Healthy Living, not Crash Diets

I think we all can appreciate that losing weight is difficult, but it’s still a New Year’s resolution for countless people and a goal at the beginning of bikini season.

Many of us who are desperate to lose weight fall victim to the allure of crash diets—the quick fix, the pound-shedding fad diets and the magazine ads that promise beauty and happiness with diet pills. None of these enticing diets really work, at least not permanently, yet they feed on our need for quick gratification and fast, noticeable results.

When doing research for this piece, I Google searched “why don’t crash diets work,” and the list of searches related to mine were all some variation of “extreme crash diets that work” or “effective crash diets.” People desperately want them to work, but the success stories are few and far between.

One of the more recent and popular crash diets I’ve found is the “cabbage soup diet.” You hardly eat anything but cabbage soup for seven days, and you’re virtually guaranteed to shed up to 10 pounds. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could stand to hardly eat anything but cabbage soup for a week straight. This diet leaves most with a constant feeling of hunger, meaning you’re likely to binge on all your favorite foods when the seven days are over. Plus, the majority of weight lost is water weight, which comes back when your normal diet is reintroduced.

Another popular quick weight loss plan is the juice cleanse, but this one is particularly dangerous to crash dieters because it disguises itself with claims of being healthy and effective. After watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead I almost jumped in on the juice cleanse fad myself, but I chickened out because I just love food too much.

This diet has you blending fruits and vegetables into a juice which you drink for a set amount of days. People on this diet often feel fatigued and hungry, and they often experience flu-like symptoms for the first couple of days. Apparently this is all part of the process to release the “toxins” from your body. The actual science behind the juice cleanse is questionable, and it seems nobody can come to a consensus on the actual health benefits of this diet either. The word “toxins” is vague, and results seem to be based solely on personal testimony.

The juice cleanse may be a good way to become more in tune with your body or may act as a jumpstart to a whole new healthy lifestyle. All of that is fine, but using the juice cleanse to lose weight quickly doesn’t always produce the desired results. Once you start eating whole foods again, it’s likely you’ll slip back into your old habits because outside of the juice cleanse, those habits are all you really know. You end up right back at square one.

The laziest and least effective crash diet method is the diet pill, because it leads you to assume that you can just get rid of your excess pounds with one swallow. Weight loss pills aren’t subjected to the same FDA standard as prescription drugs, so they almost always come with significant health risks attached, and whether or not they actually work is debatable. Most weight loss pills include side effects such as stomach pain, digestive problems, high blood pressure and the possibility of a heart attack. The possibility of losing a couple of pounds is just not worth the risk with diet pills.

Quick weight loss solutions rarely work in the long-term. When you go on a restrictive diet or swallow a bottle of weight loss pills, you aren’t actually learning anything. You aren’t training yourself to understand why you gained the weight in the first place. Once the diet ends, the majority of people slip right back into their old habits, and the weight comes back.

The crash diet may possibly help you lose weight temporarily, but the likeliest outcome is that you’ll end up right where you started, hoping that the next one will really work this time.

So instead of searching for the quick fix, try working towards an overall lifestyle change. The weight will come off slower, but it’s significantly more likely to stay off. You’ll live longer and be healthier and happier overall. Instead of a crash diet, try biking to school a couple of times a week or going for a walk instead of watching another episode on Netflix. Instead of soda, drink tea, and make an effort to eat food that is green more often than food that is packaged.

The “all or nothing” mentality of the crash diet is what leads to failure. With a healthy, active lifestyle you can still eat your favorite snacks, and you can still eat desert sometimes. Moderation is the key.

Integrating healthy choices that you can keep up for the rest of your life is the best and longest lasting diet there is, and those small changes add up to a big difference over time. Train yourself to recognize the healthy choices (this does not include Lean Cuisines, by the way), and learn proper portion sizes. Losing weight is hard and it takes time, but I promise you’ll feel better in the long run if you take the time to do it properly.