Physical Side Effects of Weight Loss

tired woman The sixty-year old Minnesota Starvation Study identified significant and troubling side effects of weight loss as early as two weeks into a 1560 calorie a day diet.

As dieters in the 21st century when we have any of these symptoms they’re usually are ignored, brushed over or put down to ‘weak willpower’.

This is an extract from my Dirty Little Secrets ebook (free to subscribers – sign up on the left) outlining one of the seven classes of side effect on the study participants. (The book goes into a lot more detail about the symptoms too). – the details made me really cranky when I first read the study, see what you think:

First: Physical Side Effects of Dieting

  • Skin changes – rough, dry, scaly, inelastic, odd brown spots (folliculosis). Sores and ulcers were common as wounds took much longer to heal.
  • Hair changes – hair became drier, thinner, and even fell out.
  • Hearing – many reported their hearing sharpened, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable. Some also had ringing in their ears. The researchers thought this was due to their ear canals growing larger as their skin dried out and shrank.
  • Temperature regulation changed – they often felt cold, as their bodies slowed their metabolic rate
  • Vision – the men complained about seeing spots, not being able to focus, and aching eyes
  • Physical strength – as their body weight dwindled, the men lost their endurance, especially climbing stairs, lifting and carrying, walking long distances, and standing for long periods. Understandable, considering their muscles were wasting away as their body weight reduced, and their heart volume also shrank in equal proportion to their body weight. Their muscles frequently cramped, felt sore or ‘went to sleep’, or otherwise tingled and prickled. They complained about feeling constantly tired.
  • Sleep disturbances – they needed less sleep, and when they did sleep it was poorly. When they got up they were giddy and had momentary blackouts. 
  • Digestive problems – alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Heart problems – irregular heartbeat and arrhythmia, as their hearts lost at least 20% of muscle and capacity
  • Sexual function – their testicles became smaller
  • Premature ageing – with all those physical changes going on, it’s probably no surprise to learn that the men not only looked older, but felt as if they were older.
  • Discomfort in sitting – as their body fat reduced their bones rubbed uncomfortably on their seats, so they weren’t able to sit for long.
  • Difficult concentrating – they became easily distracted from their studies.

Have you had any of those side-effects while dieting?

Did you recognize them as side-effects at the time?

Are any of them still present? How long do you think it took for the symptoms to disappear? Share below?

And to read more of the symptoms, please sign up for the free ebook – top right…


  1. Faina Sechzer on January 9, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Sandy, this is a very comprehensive list of the negative sides of dieting. Most who tried diets know they don’t work.

    • Sandy on January 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Faina – yep.. and yet the weight loss industry gets bigger every year, 60 billion a year in the US alone – kinda terrifying. Imagine what else we could do with that money?

  2. Michelle on January 9, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Wow, those do not sound like pleasant side effects! I’ve done various diets but must not have been low enough in calories to have experienced any of those symptoms, which I’m thankful for. 🙂

    • Sandy on January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Hey Michelle – the emotional side effects seem to kick in much quicker – and the low energy one as well. Specially for the weight cyclers (most people I think…)

Tell us what you think - you know you want to ;)