Crash Diets 101 – Do They Really Work For Weight Loss?

Cindy Wilson Thumbby Cindy Wilson
BS, Dietetics and Nutrition

Are you looking for fast weight loss or lasting weight loss?

Both women and men are drawn to weight loss “shortcuts”, especially crash diets it’s easy to see why; losing weight can be hard, and it requires significant changes, including adopting a healthy, balanced diet and a regular exercise plan. The truth is that most people can’t handle the big changes necessary to lose weight in a healthy manner.

After you’ve hit your goal weight, you have to adhere to a weight maintenance plan to ensure the weight you lost doesn’t find its way back.

When you are trying to lose weight, which takes time when you are going about it the right way, staying motivated can be tough. Unless you are in a controlled environment with experts regularly monitoring your exercise and diet, getting results may be a slow process.

How does crash diet work?​

A crash diet involves substantially decreasing your caloric intake for days or even weeks. To do this, the dieter avoids most of the foods people eat regularly, such as meats, beans, and cereal, or goes on a fast.

The process of fasting involves almost entirely avoiding food, particularly solid foods. Some crash diets, such as the Master Cleanse, require people to drink a beverage in place of eating food during an extended period of fasting.

Another example of a crash diet is the baby food diet, which requires people to eat entirely different foods to lose weight. While eating baby food is an easy way to reduce your caloric intake considerably, it is considered an unsustainable way of losing weight.

Why do people eventually give up crash diets?

The answer is quite simple. People want flavor and texture, as well as a variety of food to eat.

Crash diets, such as the baby food diet, usually leave people incredibly dissatisfied because they eat the same foods over and over, which leads to “food boredom.”Often, this dissatisfaction turns into “diet relapse”, which puts weight loss at a complete standstill when they lose their motivation to continue following the diet.

Baby Crash Diet

Of course, the problem of eating the same thing over and over isn’t limited to the baby food diet. I’ve seen plenty of weight loss symptoms that turn to low-calorie foods to immediately create a calorie deficit. They usually rely on high-fiber cookies, diet shakes, and low-calorie protein bars to replace complete meals.

These weight loss systems do work because eating just a couple of cookies or drinking a protein shake for dinner creates a significant calorie deficit. However, there’s one question to ask yourself before you buying into these weight loss systems. How long am I going to be able to last drinking a shake for dinner instead of eating actual food?

​Why do crash diets have the potential to be dangerous?

Crash diets cause a large gap in a person’s nutritional status because they require a significant reduction in the number of calories consumed. When the body gets to the point that it has depleted its stores of glucose, it begins to destroy its protein stores (muscles) to keep functioning. Mostly, crash dieting results in malnutrition.

This type of diet also has the potential to be dangerous to individuals suffering from metabolic conditions, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. Due to the massive caloric deficit resulting from a crash diet, your body can go into a state of emergency, which can cause some organs to stop functioning properly.

Similar to a car engine without fuel, your body will start to break down as it uses what little bit of resources it has to keep your organs, including your brain, heart, and liver, working.

Crash dieting for an extended period, such as several months, can cause severe fluctuations in your mineral and vitamin reserves, which can impact your bone strength, heart function, and even the health of your skin.

Here’s the thing. When you’re on a crash diet, you’ll drop weight like never before. But, there’s a cost.

To be healthy and function properly, your body requires nourishment and exercise. Crash dieting causes your body to starve. If you’re planning to reduce drastically the number of calories you consume in your daily diet, it’s likely that you are putting your health at risk.

How to Spot a Crash Diet​

When you are trying to lose weight fast, you may find yourself falling for a crash diet’s empty promises. Unfortunately, significantly restricting your daily caloric intake can be extremely detrimental to your overall health.

They also significantly reduce your metabolic rate, which also makes it harder for your body to let go of excess fat and maintain your loss once you’ve reached your goal.​

It’s impossible to deny that crash diets often seem promising, thanks to the unbelievable results they promise, but they are just misleading you.

If you fall for their tricks, you’re setting yourself up for problems.

Here’s a quick look at what to watch for when you are creating you healthy eating plan.

  1. Crash diets usually restrict you to less than 1200 calories a day. However, this is the absolute fewest number of calories most women should consume in a day. For men, 1500 calories are the minimum amount of calories.
  2. Crash diets are incredibly rigid to the point that they’re almost impossible to stick with. For a diet to work, it has to fit with your lifestyle.
  3. Crash diets focus on one or two food groups and cut the others completely out, which is something you should never do. After all, for your body to function properly, it needs carbs, fats, and proteins.
  4. Crash diets often require the use of supplements. Unfortunately, supplements can’t compensate for actual food. Your pantry should have food in it, not a small pharmacy.
  5. They incorporate meal replacement shakes. Yes, these shakes are fine on occasion, but they shouldn’t be used every day in place of a healthy meal.
  6. They resort to weird food combinations or counting rules. If a diet has so many rules it is impossible to keep track of them all, don’t expect success.
  7. Crash diets are low in protein, which is a crucial nutrient you should get plenty of during meals and snacks.
  8. Crash diets discourage exercise. This is because you simply don’t have enough energy to be active. This is not a healthy approach to eating, nor does it promote long-term weight loss.
  9. Crash diets shy away from fruits and vegetables. Both are filled with nutrients and shouldn’t be eliminated from your diet.
  10. They often require you to eat pre-made meals. However, to learn healthy eating habits you can stick with and use for long-term weight loss, you need a diet that teaches you how to eat right.

Of course, you want to lose weight as fast as possible, but you should never resort to crash diets. You just won’t achieve the kind of success that you are hoping for, at least not for any extended period. In fact, more often than not, when you finally stop a crash diet, you often regain all the weight you lost plus a little extra.

The key to successful, sustainable weight loss is taking a dietary approach that provides plenty of nutrition and energy to get you through the day. It should also include easy to follow guidelines that you can stick with. Not only will you see better results, but you’ll enjoy the process more. Best of all, once you reach your target weight, it’ll be easier to maintain it.

Why Should Stay Away from Crash Diets​

Yes, crash diets are the easiest way to lose weight, but they are also one of the most detrimental ways to lose weight if your goal is long-term weight loss. Despite this, people trying to lose weight make this mistake time and time again, largely because of the flashy marketing techniques and empty promises.

Stay Away From Crash Diets

While there’s no doubt that the promise of fast results is alluring, there’s one thing to remember. When you lose weight fast, the chances that you’ll also pile it back on quickly are excellent. There’s even the chance that you will not only gain back the weight you lost, but you’ll put on a few additional pounds.

Let’s take a look at the problems related to crash diets, so that you can see for yourself why they are not the diet for you.

  • You’ll be starving. Crash diets almost always fail to provide anywhere close to the amount of energy you need to maintain your daily activities.
  • They confuse your metabolism. Crash diets cause your metabolic rate to plunge.
  • They lack minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.
  • They don’t provide enough protein. Most crash diets don’t include anywhere close to the protein you need to maintain your lean muscle mass. This means that you’ll get weaker as you use them.
  • You’ll see a change in your sleep quality. When you aren’t eating enough, it’s often harder to get to and stay asleep.
  • You’ll have to decrease how much you exercise. When you’re on a crash diet, exercising is next to impossible because you’re tired and may even be malnourished.
  • Crash diets teach bad eating habits. In fact, eating disorders are more likely to result when someone has been following a crash diet plan.
  • They make your body cling to its fat stores. When your body begins to sense it’s starving, it will be more and more reluctant to give up body fat for fuel.
  • Crash diets don’t teach long-term healthy eating habits. After you finish up a crash diet, you’re more likely to go back to your old eating habits and regain the weight you lost.
  • They lack balance. A balanced diet provides a good mix of carbs, fats, and proteins, while crash diets are often off-balance or, worse yet, only allow juice and supplements.
  • In women, crash diets can put an end to menstruation. When caloric intake is too low, amenorrhea often results, which can lead to bone loss over a long period.

Crash Dieting – Side Effects

Is Crash Diet Good or Bad For You?​

By now, you should be able to see that crash diets are not a smart move. The more you avoid them, the happier and healthier you will be – not only when you are following a diet plan, but when you come off of it too.

Not only are crash diets the worst way to nourish your body, but they will never produce the long-term results you’re looking for. Choosing a more moderate approach to weight loss that you enjoy and nourishes your body will leave you feeling great and closer to achieving your goal.​

About Author

Cindy Wilson Thumb
BS, Nutrition & Food Science | Connect with on LinkedIn
Cindy Wilson

Hello, I am Cindy, and this a website where I inspect everything related to nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I have a BS in Dietetics and Nutrition (Kansas State University) and have completed a dozen specialty courses related to nutrition, biochemistry, and food science. I am open to learning more, but foremost I would like to share all my knowledge with you.

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