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Weighing the Consequences: Why Crash Diets are Unhealthy
Bianca Dualan
Published on

Imagine this: You're attending a wedding in a few weeks, and you still don't have that body you promised you'd achieve when you bought a dress. You suddenly remember your ex is invited too, so you scour the Internet for a quick fix to your gargantuan problem. Anything to help shed a few pounds, you think to yourself. Then comes this "safe" crash diet program promising you abs in ten days.

The menu looks something like half a grapefruit, a can of tuna, a pack of crackers, and egg whites. It seems doable, so you hit the nearest grocery store and make a beeline for the checkout counter, eager to start your dietary conquest. You survive day one with just a bit of nausea, but by the second half of day two, you realize you can't make it out alive without crying or snapping at somebody. By day three, the emotional rollercoaster starts, and finally, you binge and feel worse than when you started.

We've all been through this, and it always ends the same for most of us.

The pertinent question is: are crash diets worth it? The answer is no. Crash diets can harm you by causing hormonal imbalance and metabolic stress, among other things. It may help you lose weight initially (if you manage to stick with it), but that weight loss is rarely sustainable. This decrease in weight is only due to water loss and sudden starvation, where your body is forced to use up stored nutrients (read: your body is eating up your own fats and muscles!). Once you start eating normally again without a change in eating behaviour, you are bound to gain all the weight back. This starts weight cycling or "yo-yo" dieting, where the person loses and regains weight repeatedly. This then trains the body to be more efficient at storing fat, which makes it more difficult to lose with each attempt. Think about it this way: your body thinks there's famine, so it holds on dearly to fat because it isn't sure when food will come by again.

However, in changing one's eating behaviour and choosing healthier alternatives, the individual is less likely to gain the weight back. Food choices tend to veer away from calorie-rich items; insulin levels are in check, and there are less food cravings. With a commitment to eat healthier by consuming a more balanced, moderate, and varied diet, there is a higher chance of keeping the pounds at bay and more importantly, the individual avoids lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

So what do you do when the date is nearing and you still can't fit into your dress? It all boils down to eating less than your energy expenditure. You can squeeze in a quick jog and decrease your caloric intake gradually. This does not necessarily equate to starving yourself. You can start by carefully choosing healthier snacks that taste or feel similar to the items you would normally consume. Instead of having a slice of cheesecake, grab a cup of greek yogurt and add a bit of honey or pineapple preserves. You can have quinoa instead of white rice. Swap chips for nuts.

Incorporating these tricks into your day can help you lose weight because you don't feel deprived or hungry. The trick is to try and go for higher-quality food in a well-balanced diet because this is the key to regulated weight, and achieving optimum health.

How do you maintain a healthy weight? Share us your answers by commenting here or tagging us on Facebook or Instagram @iamclaireph!