Have you heard of, or even tried, any of these? The cabbage soup diet, the ice cream diet, the baby food diet, and even a cotton ball diet — and yes, it’s just what it sounds like, as well as an absolutely terrible idea.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You may want to lose weight, but crash diets are the wrong way to do it. Not only do they cause all sorts of health problems, but many people end up gaining weight after they quit the diet!
For most people, being overweight is the result of consuming more calories than needed to provide the body with energy. Hormones and medications can play a role, too. If you have made changes in eating and activity without seeing weight loss or muscle gain, I suggest having a blood test to check your hormone levels and talking with your physician about alternate medications without the hefty side effects.
But if you’re one of the millions of people who have simply gained a few pounds every year and are now ready to shed them, a crash diet won’t help. You didn’t gain 40 pounds overnight; you won’t lose them in a week.
Why Crash Diets Fail
Crash diets are very low-calorie eating plans structured around a gimmick, like avoiding all fats or only eating ice cream, for reasons that have weak or nonexistent scientific support. People lose water weight quickly on crash diets. But after the initial weight loss, you add back all of the weight lost and more. That’s known as yo-yo dieting, and it’s harmful.
Why are very low-calorie diets dangerous? For one thing, they can cause an imbalance in levels of your body’s electrolytes. When electrolytes, like potassium and sodium, are unbalanced, you may develop muscle weakness, seizures, or other complications. Other problems with crash dieting include:
- Slower metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight
- Weakened immune system
- Heart palpitations and stress on the heart
- Weakened muscles, making it harder to engage in fat-burning exercise and physical activity
Here’s the bottom line: Very low-calorie diets are not safe. The only way a highly restrictive, low-calorie diet can succeed without harming your health is under direct medical supervision.
Healthy Weight Loss
What are the keys to losing weight and keeping it off? A healthy lifestyle is your best bet! These three steps are essential to getting to your ideal weight and staying there.
Balance Your Microbiome
Your microbiome is the mini-ecological system of the microbes that live in your body. There are more microbes living on us than there are individual cells of our own bodies. These microbes can help or hurt to maintain our bodies in a state of wellness.
Researchers studying the microbiome now believe that disruptions in its delicate balance may play an important role in the obesity epidemic. How does the microbiome become unbalanced? Antibiotics are one of the foremost culprits. That’s because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, leading to the growth of microbes with unwanted health effects. One recent study, for example, confirmed earlier research showing a link between one particular type of internal microbe and excess weight.
Fortunately, probiotic supplements can help restore the friendly bacteria that are so important to your health. Look for a product that includes different strains of bacteria and provides at least 10 billion live organisms per dose.
In the simplistic world of crash diets, one food group, like carbohydrates, may be eliminated because it is “responsible” for packing on pounds. As a physician who has studied nutrition extensively, I can tell you that good health requires balanced intake of all three macronutrient groups: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Avoiding any one of those is like trying to drive a car with three wheels — good luck with that!
Instead of avoiding one of the much-needed major food groups, I often recommend my patients jump-start their weight loss programs by avoiding sugar. This may not be as easy as it sounds, since various forms of sugar are in just about every processed, prepared food available, not just sweet food but also salad dressing, pasta sauces, and energy drinks! But even if you start by eliminating the most obvious sugar sources — sodas, desserts, and sugary snacks — you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
If you think of weight loss only in terms of food, you’re missing out. Exercise is an absolute must for lasting weight loss.
I recommend resistance training to build muscle. Using weight machines, free weights, or resistance bands are all good ways to build muscle. The goal here is not to enter bodybuilding competitions, but to develop solid muscle, which not only provides support and protection from falls but also burns more calories than fat, even when you’re not exercising!
Clearly, there are plenty of healthier weight-loss options than crash diets. After all, what’s the point of losing weight if you’re harming your health in the process?