At last week's Met Gala 2022, Kim Kardashian boasted that she had lost about 7 kilograms (16 pounds) in just three weeks in order to slip into the historic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe during her famous "Happy Birthday Mr. President" serenade of John F. Kennedy in 1962. But these revelations did not win her the public's approval, and for good reason... Losing so much weight in such a short time poses risks, as Claire Desvaux, French dietician and naturopath, explains.
Is it healthy to lose so much weight in such a short time period?
The answer is obviously a big no. Cases of such extreme weight loss are generally achieved under conditions of severe food restriction, and probably also through taking laxatives and/or high dose diuretics, an increase in sweating (for instance like the star who said she used a sauna suit), intense physical training, or taking active ingredients known to burn fat...
Indeed, Kim Kardashian outlined that she followed a strict diet, without any carbohydrates or sugar, to achieve her goal. Is it possible to do that, is it feasible, without risking being deficient in important nutrients?
If a person follows this type of very strict diet for a very short period of time, there may be no consequences, as long as they don't have any health problems or eating disorders, are not pregnant or growing. But that would entail doing it under the strict supervision of a nutrition professional and taking supplements to make up for potential deficiencies.
Without such supervision, what consequences could such a strict diet have in the short and long term?
First of all, regaining the weight nearly as quickly as the weight loss itself. It is generally estimated that, to stabilize your weight after very rapid weight loss, you need one month per kilo lost, to give your body time to regulate itself. Such extreme restrictions, as I pointed out earlier, can lead to eating disorders, anorexia and/or bulimia, which can lead to a vicious circle with serious physical and psychological consequences. This diet can also result in deficiencies in essential nutrients, such as minerals, vitamins, enzymes, fibers and proteins. Not consuming carbohydrates also means depriving yourself of a source of energy, which can result in a drop in vitality. It is also important to make sure that the weight loss concerns what is referred to as fat mass and not muscles.
Social networks seem to promote certain images of thin body types to the extreme, having a dramatic impact on some followers. Have you witnessed this type of phenomenon in any of your patients?
Some women, particularly younger ones, are obviously very influenced by what they see on social networks, in the media, on the catwalks... People with low self-esteem and lack of confidence are most affected. They think that they will be better if they conform to these 'standards' -- which are not standards or norms at all and which do not correspond to them at all. As summer approaches, these decrees to be thin become even more blatant because the objective is to attain the famous 'summer body' in order to feel good in a bathing suit and in summer clothes. And indeed, it is not necessarily people who are really overweight who are the most eager to lose weight. Such attitudes reflect a deep malaise and a kind of self-loathing that is very unhealthy and painful.
Kim Kardashian also shared images from her post-gala feasting in which she indulged in pizza and donuts. What kinds of consequences can alternating between severe dietary restrictions and excesses have?
It can totally disrupt one's metabolism. The body, when it has experienced a period of restriction, will then remember this lack, and by survival reflex, store more than is necessary of what gets ingested later, in anticipation of a new deprivation. Regaining weight is therefore inevitable, as well as a kind of resistance to weight loss afterwards. Moreover, given that the diet followed by Kim Kardashian was very low in carbohydrates, this sudden and massive intake of starchy foods like pizza and donuts may disturb pancreatic function and therefore blood sugar levels. At a less serious level, consequences may also be observed on the digestive level. The stomach, which has most likely shrunk during the diet period, will have difficulty accepting larger quantities of food in the first few days.
What advice would you give to young people who try to look like these star influencers even to the point of starving themselves?
To learn to accept themselves as they are, to treat themselves with kindness and respect. Because starving yourself in this way is mistreating your body! It's also fooling yourself into thinking that you feel better, more beautiful or attractive by being thinner. I would also tell them that there is absolutely nothing natural about the figures of certain stars or public personalities, that they were obtained at the price of -- very -- great deprivation or through plastic surgery. That these women fight against their deepest nature to display such measurements, that they deprive themselves and must experience great frustration.
Isn't a 'good' diet ultimately one that is adapted to that individual?
Yes, we are all different, we have our own particular metabolism, height, weight, appetite, digestive system, temperament, and experience. What suits one person may not be 100% suitable for another. It is therefore important to know yourself, to know how you function, in order to adapt your diet to your needs, tastes, activities and lifestyle.
This interview has been translated from French.