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Experts on rapid weight loss as fitness influencer dies due to ‘mystery illness’ | Health


With 1.7 million Facebook followers and 6 lakh followers on Instagram, Adriana Thyssen from Brazil was a famous fitness influencer on social media who is best known for her fat-to-fit journey as she experienced a weight loss of 100 pounds in just over a year and often shared health and body transformation insights through videos posted online to motivate her fans in their weight loss journey. Also known online as “Drika”, Adriana also ran a plus-sized active wear and clothing label called “Drikas Store” apart from her health page where the fitness content was mostly inspired by her personal journey.

Experts caution tips on diet, rapid weight loss as health influencer Adriana Thyssen dies due to ‘mystery illness’ at 49 (Photo by Twitter/areavip)
Experts caution tips on diet, rapid weight loss as health influencer Adriana Thyssen dies due to ‘mystery illness’ at 49 (Photo by Twitter/areavip)

The influencer was found dead in her Minas Gerais apartment on September 17 and the cause of her death has been reported as a “mystery illness”. In one of her earlier posts, Adriana had shared on social media that she consumed fruits, salads, tea and juices as part of her diet where she created her own food plan without seeking advice from a dietitian.

In another post, she wrote, “I started the fight on 02/18/13, I weighed 107kg (236lbs), I wasn’t pregnant and I didn’t have bariatric surgery. I was unemployed and with my husband, I was in debt at the bank.” Adriana revealed that she tried countless diets and was “chronically addicted to amphetamines for 18 years”, which led her into depression and alcoholism.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, Bariatric and Laparoscopic Surgeon at Saifee, Namaha and Apollo Spectra Hospitals, shared, “Rapid weight loss, especially when done without proper medical supervision or through extreme methods, can lead to life-threatening health problems. It’s extremely important to be aware of these potential dangers and prioritise a safe, sustainable and medically supervised approach to weight management.” She cautioned that unsupervised rapid weight loss can lead to –

  • Cardiac Arrhythmias: Rapid weight loss can strain the heart, potentially leading to irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which can be life-threatening.
  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Severe caloric restriction and rapid weight loss can disrupt the balance of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) in the body, which is essential for normal heart and muscle function. Serious imbalances can lead to cardiac arrest.
  • Malnutrition: Extreme diets can result in severe malnutrition, which can weaken the immune system, loss of lean muscle mass, impair vital organ function, and may lead to organ failure.
  • Dehydration: Rapid weight loss often involves significant fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration which can in turn have serious consequences for kidney function and overall health.
  • Orthostatic Hypotension: Rapid weight loss may cause a drop in blood pressure when standing up (orthostatic hypotension), which can result in fainting and injuries from falls.
  • Mental Health Issues: Extreme diets and rapid weight loss can increase or trigger mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
  • Weakened Immune System: Nutrient deficiencies from rapid weight loss can weaken the immune system, leaving the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
  • Refeeding Syndrome: When individuals who have undergone rapid weight loss start eating again, they may experience refeeding syndrome, which can lead to severe electrolyte imbalances, cardiac issues, and even death if not managed properly.

She suggested, “It’s crucial to approach weight loss in a safe and sustainable manner, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals or registered dietitians/nutritionists who can provide personalised recommendations and monitor progress. Sustainable weight loss aims for gradual changes, focusing on overall health and well-being rather than quick fixes that can jeopardise life. Always prioritise your health and consult with a healthcare provider before getting on to any weight loss program.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Riya Desai, Senior Dietitian at Wockhardt Hospitals in Mumbai’s Mira Road, highlighted, “Fad Diets or Extremely Strict and Calorie Restricted Diet Regimens are not recommended for anyone unless prescribed by a certified clinical dietitian/nutritionist for a specified condition. These types of diets usually tend to give quick results when compared to the actual customised weight loss programs and hence grab the attention of the people. Loosing weight is a very emotional journey involving a lot of set backs, emotional disturbance, frustration and very little happy moments. Hence, people tend to believe what they read without any professional clinical guidance and end up with goofed up biochemical parameters.”

Asserting that weight loss affects all the parts of a human body involving all the organs both physically, physiologically and emotionally, the diet expert said, “It can range from feeling dizzy to not feeling yourself real quick. One cannot do or follow as they please. Such Fad Diets have detrimental health effects. Please always consult a certified clinical dietitian/nutritionist. Stable Weight loss with the correct Guidance involving a proper diet plan with exercises based on a complete lifestyle change will always weigh more even when compared to a gallon full of different Fad Diets.”

Reminding that consistency is the key, Riya Desai said, “Not eating anything cannot and will not lead to a healthy and most importantly stable weight loss. Eating the right kind of food in right amounts and at right timing will be the most beneficial way to go. While these Fad Diets show change in numbers, there is no assurance that it’s just the fat that is getting burned or whether they are even loosing a lot of muscles. Hence, a healthy weight loss regime includes a plate with 1/2 portion of fiber involving vegetables and salads, 1/4th quarter as protein involving dals, pulses, legumes, low fat milk products, eggs, chicken, fish,and 1/4th quarter as the carbohydrates that involves are major cereals and grains. Along with balancing the protein and carbohydrates intake, this plate also ensures that your micronutrient needs of vitamins and minerals is met, leading to enhanced immune status of the body and prevents nutritional deficiencies.”

She advised, “It is also important to keep portion control. Weight loss does involve calorie restriction but not like Fad Diets that includes complete caloric cutdown. Controlling portion size of the food is an important factor of a successful weight loss journey. Including small snacks or mid meals as we say is very helpful as it prevents one from hogging on to food after long gaps. Longer the gap, the hungrier you. One should always carry a box of nuts / bottle of buttermilk/ a fruit / protein bar with them so that there’s less fasting and feasting. Mindfulness is not widely known to the people but one can surely practice it on a daily basis. Mindful eating involves cutting down the disturbances while eating like watching TV or using Mobile phone or listening to songs or working as it distracts the brain during the digestive process. Chewing the food properly and giving yourself those 20 mins while having meals is an integral part of the journey.”

Following a food plate regime with portion control and including mid meals with a proper time based physical activity session can work wonders that stay as it is and does not have any bounce backs. Always remember, your plate has to be balanced for you to find the right balance of your weight!


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