Crash dieting is arguably one of the most popular ways to lose weight. As the name suggests, these diets are restrictive plans to “help” people lose a large amount of weight over a short amount of time before returning to your normal way of life. In the event that no one’s told you, that’s not necessarily the best idea.
First things first, most diets are crash diets
Crash diets are usually part of a fad — think the paleo diet — and according to Marilyn Gordon, registered dietitian nutritionist, most diets are some form of a crash diet or fad.
“Most diets are fads in the sense that if it’s a ‘diet’ for most people there’s a sense that there’s a start point and end point,” she said. “So it’s not really a lifestyle or a way of eating.”
The problem with diets? There are a few, but one of them is that you’ll usually regain the weight after you end the restrictive diet. This leads to what Gordon referred to as a cycle of on-again, off-again dieting, sometimes called yo-yo dieting.
They pose dangers to your health
The most obvious risk when it comes to dieting is to your physical health.
“Some people won’t even know that they have blood sugar regulation issues until they try one of those plans and then the next thing they know they’re feeling light-headed and dizzy,” said Gordon.
Although Gordon said that young people tend to be more resilient to the physical effects of these diets, there are still long term effects that can come from yo-yo dieting, namely low muscle and bone density.
Restricting your caloric intake, especially during stressful times like midterms and finals week, can impact your performance both physically and cognitively. Your brain is just as dependent on what you eat as the rest of your body.
“From a nutrient perspective, these diets are certainly void of all the nutrients a body needs to be healthy,” Gordon said.
Crash diets, especially when done throughout your lifetime, can also pose dangers to your psychological health in terms of self-esteem and even eating disorders.
“The frequent restrictive eating and dieting can lead to things like true eating disorders,” Gordon explained. “And we never know who is the person that is going to be impacted in that way, so you almost don’t want to take the chance that it’s you.”
You have resources to make lifestyle changes
Gordon recommends making slow changes to your lifestyle.
“Ideally, would be for students to assess their eating habits,” said Gordon. “To look for ways to improve [their diets].”
This can be something as simple as changing a small eating habit, like reducing soda consumption, which is likely to last longer. She said students may have also made changes to their diet or exercise patterns once entering college without noticing it.
“Those little practices are more likely to become health behaviors that you’ll stick with,” she said. “Diets are severe and restrictive and that’s why they don’t work.”
She also said that students can utilize the dieticians at the school, like herself, which is covered under the medical insurance provided by the university. Students would simply need to make an appointment with a physician at one of the student clinics and get a referral. These individuals can help you find a slow, measured approach that will work for your body.