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The Most Dangerous Ways People Try to Lose Belly Fat, Say Dietitians

Experts warn to stay away from these habits.

Crash diets, detox drinks, juice cleanses, fad weight loss programs. It's hard to keep up with all of the harmful weight loss methods being marketed to us on a daily basis. And while there are plenty of healthy, sustainable habits we can adopt to meet our weight goals, there are tons of dangerous ways to lose weight that experts warn we should stay far away from.

To learn more about these harmful methods, we talked with dietitians Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our expert medical board and Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, author at Go Wellness.

Continue reading to learn about the weight loss habits they believe you should ditch right now. And for more healthy weight loss tips, check out 9 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas to Help You Lose Weight.

Skipping meals

Woman pushing plate of pizza away to skip a meal

Although it may be tempting to skip meals in order to consume fewer calories, this can be a dangerous way to lose weight. Plus, it usually won't be sustainable, either.

"So many people think skipping meals is the key to losing weight, when really nothing could be further from the truth! Think of your metabolism like a fire; in order to get a fire blazing you have to light it. Then, to keep it burning, you add small amounts of wood every few hours. The same is true with metabolism. You need to jumpstart it with breakfast, then keep it burning by eating small, frequent meals every few hours. Eating more often will help you manage hunger and fullness, ultimately helping you manage portion sizes and the amount of calories you consume," says Goodson.

Choosing cleanses over food

juice cleanse

Both of our dietitians agree that weight loss cleanses are not only affective over the long term, but they can be harmful to your health as well.

"A 'cleanse' is nothing but a marketing ploy to make you buy a product or follow a trend. You do not need to cleanse your body; that is what your liver and kidneys do all day everyday. When people go on a cleanse and eliminate most food, they also eliminate nutrients. This can set you up for low energy, low blood sugar, and make you feel pretty bad throughout the day. Not to mention, if you exercise, you run the risk of becoming light-headed and even dizzy from exercising on little to no food. Eating is essential for steady blood sugar and energy levels, so skip the cleanse and focus on the right amounts of nutrient-rich foods," says Goodson.

"This kind of weight loss just isn't sustainable and can have unhealthy impacts on your body beyond repair. Most people that use weight loss cleanses will typically see results, and then keep using them, and that's where the dangers emerge as your body will now rely on a cleanse to try to cut belly fat or lose weight in other areas of your body. The truth is, not everyone needs a weight loss cleanse. What people do need is a personal commitment of proper nutrition and an exercise regimen," says D'Angelo.

Taking weight loss medications


Some people may benefit from weight loss medication, depending on the recommendation from their doctor. However, careful consideration should be taken when taking this route.

"Whether it's prescription medication or a medical procedure to lose weight, it may not provide long term results if you're trying to lose belly fat. Instead of changing behavioral habits through proper nutrition and regular exercise, some people turn to medical weight loss medications or procedures. This can become dangerous over time because people will rely on medication and not focus on improving their overall health with a balanced diet, which could result in vitamin and nutrient deficiency. You may be getting a "quick fix" with fast results with medical weight loss, but they are not usually sustainable through the long term and it can be unhealthy for you," says D'Angelo

Fasting for too long

intermittent fasting

Although many people turn to intermittent fasting, it can be a dangerous way to lose weight if not done properly or with care. If you're unsure, talk with a doctor or dietitian before trying this method.

"Fasting works because you are counting on the calorie deficit method of losing weight. However, if you are fasting for too long, you won't be getting the proper nutrition that your body needs. There are many negative and dangerous side effects of not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs," says D'Angelo.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha