If you’re planning to change your daily eating and exercise habits to slim down for the good of your health, you might be hoping to lose weight as fast as possible—but the phrase "slow and steady wins the race" has never been more applicable.
Losing weight can have a huge impact on your body—and while this can be good, it’s also important to remember to be gentle to yourself, and not expect too much at once. Not only is it better for your body to lose weight over a longer period of time, but it's also likely to be better for your mind, too.
Consultant Dietitian at City Dietitians Sophie Medlin tells Cosmopolitan why losing weight fast can be problematic:
Why losing weight fast is probably not a great idea:
It's not sustainable.
Think of it like running; if you sprint, it’s difficult to go far. But a nice, easy jog will make sure you keep going for longer without running out of steam. Not only that, but it can also have serious effects on your body.Continue reading below ↓
Sophie says: "Rapid weight loss is associated with crash diets and eating in a way that is unsustainable. In other words, you might be able to get a couple of pounds off but you’re unlikely to be able to keep going or keep the weight off."Continue reading below ↓Recommended Videos
It could seriously damage your health.
Rapid weight loss can be an extreme shock to the system, and in turn can affect your body. "If you do continue to lose weight rapidly, you’ll be at risk of gall stones, electrolyte imbalances that affect your blood pressure and heart rate, hair loss, constipation, and hormonal disturbances," Sophie explains.
It could also affect your mental health.
Of course, it's not just about the physical effects. "Restrictive diets that induce rapid weight loss are also associated with eating disorders like anorexia and orthorexia and cause harm to our relationship with food," says Sophie.
"Healthy weight loss may take a bit longer but the mental and physical risks are far lower and you’re much more likely to keep the weight off in the long term."Continue reading below ↓
You could lose too much, too fast.
"It’s important to remember that if your weight is already healthy for your height, losing weight will be very hard and you are unlikely to be able to achieve it in a healthy way," says Sophie. "Start by asking yourself why you want to lose weight and see if you can find alternative ways to improve your self-esteem."
What changes should I make to lose weight slowly?
So in other words, crash diets are not the answer. But to sustain weight loss in a healthy way, you’ll probably need to make some simple basic changes to your everyday diet. Sophie says: "First of all, before you think about what you’re eating, you need to think about why you’re struggling to eat well."
"Everyone knows the basics of healthy eating: Fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and wholegrain carbs. These basic healthy eating principals will work for everyone if we’re able to stick to them and we eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full."
"The problem with eating well arises when we are stressed, tired, bored, or lonely or we have lost the connection with our appetite due to crash diets. We can also feel less able to manage our diet well when we’re surrounded by temptation all the time."
So, perhaps at this point it’s a good idea to look at your food habits and make some easy changes. "Overeating is a symptom of a problem, it isn’t the problem," Sophie adds. "Start by writing down the times in the day when you’re eating for reasons other than physical hunger and reflect on what was going on in that moment or on that day."
How can I sustain weight loss?
The hardest part for many is sustaining weight loss after you’ve first managed to lose it—but making changes to your lifestyle will ensure this eventually becomes natural to you. "Sustaining weight loss will require you to find a way of eating that still allows you to eat with friends and family, celebrate Christmas, birthdays and go on holiday without worrying about what you’re eating," says Sophie. "This will mean that you will have to feel comfortable eating from all the food groups and not having strict rules that you feel anxious about breaking."
"Sounds impossible right?! That’s the myth that ‘diet culture’ has sold you. Once you’re comfortable with your relationship with food and you make conscious choices to give your body food that nourishes it rather than starving it because you hate it, everything gets easier and your weight will naturally settle to a place that is healthy for you."
So the key is finding out what’s a natural, healthy weight for you and making small dietary changes to maintain it—without setting extreme goals.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.