Learn why crash dieting is so bad to say hell no to the yo-yo.
A tiny waistline. A rockin’ beach bod. Legs that would make Gisele Bündchen jealous. This is the kind of language you hear when a company is trying to sell you a crash diet. So wait… why is crash dieting bad?
You’re not weird for wondering that, considering how good a crash diet sounds when it’s being advertised to you. When you’re constantly inundated with beautiful people on Instagram, it might seem like the key to happiness is just 10 or 20 pounds away.
And hey, it looks like those beautiful people are selling weight-loss shakes! All you have to do is drink those chalk-flavored concoctions twice a day (and literally nothing else), and you’ll be slender and happy.
Resist the urge to tap that buy now button on the weight-loss shakes, grapefruit diet book, or any other quick fix you might be considering. Crash dieting kind of sucks. Let’s talk about why.
What constitutes a “crash”?
A crash diet is any very restrictive diet over a very short period. You might be cutting out an entire food group (No fruit? No legumes? Wtf?!?!) or perhaps only eating one item. This is different from fasting or intermittent fasting, which can have some benefits if done under a doctor’s supervision.
There are even some truly weird diets out there, like the famous—or should we say infamous—lemonade diet that Beyonce did to prepare for a movie role. Oddly, it had nothing to do with her iconic album. The diet was basically lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, water, and nothing else.
Why we fall for quick fixes
Okay, so that lemonade diet sounds seriously awful. Why would anyone go for it?
Simple answer: the allure is just so strong. The companies profiting off of these crash diets push images of unattainable beauty in your face (Hi Photoshop!), make you feel bad, and then tell you, hey, guess what, you can look just like this if you do this super-easy-to-follow diet.
Eating nothing but cucumbers sounds pretty fool-proof. So, you think, sure; I’ll give it a shot if there’s a chance I’m going to look like a model a month from now. What is there to lose?
Plenty or nada, depending on which things you measure.
Why is crash dieting bad for your mental health?
It turns out, there can be a lot to lose—just not always pounds.
Let’s start with your mental health. Crash dieting can be an absolute fail if you’re trying to take care of it. Even if you’re the kind of person whose vibes are always positive, a sudden loss of food may change that for the worse.
Crash dieting can make you cranky (you’ve seen the Snickers ads, though candy might not be the solution), low energy, and depressed.
Considering giving up carbs forever? Get this: Carbohydrates can help your brain produce feel-good serotonin, so totally eliminating them might give you a big old case of the blues. Your brain deserves better than that.
Why is crash dieting bad for your physical health?
So what’s the big deal, you might be thinking. I can handle a bad mood if I look absolutely amazing.
We hate to kill the vibe, but crash dieting isn’t just bad for your mental health; it can be bad for the body too. But doesn’t it make you lose weight?
It can, in the short term. But in the long run, crash diets can actually lower your metabolism and change the perception of food, making it tough to lose that weight again (Spoiler alert: Most people regain weight after crash dieting).
Yanking all those proteins, vitamins, and nutrients can also weaken the immune system, cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, dehydration, constipation, hair loss, skin problems, and even bad breath. RIP your dating life.
Worst case scenario, extended crash dieting without the right nutrients could even cause liver, kidney, and heart problems.
Alternatives to quick fixes that don’t suck
Hopefully, you know why crash dieting is bad, and you’ll aim for a healthy diet that has long-term benefits and few risks. So, what does work?
Try a more manageable plan. You can start by swapping out something unhealthy for an alternative, such as wheat bread instead of white bread. You can try eating more vegetables and fruit. (More instead of less—what a concept!) You can reduce sugar intake.
You can also try adding more, um, exercise to your diet, which could mean anything from a regular sweat sesh at the gym to an afternoon stroll with your work bestie.
Bottom line: Do what you enjoy — or at least things you can do over the long haul. Focus on foods and activities that make you feel good. Your mind and body will thank you.
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