An extreme or crash diet is characterised by a drastic reduction in the number of calories consumed daily. Although sometimes this can lead to extreme weight loss, it can also have serious health consequences, such as slow metabolism, nutritional deficiencies and psychological problems.
An overwhelming majority of people on the west — are on some type of diet. And according to Wellsphere, the statistics show that only 5 percent of people who lose weight on a crash diet will actually keep the weight off.
With a significant reduction in the number of calories ingested, our body becomes alarmed: will I run out of food? So it begins to change its mode of operation, slowing down the metabolism in the hope of keeping fat reserves that are important for survival. Once the crash diet is over and you return to a normal diet, the body will continue to operate in economy mode. So even if you don’t overeat, because of your slow metabolism, some foods will turn into fat cells.
This article offers you an insight as to why crash diets don’t work and how they can negatively impact you long-term.
Extreme weight loss and nutritional deficiencies
A very low-calorie diet is necessarily accompanied by a restriction in one or more food categories: fat, carbohydrates or protein. In the long term, this dietary restriction will most likely lead to nutritional deficiencies in macro or micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements). As a result, the body can no longer function optimally and is overexposed to health risks that must be taken very seriously.
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It is not possible to continue for long on super low carb or low fat diets. We know this, yet we continue to try one after another because we desire the QUICK fix.
Basics – People who adopt crash diets normally cut down their calorie intake and as a result, the body is starved of the vital nutrients and in most cases, you only end up losing water weight – If you lose a lot of weight quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shedding fat.
So after a few weeks into your extremely painful diet, you have lost a few pounds and you’re ready for the special occasion you’ve been killing yourself for… so what happens next? You know what happens.
The moment you eat a slice of cake or tiny serving of ice cream, you gain 5 pounds. Your lost weight is back and it’s on roaring rampage of revenge. You deprived your body and as a result, you will end up being in the vicious cycle of dieting and bingeing with absolutely no results.
Craving and Crashes
If your previous meals were full of carbohydrates, a healthy (normal) pancreas will release a lot of insulin. Respectively, if you consume a low carb meal, that insulin finds no sugars to store; except the glucose in your blood that is meant to feed your cells.
As a result, the insulin removes this glucose from your blood, giving you low blood sugar – aka “the crash”. The brain then interprets this low blood sugar as an emergency and starts screaming, “I’m starving yo! So feed me now!” It is at this point the flood gates open and we experience an overwhelming powerful craving for sugar and carbs! Try and stop this freight train with a green leafy salad. Ya, that’s not going to happen.
Insulin response is always dependent on your own physiology, so please be mindful of your health history.
Increase Cholesterol Levels
When extreme diets are based on the consumption of meat and protein, the risk of suffering from problems due to high cholesterol levels in the blood is increased. This is why many patients end up having problems with joint pain.
Even though the body has the ability to digest protein, too much of it can overload its functions. One of the consequences is an increase in blood lipids, which increases the risk of serious cardiovascular disease.
All Out of Whack
In the course of crash dieting, for rapid weight loss, major food groups and micronutrients are excluded. Healthy fats are deemed as the enemy and carbs no longer exist. As a result, nutritional deficiencies are bound to set in. This has the potential to lower your immunity and make you susceptible to various illnesses, cause exhaustion and can wreak havoc on your sleep.
Eating too few calories can also take a toll on your digestion. Your gut relies heavily on nutrients, like fiber, in order to work properly. So by cutting out essential foods you are completely throwing your system off and can experience issues like constipation or severe bloating. This will then cause a ripple effect onto many other processes like your energy levels and physical appearance (skin).
Affects Menstrual Cycle
For women, it is no secret that during certain periods of the menstrual cycle the urge to eat certain foods is stronger. While sometimes you may not feel hungry at all. Scientists have researched the physiology of women who practice figure skating, during a strict diet their cycle suffers certain changes and then it disappears completely.
After returning to a normal diet, menstruation returned to normal after one year. Obviously, for the body, these changes in the natural cycle are not healthy, especially for conceiving a child.
Loss of Muscle
Prolonged sustenance on crash dieting will make you lose muscle mass. Why? Because you’re in a malnourished state and in order to build or even sustain muscle, your body requires a sufficient amount of nutrients daily. You would just end up looking a shrunken version of yourself rather than being fit and healthy by losing weight slowly and steadily. Not to mention, you are putting your bones at risk. Eating too few calories can make your bones more frail and less dense.
Fatigue and Mood Changes
Say goodbye to your family and friends because no one wants to be around you when you’re dieting. You are a walking zombie, you’re irritable and “hangry” all the time. I don’t know anyone who is a happy camper when they’re completely deprived of food.
Affect your immune system
A sudden change in diet and the restriction of essential nutritional foods can significantly affect immune health. Often, those who undergo extreme diets are more prone to infections and diseases.
When the body is not physically prepared, it uses up its natural antibiotics to replace the minerals it is not receiving. This weakens our defences and antigens can attack tissues without difficulty.
When you experience such extreme changes and fluctuations in your diet (and your waistline), your body has to adapt and change itself to keep up with your new eating pattern. For example, when you’re too restrictive with your calories, enter starvation mode. This essentially means that your metabolism slows in an effort to conserve as much energy as possible when you’re not properly fueling it with nutrients. The problem is that when go back to your normal eating pattern, your metabolism isn’t necessarily going to bounce right back with you! This in turn leads to weight gain equal to, or more than what you lost in the first place.
Read also: Simple Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
Many chemicals are found in the bloodstream that regulate vital functions of our bodies. These chemicals are known as electrolytes. Any imbalance to the proportion of these electrolytes could be potentially dangerous and may cause conditions such as irregular heartbeats, seizures, blood pressure, confusion and nervous system breakdown. Crash diet can cause an electrolyte imbalance and thereby cause health risk.
One size does NOT fit all
The 500-calorie diet is not meant for you. It is absolutely absurd to cut your calories to that extreme unless you are severely obese or overweight and you are under the supervision of a qualified physician. Any low-calorie diets that you find in a magazine or online should be forced to have this disclaimer: “This cookie cutter plan does not consider your healthy history or any health conditions you may currently have and will likely put you at risk for some serious health issues. Oh and be prepared to gain all of your weight back, plus more.”
So What You Should Do?
Cleanse your mind and vocabulary of the word “diet”
Sustainable progress comes from making better choices on a daily basis, not a 2-week diet (aka lifestyle changes). Be kind to yourself and clear your mind of all negative thoughts about your body. Stop comparing yourself to your genetically-gifted girlfriend or what you think you should look like. And embrace the fact your body needs time for healthy and permanent changes.
Reboot your body and metabolism by slowly implementing whole sources of complex carbs and healthy fats. These foods are not the enemy and should not be associated with bad results. Weight gain can be attributed from a combination of poor dietary choices like refined carbs and unhealthy fats, poor sleep, dehydration, stress, hormones, etc. To ease you into this process, you can incorporate simple fat loss methods like Carb Cycling and Intermittent Fasting.
Reprogram your routine with zero extreme habits; starting with your workouts.
Don’t get crazy here – maybe 2 to 3 training days per week and allow yourself some much needed recovery time in between. Re-feed intuitively by eating slowly and appreciating the nutrients that come from your food. I’d also recommend keeping track of your food consumption so that you are fully aware of how you are fueling your body and how certain foods make you feel. The accountability will help keep you on track with your goals.
All the above does not mean that dieting for weight loss is not recommended, but extreme weight loss in a short period of time is not good for your health. Restrictions should be reasonable, taking into account the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
With all this in mind, making slow and steady changes will be your best bet for achieving PERMANENT results. Focus on your daily habits and not an arbitrary # of calories. It’s imperative that you fuel sufficiently in order to support your bodies daily functions and to perform in an optimal state. This new lifestyle will requires PATIENCE because this will NOT be an overnight fix. Hell, it may even take 6 months just to get your metabolism back up in full gear.