Crash Dieting

While a crash diet may help you lose some pounds in time for your holiday in Florida or the Christmas blowout, the loss of weight doesn’t usually last too long. Furthermore, it can play havoc with both your body and mind.

The following are just some of the undesirable side effects of crash dieting:

It lowers the metabolism
A high metabolism is extremely important with regard to losing weight. Unfortunately, crash dieting actually reduces it by restricting the body’s intake of essential nutrients. This has a number of effects, just one of which is the loss of muscle mass.

The problem this causes is that the less muscle we have, the lower our metabolic rate (the number of calories we burn while resting). Therefore, the more extreme the diet, the lower the body’s metabolism and the less amount of weight lost.

Crash dieting can actually make it more difficult to lose weight. Persisting with it will pay off eventually of course, but may be at the price of health issues down the line.

It weakens the immune system
As we mentioned above, an inevitable consequence of a crash diet is that the body will be deprived of essential minerals and vitamins. This is a sure-fire way of weakening its immune system. And the weaker a person’s immune system, the more likely they are to catch diseases, plus be more susceptible to a whole range of other undesirable conditions.

Most people’s idea of a crash diet is that they need to cut out as much fat as possible. While doing so is a good thing, it’s only so up to a point. This is because fat provides us with a range of minerals and vitamins, such as A, D, E and K. So by cutting too much fat out of their diet, these people are unwittingly weakening their bodies.

Hair and skin
The loss of essential nutrients caused by crash dieting can also have a noticeable and unwanted impact on a person’s physical appearance. It can cause their hair to look lacklustre and even fall out, their skin becomes dry and more likely to develop acne, and their nails are easily chipped. These are all signs of poor nutrition.

Furthermore, extreme diets can cause sleeplessness. And it’s mainly during sleep that the body repairs itself, including the hair and skin.

Ketone production
With diets extremely low in carbohydrates, as some crash diets are, the liver will start to break down fat in order to produce ketones. These are then used by muscles and other tissues as an alternative source of fuel to fat.

While weight will be lost as a result, these ketones do have unwanted side effects. For example, nausea, bad breath and, potentially, liver and kidney problems.

Typically, at the beginning of a crash diet, weight loss is rapid. Unfortunately, the dieter isn’t losing fat, he/she is simply losing water. What happens is that the body’s glycogen stores which are a source of energy that binds water, are depleted faster than the fat cells. The water is thus released.

Therefore, crash diets can be the cause of mild dehydration. Effects of this can be cramps, dizziness, headaches, dry skin and a craving for food – sweet food especially.

Heart problems
Crash dieting can have some positive effects. For example, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. But they can also have a potentially harmful effect on the heart. This is due to the fact that the fat lost can, potentially, clog up the heart and so reduce the efficiency with which it works.

Fortunately, this effect appears to be temporary for most people. Healthy people generally aren’t affected at all. Anyone who has heart problems  though, should talk to their doctor prior to embarking on a crash diet.

Bowel habits
As we have already seen, crash dieting causes the body’s metabolism to slow down. One of the many effects of this slowdown is a reduction in the efficiency with which it digests food passing through it. This can lead to constipation.

The solution is to increase the intake of fiber-rich foods, such as nuts, leafy vegetables and fruit.

Loss of energy
While crash diets do result in loss of weight if persisted with, this is unfortunately often accompanied by a loss in energy levels, even fatigue. This is due to the lack of B vitamins, iron and magnesium, which leaves the body unable to produce energy.

Crash dieting can trigger the brain into releasing a hormone known as corticosterone. This hormone is known to be the cause of heightened stress levels, irritability and even depression.

It can also have a negative effect on concentration and can disturb our sleep which, of course, also causes grumpiness.

Bottom Line
A crash diet is, by its very nature, extreme. And the human body doesn’t like extremes. Therefore, it should not be undertaken lightly – this apples particularly to people who have health issues.

However, for those who are in reasonably good health, and who take care to include essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, a crash diet can be a very effective way of losing weight quickly. People do need to be careful when they go back to eating normally though – the more extreme a diet, the greater the temptation to overeat when the chance presents itself!

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