Complications of extreme weight loss in thru-hiking of long distance trails
Weight loss is a familiar term for thru-hikers. Most of the thru-hikers are lighter when they cross the finish line and some are substantially lighter.
It is not all good to lose weight even if you are overweight. There will be some complications if hikers lose too much or too fast weight along their journey. It is almost inevitable for amateur thru-hikers not to lose weight in major trails but they should be aware about hidden dangers of losing too much weight.
Average hiker weighs about 170 pounds at the start of a trail. He or she can lose about two pounds a week on trail and by the end of tenth week he has lost around twenty pounds.
At this stage many hikers may feel healthier in their new weight class and do not try to stop or slow down their weight loss. Their cloth seems a bit loser and their belt has been tighter one or two hole which does not feel bad.
The speed of weight loss slows down in most cases when the body of the thru-hiker starts to adapt to the new environment, situation and lifestyle but in some cases the adaptation does not happen fast enough and other measures should be considered to stop or at least slow down the weight loss process.
When our average hiker reaches to 145 or less then new unexpected things happen that are not all pleasant.
By losing too much weight body starts to shrink from almost everywhere including the cushion of your feet and now with less natural cushion to protect your weight, blisters starts to appear in places that has never been experienced before . Sometimes these new blisters are an addition to prior blisters. Blisters are not good items to collect, we all know that.
Losing fat cushion of the whole upper and lower back is another source of problem. The backpack starts to hurt in places that are not expected to hurt and sitting on rocks for a period of time does not feel good as before if not hurt.
Add this loss of general cushion of body to the loss of cushion of the sleeping pad due to natural course then you have some unpleasant nights toward the end of the trail. In areas like hip crest, shoulders, knees and elbows he may start to fill friction pain and discomfort.
More experience hikers need to pay attention here, any denture starts to lose its grip in extreme weight loss and with hard-food diet of thru-hikers ulcers can happen quickly in their gums and mouth which is not picnic also.
By reaching to 130 pounds our average hiker is not an average hiker anymore and even the hat feels lose and every breeze may take his hat off if not fixed to head by some measures.
By this stage our ex-average now small hiker has no more fat anywhere in the body to lose and he is losing weight at the expense of his muscles.
The muscles are not supposed to be lost but they do. Muscles are not at the top of the food chain in the body when extreme conditions happen.
Our small hiker has some new issues with his stamina by this new weight. He has lost some steam by now and he does not feel healthy anymore.
Mood swings and emotional breakdowns happen more frequently due to extensive hormonal changes that follows extreme weight loss.
It is time to break the vicious cycle of weight loss of our hiker or he is not going to make to the end.
Measures to stop losing too much weight might be changing the food and bringing more variety if possible, slowing down the pace of hiking to appropriate level, walking in cooler hours of the days knowing that sun is not an appetizer and in some cases stopping for couple of days to give the body the chance to rehabilitate itself.
Finishing any major trail is excellent achievement regardless of extent of weight loss but finishing it in a healthy state is much more commendable and splendid.