of starving your body. And what happens when you stop the liquid diet? The weight comes straight back on. In fact, studies have shown that many people that follow a liquid diet and then go back to eating solid foods find that they gain a large amount of weight back fairly quickly, as it isn’t a sustainable way to keep weight off. Whilst replacing one meal with a protein shake if you aren’t hungry is a great way of getting some nutrients, it should never be used to replace solid food entirely.

Another unhealthy habit, which has become more prominent in recent years due to the availability of medications, is using medication for weight loss rather than for weight management. Using them for a quick fix of weight loss without applying any recommended diet or lifestyle change will likely result in the weight coming back when you stop taking medication, which can lead to a vicious cycle and yo-yo dieting. In order to lose weight and keep it off, we need to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices. It doesn’t matter which treatment you take – all medicines that are available to help with weight loss should be taken alongside a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.

There are other more extreme unhealthy weight loss habits (e.g. eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, laxative induced weight loss etc) - that is why it is important to be screen for these when applying for any medicated weight loss programme.


If you feel concerned that you may be experiencing unhealthy eating habits, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you feel that you may be experiencing more extreme unhealthy eating habits, please seek advice from your GP who can signpost you to the right help.



So what is healthy weight loss?

Official UK government guidelines and the NHS recommend that a loss of 1-2lbs per week is optimal for a safe & sustainable weight loss. However, when you start taking medical treatment to help with your weight loss, it’s not uncommon to lose large amounts of weight at first, particularly if your lifestyle habits have changed dramatically i.e. reduced portions, reduced intake of certain foods, lack of hunger etc. However, this should even out as you progress and you should start to notice a steadier and more gradual weight loss, which is easier for your body to adjust to, your mind to adjust to the healthier mindset and for your body to keep the weight off. Studies have shown that this is far more sustainable in the long run rather than shedding loads of weight in a short amount of time and returning to old habits.

As we have discussed above, the key to long term and sustainable weight loss is healthier lifestyle changes, such as reducing portion sizes, reducing the bad foods and increasing physical exercise (when able to). By incorporating a wide-ranging dietary intake and ensuring you are nourishing your body with leaner, healthier foods, you can shift the weight and keep it off.