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Crash Dieting

I am always confronted by many interesting queries from my new clients regarding various health and fitness related topics. When I find the question to be of out most importance, I write about it in my blog, as that would likely clear the air as many would have misconstrued either the fact or the fallacy they would have come across. I am here inclined to write about crash diets, for I was asked about it by a confused client of mine. Apparently, she was told by a gym trainer from a reputed gym to go ahead and crash diet, for that was the only way to lose weight. Frankly speaking, I didn’t know how to answer her, for I had never ever bothered to prescribe a crash diet to any individual; I still don’t ask anyone to crash diet. In addition, International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), from where I am certified as a fitness trainer, speaks about crash diets as damaging, for that was one of the primary reasons I never cared to read about that topic. But I started reading about crash diets, as many still believe these dieting methods to be the best to lose fat; I thereby want to debunk the myth encompassing the fallacy about crash diets as many think it to be the be all and end all solution to weight loss.

Before dwelling on the reasons as to why you should not practice these unrealistic kinds of diet solutions, let’s see what a crash diet is. Wikepedia, the free encyclopaedia, states, “It is a diet which is extreme in its nutritional deprivations, typically severely restricting calorie intake. It is meant to achieve rapid weight loss and may differ from outright starvation only slightly. They are not meant to last long periods of time, at most few weeks. Importantly, the term specifically implies a lack of concern for proper nutrition. Now contrary to the belief of many who start this diet, this form of dieting is neither healthy nor successful in achieving weight loss. While some weight might be lost, this weight is usually gained back very quickly in the weeks that follow this diet.”

What are the reasons which undo a crash diet?

Harder to lose fat: When you crash diet, your body goes into starvation mode and helps to store more fat by burning more muscle. As our muscles burn calories fat is stored easily, for lack of muscle makes it hard to lose fat. Please note the importance of carrying more muscle; the more muscle you have the more calories you burn 24/7. When you build muscle resulting in more calories burnt, you shed more fat.
Lowered metabolism: Along with loss of muscle, the lack of calories in your diet results in a lowered metabolism. A better approach towards fat loss would be to not cut calories drastically, but to be physically active.

Gall stones: Crashed diet has been linked to the development of gallstones. When the body is deprived of nutrients bile secretion reduces resulting in the production of more cholesterol which helps in the production of gall stones.

Psychological effect: Crash diets are extremely hard on your mental well being and emotional health. A crash diet cause extreme food cravings and also affects your mood badly, for we may feel more irritable or depressed than usual when you are on a crash diet. Crash diets can cause serious health disorders like anorexia (a prolonged disorder of eating due to loss of appetite) and bulimia (abnormally voracious appetite or unnaturally constant hunger).

Harm vital organs: Crash diets are extremely dangerous for your vital organs, including your heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. In order to perform daily functions, your vital organs rely on energy from your carbohydrate intake and as carbohydrates are usually restricted in crash diets energy levels are low and as a result these vital organs cannot perform optimally without the required energy.

Osteoporosis: Long term crash dieters are prone to suffer from osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become brittle in the body. Crash diets deprive the body with adequate amount of calcium leaving the bones fragile. Crash dieters suffer broken bones, particularly hips and wrists, as a result of their osteoporosis.

Hair loss: Long term crash dieting can result in hair loss. Due to lack of vitamins and minerals in a crash diet, your hair can become brittle and fall out. Food is rich in vitamins and minerals, and when you keep them away from your body; it affects your hair, nails, and even the color of your skin.

We see from the above explanation that crash dieting is never advisable, for we deprive our bodies of essential nutrients. My personal experience tells me that cutting down way too many calories would not help; rather a daily dose of dedicated exercise is the preferred way to get fit, healthy, and lose unwanted fat. For I have seen that any kind of dieting strategies need great deal of discipline from us to sustain the results. Importantly, when it comes to diet what we need is sensible eating. It means a definite no to junk food, soft drinks, sweets, bakery products, chocolates, and last but not the least processed food. Eating whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, a variety of vegetables and fruits would not only supply us carbohydrates but many essential vitamins and minerals. Protein like fish, chicken, sprouts, whey, and skim milk are very important to build and maintain muscle and for cellular building and repair. Protein deficiency can lead to various health maladies such as: mental retardation, failure to grow, diarrhea, flaky skin, fatty liver, etc. Eating a well balanced diet containing adequate amount of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals doesn’t throw in any room for malnutrition thereby avoiding all the above mentioned health maladies.

PS: A processed form of brown rice is white rice. Processed wheat is Maida. The much hyped oats are also processed, for raw oats consume more than half an hour to cook; whereas, regular oats which we buy from food stores hardly takes few minutes to cook. Corn flakes should also be avoided.

17 thoughts on “Crash Dieting

  1. coach,

    Can you give an example of a crash diet. How much calorie deficit should one have in order to sustain fat loss.

  2. An example of crash dieting goes like this:

    Day one: Only fruits.
    Day two: Only vegetables.
    Day three: fruits and vegetables.
    Day four: Eat bananas, as on day one and day three bananas are not eaten.
    Day four: Eat proteins like chicken or fish all day.
    Day five: Eat proteins with veggies.
    Day six: Brown rice, fruit juice, and vegetables.

    Regarding your second question, deficit should be in the means of intense workouts and slight reduction in calories. But only the individual should make out what type of calories he/she should reduce. For example, I can tolerate eating more carbs, but very less fat and moderate protein.

  3. Hi Vishwa, Currently am training for 10K Marathon, and my coach at Nike Run Club told me to eat less carbohydrates and more of proteins and a balanced meal. The reason he gave was we must train our body to burn more fat while running, rather than burning carbohydrates, which will be filled up again if we eat more carbohydrates, and scope for burning fat reduces.

    Currently my breakfast is either cornflakes or Museli… is that good, whats your suggestion of ideal breakfast. I used to feast on rice… as i had this misconception of carbloading 🙂

  4. Hi Vishwa,

    Thank you so much. Now i will be able to defend on this basis, to the people who have misled.

  5. What i don’t understood is actually how you’re no longer
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    Your personal stuffs outstanding. Always handle it

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