The Benefits of Healthy Weight Loss and the Risks of Fad Diets
Hearing a diagnosis confirming obesity should at least slow you down in your tracks, as this condition can put you at an increased risk for many types of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertension. Plus, there's your sexual health to consider, too, as obesity has been linked to sexual inactivity and sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
For men, abdominal obesity is linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), especially in older men. Obesity may lower total and free testosterone levels, and excess fat in the inner thighs and pubic area can heat up the testes, resulting in limited sperm production. For women, obesity can lead to difficulties in conceiving and infertility.
Lower stamina is a symptom of obesity, and one factor in obesity is a change in the metabolism of sex hormones, which ultimately decreases sex drive. For some individuals, a negative body image based on physical appearance may negatively impact sexual activity and desire.
Healthy weight loss requires commitment and perseverance, as the journey is long and oftentimes contains bumps along the way. For these reasons, it may be tempting to adopt a fad diet or join a quick weight loss plan that promises substantial results immediately. However, medical professionals agree: The risks of these diets usually outweigh the benefits.
Learn the many benefits of healthy weight loss—which happily extend to the bedroom—as well as strategies and resources to keep you motivated while maintaining your healthy weight long term.
The risks of fad diets that don't work
From television commercials to Instagram ads, fad diets and quick weight loss programs seem to be everywhere we turn, promising tens of pounds will be shed in a matter of days.
But how safe and healthy are these methods of weight loss?
Shawn Garber, M.D., founder and director of the New York Bariatric Group, said fad diets can actually lead to a "yo-yo" pattern of losing and regaining weight, which in turn increases your risk of obesity.
"Research suggests that many people who complete commercial diets will regain the weight year after year, and many will not even complete the program," Garber noted. "The fad diet promise of weight loss without changing eating and exercise habits is misleading and relies on unsafe techniques that could be dangerous to a patient's health."
Sarah Musleh, M.D., an endocrinologist at Anzara Health, a telemedicine practice serving patients in eight states, noted that fad diets often carry emotional and psychological health risks.
"Some fad diets are simply unpleasant and difficult to stick to, leading to frustration and loss of motivation," she added. "The best diet is one that is sustainable in the long term, something a person can stick to and enjoy. Thinking about ways to incorporate healthier dietary habits that one can continue to enjoy is important, like learning to read a food label and looking for foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar, replacing sugary drinks with water or beverages that don't contain any sugar, eating whole foods rather than processed foods, and snacking less or going for healthier snacks."
Thais Aliabadi, M.D., an OB-GYN in Los Angeles who created the weight-loss solution Trimly, warned that fad diets are associated with several physical health risks, such as dehydration, weakness, fatigue, headaches and malnutrition.
"Who wants to continue a diet that has these side effects and such unpleasant and dangerous risks?" she asked.
Benefits of healthy weight loss
Healthy weight loss can be achieved gradually over time through the adoption of better nutrition and exercise, and may be aided by medication or a surgical procedure.
Unlike fad diets, healthy weight loss ushers in a host of health improvements and other benefits, including but not limited to:
- Improved blood sugar control
- Improved cardiometabolic health
- Improved liver function
- Improved gut health
- Improved mobility and less stress on joints
- Improved sleep
- Improved mental health and self-esteem
"When patients lose weight, they start to rebuild their confidence," Aliabadi said. "I see this daily. Years of agonizing over losing weight and going through the psychological trauma of dieting is overwhelming. I talk to so many patients who are battling mental health issues, from food disorders to anxiety and depression—you won't believe how many people are suffering. Weight loss is one area that helps these patients feel like themselves again. It gives them the control they need to be able to deal with other factors in their lives."
Another benefit is remission from weight-related medical conditions.
"Patients see improvements to, prevention of and remission from many weight-related medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, COPD, high blood pressure, joint pain, cardiovascular disease, kidney diseases and hormone-related cancers," Garber explained.
One more benefit that should make everyone happy: improved sexual function. Musleh said obesity has medical, psychological and emotional effects that can be associated with sexual dysfunction.
"The relationship is complex and our knowledge about exact mechanisms is limited. In men, obesity, especially abdominal obesity, is linked to decreased testosterone levels, low libido, erectile dysfunction and decreased sexual performance," Musleh said. "Weight loss can help improve the symptoms of ED. Women with obesity can also suffer from sexual dysfunction. This might occur through hormonal changes and abnormalities, physical limitations and poor self-esteem. Another important way in which a woman's sexual health is affected by obesity is through effects on the reproductive system: ovulatory issues, menstrual disorders, infertility, miscarriage and negative outcomes in pregnancy."
Managing long-term weight loss
Aliabadi, Garber and Musleh all confirmed that fatigue can accompany healthy weight management, so they offered some techniques and resources to consider when the road ahead begins to look weary.
No matter where you're at on your healthy weight loss journey, it's important to remember help is available in many forms. Choose what feels right for you:
- Try bariatric protein shakes. Garber suggested bariatric protein shakes to help home in on your hunger cues and the food triggers that govern those impulses. "Protein foods best meet the nutritional requirements of the body," he said. "Numerous studies have shown that higher-protein diet intake is associated with greater fat loss, decreased appetite and improved cardiometabolic risk factors. Ample fluid intake is also essential to a healthy body. Avoid drinking flavorful liquids with calories, as these increase appetite and lead to a bad pattern of snacking."
- Try a mindful approach. "Become mindful of why you are eating and what you tend to grab when you are eating," Aliabadi said. "Work to change patterns that are no longer serving you. You can absolutely lose weight and keep it off once you get on a healthier pattern, which can include eating when you're hungry, reducing portions, feeding your body good foods that will fuel you, and reducing foods that harm you either by creating inflammation in your body or by causing fatigue and sugar crashes."
- Stay persistent, but don't be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. "Persistence, discipline and a mental health-conscious approach are required to maximize and maintain weight loss results," Garber said. "Working with a comprehensive team of physicians, nutritionists and psychologists is important to maintain long-term success."
Ultimately, patients should be their own best healthcare advocate.
"I want patients educated on everything they need to consider when it comes to their health and well-being," Aliabadi said. "I also encourage people to visit their doctors regularly and to stay up on all of their wellness exams. It's important to make sure you are not experiencing any underlying conditions such as diabetes, insulin resistance or polycystic ovarian syndrome [PCOS]. Sometimes weight gain is a symptom of these underlying conditions."
She added: "If you're not feeling well and you're being told you are OK, see a different doctor or specialist."