A YouTuber has revealed she dropped almost 50 kilos with an extreme fasting diet, but her weight loss technique isn’t for everyone.
Rachel Sharp-Olsen was just 23 when she realised, she was struggling with everyday activities because of her poor health.
Overweight and living off cheap fast food, the Missouri, USA, native decided she wanted to make a change after she got winded hiking just 3km with her husband.
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Weighing over 106 kilos at the time, Sharp-Olsen decided to try intermittent fasting to kickstart her journey to a healthier life.
She also overhauled her food choices, swapping sugary pancakes and waffles for healthier oats and salads.
In just 14 months she dropped almost 50 kilos.
Intermittent fasting involves only eating within a certain window of time, then fasting for the rest, limiting the number of calories a person will consume in a day.
Most people choose an eight-hour window during the day to eat, such as 9am until 7pm, however Sharp-Olsen decided to take things a step further.
She currently sticks to “alternate day fasting”, which can see her go without food for anywhere between 38 to 40 hours without food.
It’s a shocking number for many people, but Sharp-Olsen insists the extreme diet is safe and has many health benefits.
“I haven’t found it to be dangerous at all and regularly seek medical advice on the safety of my weight loss,” she told The Sun.
Sharp-Olsen also confessed she suffers from body dysmorphia, a mental health issue characterised by constant worrying over a perceived or slight defect in appearance.
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Speaking of her weight loss, she admitted people often don’t recognise her in her driver’s license photo, and says her whole life has changed.
“I had a hard time loving my body and myself. I felt unworthy and unlovable,” she said.
“Losing weight has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my health and happiness. I feel better physically and mentally. I’m no longer shy and reserved.”
Despite Sharp-Olsen’s ‘success’, most doctors wouldn’t advise for women wanting to lose weight to simply stop eating for 40-hour periods.
There is growing concern around extreme fasting diets like hers, as it’s easy to take the trend too far.
“Any extreme dieting regime in which calories are extremely restricted will work, if people can stick to it,” leading dietitian Susie Burrell tells 9Honey.
“My concern is that for some, this extreme approach can have long-term metabolic consequences.
“For this reason, if your goal is to lose significant amounts of weight using a more extreme approach, consult with an accredited practising dietitian to determine the best option for you in both the short and long term.”
It’s well known that restrictive diets can act as a gateway to disordered eating, with many sufferers of anorexia reporting their eating disorders began with highly restrictive diets.
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Going without food for days at a time can also lead to serious health issues, including hair loss and irregular or missed periods.
Intermittent fasting also doesn’t guarantee weight loss, as seriously restricting food for hours and days at a time can lead to overeating or bingeing on non-fasting days.
“If you are considering intermittent fasting, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. Skipping meals and severely limiting calories can be dangerous,” reads a Harvard Medical School article from 2019.
While intermittent fasting and other diets can help with weight loss, it’s important to discuss your plans with a healthcare professional before embarking on any seriously restrictive diet.
If you, or someone you know needs support relating to eating disorders, please call The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673. In an emergency, call 000.