I am a serial dieter. My first “diet” was in Junior High. I would only allow myself to eat certain foods and I would eat the same thing every day. I kept it up for months until I started getting light-headed in class. In my early 20s I dropped all of my college weight using a popular, but dangerous, cocktail of supplements from the health food store. I lost the weight but gained migraines and nosebleeds. The main ingredient was eventually banned and I gained the weight back (and then some) after experiencing some unrelated medical problems. Though I’d experienced side effects from diets before, it wasn’t until recently that one finally landed me in the hospital.
When this trendy new diet hit my town I was reluctant at first. It seemed too good to be true. This calorie-restrictive diet craze was actually endorsed by doctors! It seemed like every Botox doctor and Chiropractor in the area was offering some version of this “miracle diet.” One chiropractor I knew of boasted a 100% success rate. I started to see some of my friends and family have great results from the diet. They shrunk before my very eyes. A friend of mine lost over 80 pounds in about 6 months. The exciting part was that none of them reported any side effects. My aunt, typically a size 4, went on the diet and finally lost that stubborn 10 pounds she couldn’t lose any other way. She eventually sold me on the plan.
I researched the different doctors in the area and other than a few dollars here and there, there weren’t any discernible differences between them. I chose one based primarily on location as the program required weekly weigh-ins. I was asked a handful of medical questions and then immediately put on the program. Several hundred dollars and three days later I dropped down to less than 500 calories per day. I was eating less in a full day than most people eat in one meal. I was losing weight and sleeping like a baby. I had a few side effects, most notably muscle cramps from the potassium deficiency, but for the most part I felt fine. And the weight was dropping fast. I lost anywhere from 4 to 6 pounds a week.
This was too fast, as it turns out. I went off the diet and found that I couldn’t eat any fatty or greasy foods without ending up in severe pain. We’re not just talking french fries here. I couldn’t eat avocado or cook with even a tablespoon of olive oil. All fats were a major problem. When I ate the wrong thing I would wake up in the middle of the night with intense stomach pains that stabbed into my back. Nothing would stop the pain. I simply had to wait it out. Sometimes it lasted 20 minutes, sometimes all night. After a particularly bad night that made me late for work, I started doing research. I knew there was an abundance of information about the risks of these diets. I had mostly ignored these naysayers because I knew people who went on the diet and lost weight without any adverse effects.
I eventually stumbled across articles regarding rapid weight loss and gallstones. After a few visits with my internal medicine doctor I was scheduled for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a large gallstone that was partially lodged in my bile duct. A week later I went in for surgery to have my gallbladder removed.
I am now healthy and able to eat anything I want. This, of course, led to me gaining back some of the weight. Sadly, there is a part of me that seriously considers going back on the diet. I am firmly down two sizes, though I was close to 4 sizes down before surgery. I know that it works and without a gallbladder I can’t get stones again, right? I also know that like any diet, it’s just a short-term fix and the only real solution is a lifestyle change. But who wants to do that?