Will You Lose Weight If You Barely Eat?

The $40 billion diet industry spends millions every year bombarding you with the message that you are unattractively fat, according to research reported by Colorado University. Although it's true that many Americans are, in fact, overweight, the message of diet advertising pushes some to consider crash dieting. This practice--eating as little as possible in order to lose weight--is not only dangerous but in many ways counterproductive.

Calorie Basics

According to health coach Ben Cohn, losing weight is basically applied physics. Your body takes in energy when you eat and expends energy throughout the day. The more vigorously active you are, the more energy you expend. If you eat more energy than you burn, your body stores the excess as fat. If you burn more than you eat, the body draws the deficit from your stored fat and you lose weight. In theory, not eating would cause rapid weight loss because all your energy must come from fat.

Immediate Health Hazards

Crash dieting, according to information at fitness resource website Epigee, has immediate deleterious effects on your health. Short-term nutritional deficiency can lead to deficiency in vital nutrients, causing health problems ranging from dizziness, fatigue or lethargy up to organ damage and even heart attacks.

Long-Term Health Hazards

Crash dieting, especially a habit of crash dieting, can lead to mental and physical problems even after you've started eating normally again. In "You: The Owner's Manual," Dr. Mehmet Oz describes osteoporosis, muscle damage, joint problems and eating disorders among these hazards. According to Oz, beginning a habit of unhealthy eating practices opens the door for other, often more destructive, behavior later on. The nutritional deficiencies you introduced during your crash diet can prevent healing and maintenance of your joints, muscles and bones.


According to health counselor Maya Paul, crash diets result in a yo-yo effect. Although you may lose pounds rapidly, most people put the weight right back on once they start eating again. Worse, starvation diets can push your body to burn your muscle for energy instead of your fat. The result is somebody with insufficient nutrition plus a slack and puffy body, despite going through the misery of a crash diet.

Weight Loss

You will lose weight if you barely eat. However, you're not likely to keep the weight off, and the health risks associated with crash dieting make it an inadvisable way to lose weight. According to both Cohn and Paul, the better plan is a course of slow, steady weight loss. This maintains adequate nutrition and allows you to adjust slowly to a new, healthier lifestyle.