High weigh to hell, the impact of crash dieting

Most of us have been there at one time or another, or on many occasions, where we look in the mirror and see what we have tried not to acknowledge, or accept, we are carrying too much weight and in all the wrong places.

This moment of “oh dear” usually occurs before we need to wear something special for a special occasion or don our swimmers. It usually happens a very short time before D-Day and we panic! We stop eating, or go on a slimming detox drink, or only drink slimming shakes, or eat soup for a week or two.

Great, we have lost all of that weight in two weeks flat! Wow! I can fit into that dress, or squeeze into that swimsuit.

Yup, you can do all of that, but there are severe consequences.

Firstly, I would like to explain the difference between a detox and a crash diet. A detox goes for 2 – 3 days, a crash diet goes for a week or longer.

Fasting two days per week, not consecutively, but approximately two days apart has proven to be highly beneficial for your health. It is believed now that fasting, for women 500 calories per day and men 600 calories per day, can help stabilize hormones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, as well as helping you slowly but steadily loose weight from hard to budge areas of the body.

You do not need to do it by living on juice or vegetables alone, you can eat proteins, which are highly important to build lean muscle mass, and small amounts of carbohydrates, as long as you stay below your calorie limit. You can even have a cup of coffee or tea as part of your calorie intake. But sugar is out!

The idea of the two-day weekly detox is to remove waste from the body and replace it with good nutrients, as well as giving the digestive system some time out.

Going on a crash diet causes the body to become nutritionally deprived, and this will cause health issues in the long term. Not only do crash diets impact on your long-term health, but they also affect how well your brain functions on a daily basis.

Your body needs a certain amount of energy to function daily.

It requires energy to keep your lungs breathing to bring oxygen to your tissues, to keep your heart beating for blood to flow throughout your body, and brain functioning, directing the central nervous system to do the jobs it requires.

So that when you reduce your calorie intake to a point which is so low that there is not enough energy being provided to your body to carry out these basic life functions, you are not going to be able to function as well as you should, because basically your body is fighting for its life!

A crash diet is forcing your body into starvation, and your body does not like this, so it is going to fight back, and fight back hard!

It will firstly slow down your basal metabolic rate.

This is the rate your body is going to burn calories daily to keep your body alive, doing the basic functions we discussed before. When you go on a crash diet, you are reducing your calories so that you are not supplying your body with enough calories to keep you basal metabolic rate functioning to sustain life.

Next, your body will start emergency proceedings in order to keep you alive. It will slow your resting metabolic rate so that you are conserving as much fuel as you can. For example, if you normally burn off 1500 calories per day to keep all of your basic functions working, your body would drop it down to 1100 to reduce the threat to its survival.

You will notice that your fat loss will come to a halt and you will reach a plateau, your body will not loose anymore weight as your metabolic rate is functioning at a slower rate.

I have noticed with my crash dieting clients, that normally incredibly efficient smart women, become forgetful, disorganized and cannot cope with things they used to.

For the normally scatterbrained, I find that I often start wondering if they have dementia (especially my older clients) for there is no consistency in anything they do, their brains just do not function well at all!

This is why crash diets produce fast results at first, and then none at all. This is because the body takes a while to notice what is going on, once it does, it puts all systems in to stop your efforts.

The bad news is that once the metabolic rate slows down, it will stay slow for quite some time. So now you return to eating normally, but your metabolism is still working slowly and your start gaining extra body fat quickly.

So first you see your scales go down two kilos, but then you gain three once you start living normally again. Next thing you know, you are not only back to square one, you are worse off then before you started!

But this is just the least of your problems.

When you are constantly consuming less calories than your body needs to survive, you will end up with nutritional deficiencies.

You will start to fall short on iron, which helps you maintain physical performance, calcium needed for strong bones, and many other bodily functions. B group vitamins needed for healthy metabolism, heart health and stress control etc. Magnesium for brain function, and shall I go on? Get the idea?

Simply, to loose weight quickly, you are putting yourself at risk of serious health issues in the long run. Imagine what you are doing to yourself when you do regular crash diets………. Or go on one for two or three weeks, or longer. If you go for longer, you are likely to end up with a calorie deficit as well.

So you think – that’s the idea is it not?

The body gets nutrients from food, if you are not getting food, where are you getting the nutrients from? Nowhere! Even if you take a multivitamin, it is not going to replace the fiber you get from real foods, and the moisture, as well as all of the nutrients you get from real food which you cannot get from multivitamins.

Even if you consume superfoods which will give you vitamins, minerals, and omegas, they still do not replace all of the proteins and fiber. There is also one problem, you cannot absorb enough calcium from supplements as you can from food.

This brings you to the next problem you are faced with.

Loss of bone mass. If you are young, you will think this is not something you should worry about as it will not affect you. It will as you get older. What you do in your youth shows up as you age. So the damage you do to your bone mass during your 20s, 30s and 40s will show up during your 50s and 60s. If you are dieting at 50 or 60 or older, your body is less effective at absorbing calcium, so when you loose calcium whilst dieting, you increase you calcium deficiency.

When you are on a crash diet, you are not getting enough calcium, which is going to put a lot of stress on your bones, especially if you are exercising to support your diet.

Calcium plays an important role in keeping your vital organs strong as well as your bones. It is needed to keep your heart beating, your brain functioning, and your muscles contracting. It is needed for every function in your body.

As your blood calcium levels start to drop it will tap into your primary source of calcium reserves to supply your vital organs with enough calcium to maintain life function. This primary reserve is your bone mass. And we know the side effects of that.

When you crash diet, you also loose lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat does.

When you are on a low calorie diet and not bringing in enough calories or protein to cover all of your basic needs, the body will use the protein you need to build muscle mass and produce hormones etc, for basic survival functions.

Then when it does not get enough protein which is the case in most low calorie diets, it will start to dip into your lean body tissues to access the amino acids you need to keep yourself alive. Now the truth is, if you are overweight, you are already lacking muscle mass, and have excess fat, otherwise you would not be overweight!

Now that you are burning up muscle mass, you are lowering your metabolic rate even further. This is why men burn more fat than women, they have more muscle mass, whilst women have more fat mass.

This means you are now in serious trouble. You are now not only lowering your metabolic rate due to being on a crash diet, you are loosing lean muscle mass as well.

When you start eating normally again, slowly and steadily your metabolism will restore itself, but your muscle mass will not, it is gone permanently forever. Unless you work at rebuilding it again through weight bearing exercise, you will continue to have a very slow metabolism.

This also is a problem if you have cellulite. The reason you had it in the first place is because you had such a small amount of muscle mass. Now you will notice even more cellulite because you have even less muscle mass.

Maintaining muscle mass is the most important part of a weight loss plan, if you are not eating enough protein, you will not maintain your weight loss.

This all leads to an increase of injury development. With a decrease in bone density and muscle mass, you will find that you will become injured more often than you used to.

You will find an increase in joint pain as well as your tendons and ligaments surrounding your joints becoming weaker and weaker. You will often find yourself suffering from neck and back pain. Hip and knee problems.

With enough tissue damage without recovery, serious injuries can occur such as overuse injuries or muscle pulls and strains, which can take weeks if not months to overcome.

So you say, I am young and do not have aches and pains. How is your focus? How is your concentration?

Anyone who has been on a long term fast or crash diet will have noticed that they often become forgetful and disorganized.

If your brain is not receiving enough nutrients, it will start to run on ketones as a fuel source which often leaves people feeling light headed and fuzzy. Your brain like all other organs in the body needs a constant stream of nutrients to function normally.

Low carbohydrate diets will impact your mood as well. Carbohydrates increase the serotonin in the body that gives us that feel good state. This could be why you wish to bite everyone’s heads off!

Another downside, is lack of physical performance. If you like to exercise, you will find that not only the quality of your performance suffers, but when you are exercising, without the correct nutrients, you are accelerating the process of bone loss and muscle loss.

Last but not least, the ugliest part of a crash diet is bad breath. Your body usually becomes acid instead of alkaline, and your breath becomes fetid. Low carb diets are frequently the cause of this due to the body burning ketones. Another cause is lack of vegetables and fruit, causing the body to become acid, not alkaline. Also, often lack of water consumption can be the cause if you are loosing weight fast, but not flushing the toxins out.

So now that you are totally freaked out over crash dieting, you need to know what compromises as a crash diet.

  1. A diet with a low calorie count of less than 1200 calories for women and 1500 calories for men.
  2. A diet with insufficient protein. A good diet should provide a well- balanced amount of protein. If you are eating protein with every meal and snack, you are receiving enough protein every day.
  3. Any diets omitting any food group from the diet. Eg. Low carbohydrate diets. You need to eat fresh vegetables every day, and have 15% of your daily food intake made up of healthy fats.
  4. Any diet that promises rapid results.

If you are wondering then how you can get into that dress or swimsuit in a short period of time, whilst maintaining muscle mass, therefore not covered in even more cellulite than before, just get back to the basics.  Firstly start weight bearing exercises, to build muscle mass and burn fat. Two days per week follow a detox program, preferably drinking nutritionally high detox drinks (on these two days do not exercise). You will find that you will loose that weight and gain health. I have seen a few people have great weight loss success over a very short period of time.

But beyond that. Live a healthy life. Be more concerned with eating for your health, and exercising for your health, than worrying about weight. Love your body, because if you do not love it, nourish it, take good care of it, it will not love you back.

picture credit istockphoto getty images

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