The Problem with Crash Diets
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The Problem with Crash Diets

Crash diets are commonly used by people to help them achieve quick weight loss; this weight loss is however not sustainable and the diets might be detrimental to general health.

There are a number of popular crash diet plans available on the Internet for those who are looking to lose a large amount of weight quickly. The diets are usually very strict and restrictive, promising dramatic results in a short period of time. It is argued that whilst crash diets might aid weight loss in the short term, they are not a long-term solution to weight loss. Here we will discuss what crash diets are, we will describe some popular options and go into detail regarding why it is not generally a good idea to follow a crash diet.

What are Crash Diets?

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The term ‘crash diet’ refers to diet plans that are designed to help the users to lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. These diets typically involve reducing a person’s calorie intake drastically and many also involve cutting out whole food groups. Some people undergo crash diets when they are trying to lose lots of weight for an event or an occasion (such as a holiday or a wedding) and they can result in the loss of pounds in the short-term.

Examples of Popular Crash Diets

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A number of crash diets have gained lots of attention in the media because they can induce noticeable weight loss in a short period of time. Some have been around for decades, whilst others have only recently come to light. All of these diets involve dramatically reducing your calorie intake and most also involve removing certain food groups (sometimes to the point of only consuming one food group) from the diet. The diets are very strict and regimented; users must be very motivated to stick to them for the duration, though this may be easier knowing that the plan will only last for a short time period. Some of the oldest of these diets are the grapefruit diet and the variations of the soup diet (i.e. the cabbage soup diet or the chicken soup diet).

The grapefruit diet is said to have been around since the 30s and should be followed for around 12 days. As the name suggests, this diet plan relies heavily on the consumption of grapefruit in all forms (as a whole fruit, a juice drink, or in pill form). Dieters are instructed to eat less than 800 calories a day, selecting only foods from a specific menu. The main foods that are allowed include meat, salads, leafy vegetables and, of course, grapefruit. The low-calorie diet is likely to induce weight loss alone, but the grapefruit addition is said to have fat-burning properties, though these have not been proven in clinical studies.

The Sacred Heart Diet is another diet that is designed to have quick effects. It is claimed that this diet was formulated by doctors at a particular hospital as a way of helping heart patients lose a considerable amount of weight before undergoing surgery; these is no evidence of the origin of this diet. This is a seven-day diet plan that involves specific meals for every day. It involves the consumption of a specific vegetable soup recipe every day, as well as some fruit and vegetables. Days five and six are the only days that meat is allowed (a specific portion of beef).

More recently developed is the ‘juice fast’ diet. The juice fast diet is based on the phenomenon of ‘juicing’ – a form of diet that involves consuming the juices of different fruits and vegetables as a drink. Those who use juicing as a method of weight loss will typically consume a juice drink in replacement of one meal a day; the juice fast diet however, involves eating and drinking nothing but fruit juices and water for a period of seven or eight days. Proponents claims that juice is a form of digestible, nutritious food; others however argue that this is a very unhealthy form of weight loss since it completely cuts out a number of important food groups.

Why are Crash Diets not recommended?

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There are a whole host of reasons pertaining to why crash diets are not recommended and the specifics will depend on the exact diet that an individual is thinking of trying. Drastically reducing your calorie intake to a fraction of the recommended daily allowance is a general rule for crash diets and is not good for the body; it can have health risks and depending on the diet that you are following, could be dangerous.

These claims are not unfounded. A significant amount of scientific research has been undertaken on the notion of crash dieting, and studies have shown that crash dieting is not healthy or effective. Very-low-calorie diets and those that involve fasting have also been shown in clinical trials to result in an increased risk of developing health conditions such as diabetes. Alopecia (hair loss) has also been reported as a common side effect of crash dieting.

Perhaps most common of all crash dieting side effects is fatigue. Not eating enough is likely to result in a lack of energy that can make you feel drained and generally unwell. Depending on the diet that you are following, crash diets can also result in nutrient deficiencies; those that restrict dieters to one or two food groups can prevent users from getting the nutrients that their body requires to function properly. Nutrient deficiencies will cause their own side effects, ranging from headaches to shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

The weight that you lose during a crash diet is also not going to be sustainable. Whilst you might see a reduction in the numbers on the bathroom scales once you have finished the crash diet, it is highly likely that you will regain the weight that you lost in time and commonly, crash dieters will end up weighing more than they did before they began the crash diet course. This is because when you restrict your calorie intake so dramatically, your body goes into a state of shock and the brain tells it that there must not be enough food to go around. Fasting might also cause the body to lose muscle mass, not just fat mass, which can slow down your metabolism, making it easier to regain weight in the future.

Crash diets also rarely teach the dieter the importance of a healthy, balanced, portion-controlled diet. You cannot live off one or two food groups for the rest of your life and when you come off a crash diet, it is important that you think carefully about your food choices. We will go into more detail on how to diet healthily later in this article.

Moreover, crash diets can be detrimental to mental health, causing psychological as well as physical side effects. One study reported a sample of 10 patients who had undergone rapid weight reduction; it was found that nine out of these 10 patients had psychotic disturbances as a result of their crash dieting. Chronic dieting in adults has been linked to a number of psychological symptoms, including irritability, fatigue and distractibility.

Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss

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There are a large number of diet plans available that have been designed to offer consumers healthy, long-term weight loss. These all differ in their rules and methods of controlling portions and/or calorie intake, but there really is something available for everybody. The ‘safe rate’ for weight loss is thought to be between one to two pounds a week.

For a roundup of some of the most popular diet plans available at the moment, read the NHS guide. The NHS also offers its own weight loss plan that can be tailored to suit the individual.

As a general rule to weight loss, you should eat less and exercise more. Making small changes to your diet, such as substituting unhealthy foods for more fruit and vegetables, can have a significantly beneficial impact on your weight and overall health. It is important that you eat regularly, get plenty of sleep, and drink plenty of water. Reducing portion sizes is also useful, but it is not recommended that you cut out whole food groups.

Lastly, it is very important that you undergo regular exercise alongside your healthy, balanced diet. Whilst higher intensity exercise is going to help to boost weight loss more than short bursts of low-intensity activity, even small changes to your lifestyle can have a significant impact in the long run. Scientific studies have proven that people who walk for 30 minutes a day alongside a reduced-calorie diet can lose significantly more weight than those who are following the same diet plan, but do not undergo the exercise.

Conclusion

Thanks to an array of scientific studies on the topic, it is well understood that crash dieting is not beneficial for body weight or general health in the long run. Although very-low-calorie diets can cause weight loss in the short term, these diets can be dangerous, often cutting out key food groups that your body requires for general maintenance. Following a crash diet, the dieter is highly likely to regain the weight that they lost, and they may even put more on. Crash dieters can suffer from psychological symptoms too, and are not likely to gain any nutritional education from the fad diets. If you plan to lose weight quickly, it is recommended that you consult a doctor first and let them help you to formulate a weight loss plan.

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