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Why does losing weight stink?

June 28, 2017

Why would losing weight stink? I’m not talking in a figurative way, although many people have pointed to a lot of reasons why losing weight stinks. It’s most notably because one needs to eat less and exercise more and everything that goes with making those behavioral changes.


I’m talking in the most literal sense of “stink” as why would people losing weight smell bad. The stink of weight loss can both be bad smells of the body and bad smells coming out of the body in the form of bad breath and gas. Some people losing weight both smell bad and emit bad smells.

The rise in popularity of low carb diets, such as Stinky Atkins, Paleo, and South Beach, are mostly responsible for turning weight loss into a smelly proposition. The more your diet restricts carbs, the greater the potential it has to make you stink. South Beach, for example, restricts carbs to a lesser degree than Atkins making potentially better-smelling dieters.

Prehistoric man had more pressing matters to worry about than offensive odor.

Prehistoric man had more pressing matters to worry about than offensive odor.

When you make a drastic reduction in the amount of carbs you’re eating, your body goes into the semi-starvation state of ketosis. Ketosis is fat metabolized to provide fuel that your brain needs to survive. Normally the fuel comes from carbs in foods. Smelly ketones that are the byproduct of this process are released by your body in your breath, urine and sweat.

Typically we brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash to cure bad breath woes. The problem with halitosis with its root coming from ketosis rather than poor oral hygiene, is it can’t be removed or even disguised with the regular fixes for bad breath. The smell isn’t coming from your mouth, it’s coming from deep in your body and coming out of your mouth.

Brush and floss all you want but it won't get rid of ketosis halitosis.

Brush and floss all you want but it won’t get rid of ketosis halitosis.

The fix for bad breath due to a low carb diet, is to adjust your diet to increase the carbs. The other benefit to putting more quality carbs, specifically fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, back into your diet is satisfaction. It makes your brain happier too because carbs are its preferred source of energy.

Cutting back a bit on protein, especially fatty protein, such as red meat, and increasing quality carbs ensures that the calorie deficit necessary to lose weight isn’t lost. All that will be lost is stinky breath, stinky body odor, and of course, body weight.

If you’re totally dedicated to stick to your low carb diet and you want your breath to be less offensive to those nearby, these strategies can help:

  • Drink more water. Drink lots and lots of water to dilute the concentration of keytones. This also help with foul-smelling urine and sweat.

  • Chew sugarless gum. This is not a fix as much as it helps mask the odor.

  • Suck on sugarless mints. In particular, those that contain Xylitol also kill bacteria and can prevent cavities and cover the ketosis stink with the more pleasant odor of mint.

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Very low calorie diets (VLCD) are another cause of bad breath. The stink is more like something died and is rotting deep inside you. Fasting or skipping meals as a calorie-reduction strategy slows the flow of saliva. Saliva washes away bacteria and debris from the tongue and mouth. The trapped bacteria causes bad breath. Drinking more water and brushing teeth and tongue can help.

The deep, down “something is rotting” stink on the breath is often digestive juices in the stomach that are produced and without food to digest these acidic juices begin to break down and emit the foul smell.

VCLD, eating fewer than an average of 800 calories a day should never be attempted without a physician’s care and supervision. Even if you’re not following a VCLD, skipping meals or going long periods of time without eating causes bad breath. It’s better to eat smaller meals more frequently to avoid killer breath.

Changing habits to enable weight loss might figuratively stink – as in be difficult and no fun. If you approach it with the goal of making them a good fit with your life, they may only be temporarily uncomfortable. Eventually they become routine, something you do without even thinking about it, and natural. Changing how you eat can make you smell bad, but that too is preventable or at least minimized.

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