Nutrition

What Crash Dieting Does To Your Body?

In this era, there is no denying that physical appearances are considered important. But another fact which is also true is that we are a fast-paced generation and we want quick fixes to all our problems. On one hand, we want an aesthetic figure but on the other, we have little time to work out for that. Or that’s the most common reason majority of us give for not putting in the effort required to get our body in shape. This results in many of us opting for enticing diet options presented to us by various sources, we might as well add unauthentic sources.

The 21-day fix, Detox diet, Non-Fat diet, and the list goes on. There are innumerable short-term food plans that promise a lot of weight loss in just a few weeks! These are called crash diets. And, though they may lead to rapid weight loss, the long-term effects they have on our health cannot be neglected. What are these crash diets and how do they impact our bodies? Read further to find out.

What is a Crash Diet?

The definition of crash diet goes like “a weight-loss diet undertaken on an urgent, short-term basis with the aim of achieving very rapid results.” It is also called a fad diet, semi-starvation diet, or very low-calorie diet. This diet advocates strict restrictions on the number of calories that you consume throughout the day.

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Impacts that crash diets have on our body

Crash diets can never positively affect you. Following are the harmful effects that crash diets have on your body 

Weakens the Immune System

Micronutrients are nutrients that are required by the body in small quantities. These include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They regulate immune function, keep inflammation under control and prevent tissue damage, and also play an important role in several metabolic pathways. Crash diets deprive us of these essential vitamins & minerals. This can further lead to other chronic diseases. Recovery from minor illnesses like common cough and cold may also prolong if your immune system is weakened.

Lowers Metabolic Rate

Indian diets are naturally low in proteins. Going on a crash diet reduces the amount of proteins you consume even more. Now the normal protein requirement for a healthy individual for maintenance of bodily functions is at least 0.8-1 gm/kg/day. If this is not met for an extended period of time it results in a loss in muscle mass and a slower metabolism thereafter. 

Once the diet is done, you go back to your ‘original’ eating habits, and the weight piles back on with a vengeance!

Hair & Skin Health

Vitamin A, C and E, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and proteins are required for the health of your hair and skin. When you go on a crash diet, you limit the amount of vitamins and these other nutrients to your body. It is further reflected in your hair, making them look dull & lifeless. Hair fall also increases when you are crash dieting. Further, your skin could be left looking dry & pale. Acne breakouts are common after crash diets.

Disturb Bowel Habit

Similar to micronutrients crash diets are also deficient in the amount of fibers. Fibers are of two types soluble and insoluble. The insoluble fibers increase the bulk of stool while the soluble fibers help the gut pass them smoothly. As these are not sufficient when you crash diet it affects the gut motility and bowel movement. Passing motions become irregular or inconsistent. Constipation is commonly observed in people who crash diet.

Dehydration 

If you do not consume enough calories as it happens in a crash diet the body starts using the stored form of glucose which is glycogen for energy instead of fat. Now, glycogen is stored in your muscles and it binds with water. As these glycogen stores are depleted due to crash diets the water attached to them is also lost. Hence going on a crash diet will give you sudden weight loss because this initial weight loss is contributed by water loss and you suffer from dehydration. Dehydration further causes headaches and dizziness.

Affects Intellectual Capacity

Your brain requires carbohydrates to function properly. Crash diets are very low on carbs and hence the functioning of the brain is affected. You may start feeling tired and lethargic the entire day. This will also leave you irritable. Carbohydrate deficiency increases the level of cortisol which is a stress hormone. It further puts one at risk of mood swings.

Hunger Pangs and Eating Disorders

Your body cannot sustain on a very low-calorie diet for a very long time. This will leave you feeling hungry after a prolonged period of crash diet. You suddenly start craving food and then end up binge eating. You tend to consume even more calories which is not healthy. Constant deprivation of food will also lead to emotional eating and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. 

What to do instead? 

There are no shortcuts to success similarly and unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for fat loss. Crash diets are impossible to adhere to, while persistence is the only key to achieving sustained weight loss. You need to drop the ‘extreme diet’ mentality and formulate a weight loss plan that will last. Find a method/diet for achieving slow and gradual weight loss that can be adapted to your lifestyle! By doing so, you will make a long-term difference in a healthy physique, while avoiding the turmoil of depriving yourself of a nutritious and balanced diet.

Have you ever followed a crash diet and how did it affect your body? let us know in the comment section below.

Authors:

Kanika Gupta (Operations Head (INFS) & Advanced Fitness Coach (Fittr))

Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content Writer & Editor)

References:
Joshi, S. and Mohan, V., 2018. Pros & cons of some popular extreme weight-loss diets. The Indian journal of medical research, 148(5), p.642.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5161655/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

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