Crash dieting has always lured people with promises of rapid weight loss. But recently, participation in the health version of get-rich-quick schemes has taken on epidemic proportions. Media images of too-thin models, accelerated weight gain, and an obsession with instant gratification have all contributed to an increase in crash dieting.
Though crash dieting sounds good in theory, it can wreak havoc on even the best-laid weight-loss plans. Here are three ways you’ll find yourself fighting the battle of the bulge, despite crash dieting:
1. Eating Too Few Calories Slows Your Metabolism
Your body is an amazingly adaptive machine. If it doesn’t get enough calories, even for a short period of time, it will go into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism down. This brings weight loss to a halt. When you start eating normally again, you will gain more fat than you lost, and you could even damage your metabolism permanently.
2. You Will Lose Muscle, Not Fat
Rapid weight loss will likely cause you to lose more muscle than fat. Muscle burns calories, so the less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. Muscle looks good on your body and takes up less space, so even after your initial weight loss (of muscle), you won’t be satisfied with how your body looks because that top fat layer will still be hanging around.
3. It Messes with Your Brain
Crash dieting can also affect your brain. If you’re not getting proper nutrients, you will eventually have uncontrollable cravings for unhealthy food, and this will lead to bad habits, which are difficult to break. The mental battle against gaining weight will be much more difficult than resisting the temptation to try a crash diet in the first place.
In addition to making you gain weight, rather than losing it, crash diets can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies, cause dehydration, and put you on a slippery slope toward eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. But there are healthy practices you can incorporate into your weight-loss plan that will accelerate the process of dropping fatty pounds.
Any long-term plan with fewer than 1,000-1,200 calories daily for women, or less than 1,600-1,800 for men, falls into the crash diet category. However, there is validity to eating a low-calorie diet in a cycle. You can lower your caloric intake one day, as long as you eat normally the next. This keeps your metabolism from slowing down, maintains lean muscle, alleviates the danger of not getting enough nutrients, and can scale back cravings.
Another healthy method of accelerating weight loss is intermittent fasting, which has received a lot of attention lately. The best, and most realistic, way to do this is to not eat during a 16-hour window for 6 days a week. For example, don’t eat after dinner (let’s say 7:00 p.m.), and don’t have your first meal the next day until 11:00 a.m. This helps balance hormones, has a beneficial effect on the hormone adiponectin, and allows your digestive system to rest.
You can also simply adjust your diet and exercise plan. Cut out fast-burning carbs, including anything with pure sugar, bread, honey, agave, corn products and processed foods. Replace these with slower-burning carbs, like beans, oatmeal and vegetables. Replace bad fats, such as saturated fats, trans fats and omega-6 fats, with healthy fats like omega-3s, coconut fat and olive oil. Reduce your fruit intake as well. Switch out long cardio routines for high-intensity, short bursts of exercise, and add resistance exercises to your workout.
Even with these healthy options for speedier weight loss, there’s no way around the fact that you will have to work hard and be patient to reach your goals. Hold on to the promise of real success, and not the false promises of crash diets— your work will be well worth it.