Are you hoping to lose weight in time for a wedding, class reunion, or swimsuit season? It may be tempting to go on a crash diet, and try to starve your body into submission. Maybe you intend to go on a juice cleanse, or you’re planning to skip meals each day. But even if you appear to lose a lot of weight in a short time, crash dieting can actually harm your weight loss plan more than it helps it.
First of all, the weight you lose through crash dieting is often not “real” weight loss. You’ve heard it over and over again, but the weight you lose through crash dieting is often “water weight”. This means your body’s cells become dehydrated and shrink, so you appear to lose weight when you step on the scale. But you may not actually burn off the fat that you hope to lose.
The second problem with crash dieting is that your body responds to an extreme lack of calories by slowing your metabolism significantly. This is an adaptive response which comes in handy during times of famine and starvation, but it isn’t so helpful when you want to lose weight! If you crash diet repeatedly, you can actually confuse your body’s response to caloric intake. When you begin eating a normal diet again – which you will eventually need to do – your metabolism will be so slow that those calories are stored as fat rather than being used correctly. You might enjoy the appearance of temporary weight loss, but you will actually regain that weight, and probably a bit more, very quickly when the crash diet is over.
When you regain that weight, it will go straight to your fat stores, where it will be more difficult to lose in the future. Rather than allow your metabolism and body fat to fluctuate harmfully, you should be following a “slow and steady” weight loss plan. Work on building lean muscle tissue, which permanently increases your metabolism, and don’t worry so much about achieving fast results. This is the best way to ensure that your weight loss plan provides a lasting change in your overall health, rather than temporary results that quickly come undone.
As always, before starting any weight loss plan or exercise regimen, consult with a qualified weight loss physician.