Do crash diets work?

Do Crash diets work?

do crash diets work

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Every New Year millions of Americans get ready with new resolutions to live a healthier life and develop a fit, strong, healthy body.

Many will be getting gym memberships or resolving to eat healthier. Do you have a New Years resolution in mind? If so, does it involve you getting on a diet?

There are no shortages of diets to choose from. Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, take a look at the magazine rack and you will see countless cover pages with articles about a magic diet some celebrity used to lose fifteen pounds. Every week there is a new celebrity. Every week there is a new diet. But do these diets work? 

Something you won’t find printed on the cover of those magazines is the fact that over 95 percent of people who go on a diet like the ones printed in their pages regain all their weight back as soon as they come off the diet. That is, if they make it to the end.

These diets are what have come to be called “crash diets”, meaning the person changes almost everything about their eating and lifestyle overnight to lose as much weight in as short a time period as possible. It’s no surprise, then, that most people don’t even make it the distance of the diet and, for those that do, a lack of contingency plan afterwards and ravenous hunger cause them to regain all their weight back within days of coming off the diet. 

Is there a better way? 
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Let’s take a look at what goals crash dieting attempts to achieve, how these diets are going about achieving them, and why they overwhelmingly appear to fail at delivering results. Once we know where they are missing the mark and why, we can begin building our own, better plan for sustained weight loss and improved health.

WHAT is crash dieting attempting to achieve?

Essentially, someone goes on a diet in an effort to lose the weight they gained by eating food, either healthy or unhealthy, in amounts higher than their daily activity requires. They are in what is called a calorie surplus. To lose weight, that person will need to start eating less food than what their daily activity requires, what’s called a calorie deficit. A crash diet creates the necessary calorie deficit for weight loss and, therefore, a person following the diet will start to lose weight. Make no mistake. The reason someone loses weight on one of these diets isn’t because their body is detoxing as a result of the juice they are drinking, cucumbers they are eating, or pills and powders they are taking. They lose weight because they are eating less energy than their body burns. 

There are two main problems these people will run into and are the same problems causing 97% of dieters to fail and gain all the weight back.

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  1. The calorie reduction is way too much way too fast. This rapid decline in calorie consumption causes the dieter to lose mental and physical energy, ultimately affecting their mood, activity level, productivity at work, and enjoyment of life.

    Crash diets are generally synonymous with a miserable existence. When you severely restrict calories your body begins to accommodate by reducing your metabolism, slowing down weight loss and altering how your body uses and stores the few calories that do get in.

    Blood sugar levels tend to roller coaster up and down as well, especially on a juice cleanse, contributing to the unstable moods and grumpiness already present from hunger.

    This feeds directly into the second problem crash diets have; not taking steps to make the lifestyle changes necessary to removed old habits that don’t serve you and replace them with new habits that do.

  2. The lifestyle changes required to keep up the diet are sudden and rely entirely on willpower instead of habit. People are habit driven. In fact, between 40 to 60 percent of your waking life is directed unconsciously, stemming from deeply ingrained habit.

    Habits are incredibly powerful and, if a person decides one is unwanted or requires change, will require months of dedication to alter or remove from one’s life.

    This is why dieters tend to fall right back into old habits once the diet is over, as counterproductive habits were never really gone but instead simply suppressed with willpower.

    However, willpower is a finite resource and only one part of a larger equation when  attempting to change or remove unwanted habits. If a dieter does make it to the end, their willpower by this point is typically exhausted and the old eating and lifestyle habits encounter little resistance as they come marching back in.
MILO WAS A 6 TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION IN ANCIENT GREECE. HE IS MOST FAMOUS FOR A MYTH THAT HE WAS ABLE TO LIFT A FULL GROWN BULL OVER HIS SHOULDERS! HE ACCOMPLISHED THIS BY STARTING IN CHILDHOOD, LIFTING AND CARRYING A NEWBORN CALF AND REPEATING THE FEAT DAILY AS IT GREW TO MATURITY. THIS IS THE SAME FITNESS CONCEPT WE KNOW TODAY AS "PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD".

So how do you break the seemingly endless cycle of ups and downs of crash dieting?

Is there a better way to achieve the results you’re looking for? Most importantly, is there a way to make sure you keep the results you worked so hard for long term?

Well, yes, there are definitely better ways of achieving your weight loss goals and methods for setting you up to keep the weight off. The problem is, methods involving deep inner work, taking the time to form new habits, and creating long term goals aren’t nearly as good at selling monthly magazines as a diet saying you can lose fifteen pounds in fifteen days by eating nothing but cucumber. But what good is a plan like that if you gain it all back the second you go off the diet? 

Understanding how to set yourself up for success with your goal, then building a plan to help you achieve it, and finally following that plan through to it’s eventual achievement is going to take time. In some cases, years.

The very first step, then, is to ask yourself if you’re truly ready to commit yourself to this goal. Are you ready to put in the deep emotional and physical work? Are you ready for to experience the successes and failures along the way? Are you ready to be OK with small wins over a long period of time and forgo the desire for a quick solution?

Are you ready to face the uncomfortable beliefs and emotions you keep within yourself but that you have not yet dealt with? By the way, it’s OK to say that “No, I’m not ready right now”. Maybe there are other parts of your life needing attention first.

Or, maybe you’re not ready to do the inner work just yet. Ask yourself how you feel about this goal and how ready you are to commit to all it will require of you to achieve. It would be better to wait until you can make the time, financial, social, and emotional commitments without concession.

If that means holding off a few months, then so be it. But begin discovering today what barriers are in the way for you to start off in the direction of your goal, developing a game plan and timeline for moving them out of the way.

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Once you know you are ready, once you have cleared the path to the starting line, you can begin. The only thing keeping you from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow are the habits you keep with you.

Therefore, the process you go through on the path toward your goal is the slow, steady replacement of those habits not serving you with new habits that do. And, while this sounds simple, the habits most influencing our experience tend to have be formed over decades.

Furthermore, these habits are usually insidious in their nature, often arising in our very young and formative years and which are since triggered by events and circumstances we become blind to.

An adult's relationship with food may be a daily struggle simply because of an off handed remark a relative made about their appetite one Christmas when they were a child. Another may battle with their self image because of a childhood involving ballet, where body shape and size are routinely judged and discriminated against. 

These deep emotional beliefs are often never faced and dealt with by those they affect. Entire lives go by without a person living how they wish to live and experiencing what they wish to experience simply because of these often irrational fears and beliefs.

If you are reading this article then you are likely getting ready to go after a goal. If you are planning on starting a fitness routine, lifestyle change, or improving your nutrition, then I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself these questions.

What caused you to be to be dissatisfied with the area of life you want to change? What negative truth, however rational or irrational, have you been telling yourself that this dissatisfaction helps validate?

What would you have to change about the way you think in order to truly believe you are worthy of the goal when it is achieved?

MILO WAS A 6 TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION IN ANCIENT GREECE. HE IS MOST FAMOUS FOR A MYTH THAT HE WAS ABLE TO LIFT A FULL GROWN BULL OVER HIS SHOULDERS! HE ACCOMPLISHED THIS BY STARTING IN CHILDHOOD, LIFTING AND CARRYING A NEWBORN CALF AND REPEATING THE FEAT DAILY AS IT GREW TO MATURITY. THIS IS THE SAME FITNESS CONCEPT WE KNOW TODAY AS "PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD".

There is no one answer to these questions. Instead, both the questions and answers will evolve as you continue toward your goal.

You will develop a deeper understanding of how they came to be and what roles they played in your life. Understanding how the habits in your life not serving you came to be is the only effective approach to begin removing them and replacing them with ones that do serve you.

In future articles we will explore how to change out old habits for new ones. For now, take some time to understand yourself a little more. Find out what beliefs have been holding you back and when you started believing them. How have they shaped who you are today?

What scares you about changing the way people see you because of how they shaped you? What excites you about changing them? To get you started, I have left you with a quick worksheet you can fill out, the link to which is in the description below.

As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. If you got something from this article or have questions please feel free to let me know in the comments!

If you know someone who would benefit from this video, please feel free to share.

And remember, with everything in life the secret to success is getting started.

So get started!

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Taylor Patterson

Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Nutrition Coach
Certified Behaviour Change Specialist

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