8 Dangerous Weight Loss Methods That Could Destroy Your Health

When it comes down to it, weight loss is a mixture of desire and habit-forming changes. Only when you shift your behavior can you gradually earn the results you’ve always wanted. The problem with healthy weight loss, for many, is that long-term results are often slower to achieve than expected. This can prompt a dangerous search for quicker ways to shed pounds — which can either end in weight regain, or serious harm.

Disaster can strike when you take weight loss to the extreme. Whether you’re filling your body with things that don’t belong there or depriving yourself of the nutrients necessary for survival, the quickest way to lose weight is never the healthiest. Avoid these dangerous tactics to protect your body from long-term damage and distress, and adopt alternatives that take time — but end in weight loss that lasts.

1. Smoking

Smoking is not a smart weight loss method.

You might lose weight. You might also have a stroke. | iStock.com/Man pouring coffee

It’s hard to say exactly why smoking sometimes fends off weight gain. Cigarettes once contained appetite suppressants, says Livestrong.com, though it’s unlikely this is still the case. Smoking could replace extra calories you might consume when you’re bored or stressed as well. Though smokers tend to weigh less on average than non-smokers, it’s not a guaranteed side effect. Its other risks are much more likely, however.

Smoking to lose weight isn’t a new fad. The difference between now and 50 years ago is that we’re aware of the long-term consequences. Yet according to the CDC, smoking still causes more deaths annually than HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, motor vehicle injuries, and firearms combined. It also significantly increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The risks associated with smoking far outweigh the potential weight loss benefits. Even if you do lose weight — is it really worth it?

2. A plastic tongue patch

A tongue patch makes eating solid food painful.

In which eating solid food becomes beyond painful. | iStock.com/patrisyu

Sometimes it feels like there’s no way to stop yourself from eating a second cookie other than sewing your mouth shut. This may be where the idea of the “tongue patch diet” came from. It’s a cosmetic weight-loss surgery like nothing you’ve swallowed before. According to The Huffington Post, the surgery involves sewing a marlex patch to the tongue. This patch makes eating so painful that recipients can only consume liquids for the 30 days or so the patch remains.

There’s more than one problem with this. For starters, any foreign object sewn anywhere inside your body can become infected. There’s also the risk of choking on the patch if it spontaneously detaches from the tongue. Most importantly, liquid diets simply aren’t sustainable. In an interview with Healthline, registered dietitian Diana Sugiuchi warned they’re not only unsatisfying, but they also don’t teach you anything. Without making lifestyle changes, she said, keeping the weight off once the diet ends is highly unlikely.

3. Stimulants

Stimulants can put your health at risk.

Don’t use caffeine to lose weight. | iStock.com/ktasimarr

Fifty years ago, doctors prescribed amphetamines for weight loss. Though this practice was lawfully shut down upon realizing the addictive nature of these drugs, the concept hasn’t vanished. Verywell says many still attempt to use ADD/ADHD drugs like Adderall to lose weight. The “speed diet” might be effective, but it puts stress on your heart — especially if you become addicted.

According to Livestrong.com, even caffeine is considered a stimulant. While it might slightly increase the amount of calories your body burns, it’s likely not going to be enough to jumpstart the rapid weight loss you’re likely hoping for. Herbal stimulants, such as those found in diet pills and teas, put you at risk for heart irregularities, feelings of anxiousness, and even cancer.

4. Tapeworms

Tapeworms can cause brain damage.

Is voluntarily infecting yourself with a parasite really the answer? | iStock.com/Wiktory

According to Medical News Today, it’s most common to get a tapeworm from raw meat. Unfortunately, you can buy pills with tapeworm eggs inside to purposefully swallow them. The idea behind this dangerous fad is that a tapeworm will “eat” the food you consume, making it possible to lose weight while eating whatever you want. It sounds too good to be true because it is.

A tapeworm is a parasite — and you do not want a parasite living inside you even for a short amount of time. Healthline says tapeworms can disrupt organ function, block bile and pancreatic ducts, and enter and damage your brain. People who have tried the tapeworm diet have actually reported weight gain rather than weight loss, since it can increase your appetite.

5. Tube feeding

This feeding tube solution won't provide the nutrition you need to survive.

Feeding tubes aren’t designed for healthy people. | iStock.com/zilli

The KE Diet is a rapid weight loss program that involves consuming 800 calories per day for 10 days. Very low-calorie diets aren’t unheard of, but this one’s a little different. Those 800 calories don’t come from solid food at all. Instead, they’re included in a protein-fat solution delivered to your stomach through a feeding tube.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the “feeding tube diet” is marketed toward brides-to-be. It’s appealing to this demographic because it provides a short-term weight loss solution (literally) that requires almost no effort. However, it delivers zero carbohydrates — and does anyone really know what’s in that formula? It’s possible those who purchase this program missed the disclaimer at the bottom of the page: “Your [dramatic weight loss] results may vary.”

6. Laxatives

Laxative overuse can lead to bleeding and constipation.

Laxative pills have one use — weight loss isn’t it. | iStock.com/sommail

Laxatives come in many forms — everything from pills to foods to enemas. They’re meant for relieving constipation, acting as stool softeners or inducing bowel movements. According to Everyday Health, most laxatives are intended for short-term use only. When using laxatives as a weight loss method, it’s likely you’ll overuse them. Laxative overuse side effects aren’t fun — and they’re probably not worth the risk.

Mayo Clinic warns that not all over-the-counter laxatives are safe for long-term use. If abused, they can cause dizziness, weakness, rectal bleeding, and long-term constipation. This is just one example of how dangerous it can be to use drugs for something other than their intended purpose. Use laxatives as last-resort constipation relief — not weight loss.

7. Purging

Purging is not a healthy weight loss method.

Purging can lead to dehydration and organ failure. | iStock.com/IrKiev

When you eat food, your body absorbs its nutrients and eliminates waste. As a more drastic weight loss method, some attempt to eliminate the foods they eat before their bodies can properly absorb their calories. Eating Disorder Hope says purging can manifest in the forms of self-induced vomiting or laxative and/or diuretic abuse.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, purging is a disordered eating behavior whether you have an accompanying eating disorder or not. The long-term consequences are the same — dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, organ damage, and even behavioral addiction. Like getting hooked on a drug, some people who start purging to lose weight lose control, and cannot stop once they begin.

8. Restricting calories

Very low calorie diets are not sustainable long-term.

Starving will literally kill you, please eat a cheeseburger. | iStock.com/PhonlamaiPhoto

Since eating too much is often a major contributor to weight gain, it’s sometimes tempting to take the opposite approach to food — not eating anything at all, or at least, not eating nearly enough. Very low calorie diets, when used outside a medical setting, often restrict calories in an attempt to lose weight quickly. This, as you can imagine, changes the way your body uses the energy it has left — especially when you stop feeding it.

Fasting for a few hours might not do much harm, but depriving your body of nutrition won’t take long to promote negative consequences. What happens when you stop eating? Your body begins to break down fat, then protein. Your immune system all but stops fighting against disease. Starvation, if prolonged, can even lead to organ failure, cardiac arrest, and death. Weight loss isn’t usually fatal, but taken too far, the body has no choice but to give up.

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