Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Harmful Effects of Crash Dieting

The purpose of crash dieting is to lose weight and fast. By definition a crash diet is a diet that is under 1, 200 calories eaten daily. There are many effects of crash dieting including short-term weight loss, short-term dehydration, short-term nutritional deprivation (which can lead to long-term problems), risk of fainting or heart attack and long-term health complications.

The first effect will be short-term weight loss. There are two major reasons that your diet will only achieve short-term weight loss. Primarily, crash diets slow down your body’s metabolic rate. Your body wants to maximize each calorie it receives because it is afraid of starvation so continued weight loss after the crash diet is extremely difficult. Further, in the short period of time that the individual is on the diet the weight that they lose is not made up predominantly of fat. The quick results are due to dehydration; it is just water weight that has been lost. As soon as you begin to consume food again your body will retain moisture and you will bloat. All of the weight will be gained back.

The next effects, short-term dehydration and nutritional deprivation, can go hand in hand. Even if you consume a lot of water throughout your diet it is hard for your body to retain water if you are not eating balanced meals. Severely reducing your caloric intake deprives your body of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and nutrients that it needs to sustain itself. Having a diet low in fat is good but having a diet free from fat is not acceptable, your body needs 30% of its daily calories to come from fats. In addition, a lot of crash diets suggest the use of laxatives or salt water flushes which increase risk of dehydration and don’t allow the body to absorb nutrients and fats which in turn leads to nutritional deprivation.

The risk of fainting, especially during exertion and exercise is a real one when you are on a crash diet. This effect comes from too few calories, a drastic change in routine and excessive exercise/demand on your body. Feeling light-headed is a sign that you need to workout less and eat more. Not only is fainting a warning sign but you can also hurt yourself when you fall, causing long-term damage. This excessive strain also applies to your heart, putting you at an increased risk of heart attack and long-term cardiac damage.

Let’s take a look at some of the long-term health complications that can arise from excessive crash dieting, or yo-yo dieting. They weaken your immune system,
cause heart palpitations and cardiac stress. If you do one crash diet you may not hurt your heart but if you crash diet repeatedly you can increase your risk of heart attacks. Crash diets also lead to heart muscle loss in the long run. You damage your blood vessels when the muscle shrinks and grows and the micro tears create an environment perfect for atherosclerosis or other types of heart disease.

Experts are not entirely sure of the exact dangers of crash diets that lead to heart problems but it is thought that shortages of potassium, magnesium and copper could be causing the arhythmias in crash dieters. An arrhythmia is a disorder of the heart rate or heart rhythm, such as beating too fast, too slow or irregularly. It is also thought that a drop in blood pressure and sodium depletion contribute.

If you were considering a crash diet, you should reconsider. Not only will it be unsuccessful in helping you achieve weight loss but also you will undoubtedly expose yourself to health risks in the long run. If you need to lose weight, try decreasing your calorie intake slightly, making healthy choices and participating in a sensible exercise routine.

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