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Crash Diets

 

The worst of all are diets which promise very rapid weight loss. It takes a deficit of about 3500 calories to lose one pound of fat. The average daily intake for the normally active man is 2900 and the normally active woman is 2100. Women burn les calories than men because they are smaller, and have less muscle than men.

 

A weight reducing diet generally cuts calorie intake to about 1000 calories per day for women and 1800 for men, resulting in a deficit of 1100 calories daily. It should therefore take at least 3 days to accumulate the deficit of 3500 necessary to lose one pound.

 

However, if you have ever started a crash diet, you will know that you can lose more weight than this, often as much as 6lbs in the first three days. How can this be done? The diet is a cheat, a con. You are made to think that the weight you have lost is fat: it isn’t. It is simply water. And this water will replace itself automatically once the diet is over.

 

To understand this, the body’s reaction to different types of food must be examined. Most rapid weight loss diets are high in protein, and low in carbohydrate. Water in the body attaches itself to a substance called glycogen, and the level of glycogen in the body is controlled by carbohydrate intake..

 

Thus, when carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, as happens on a crash diet, glycogen stores are reduced, and the amount of fluid in the body is reduced. This registers as a weight loss on the scales, but it is weight that will be regained immediately once a normal carbohydrate intake is re-established. It is not a fat loss at all.

 

If a strict diet like this is prolonged, some body fat will be lost, but lean tissue will also be lost from the vital organs and this can be dangerous. Also, lean tissue will be lost from the muscles. The more severe the diet, the more lean tissue is lost. Weight regained after the diet, however, will be fat tissue, so the body will be flabbier and look fatter than previously. And fat tissue is lazier than lean tissue, using less calories, so the dieter is more likely to gain weight than before the diet began. It will also be more difficult to lose weight at the next attempt.

 

These facts are well known to the medical profession, and have been widely available for years, yet they are scarcely mentioned in any diet book. Instead, these books often issue strict warnings about determination and lack of will power, making dieters fell guilty and ashamed if they break their diet.

 

Yet, sticking to these programmes requires almost super human will power, because depleted glycogen stores cause intense feelings of hunger. It’s like pulling against a spring: your body urges you to eat, but your mind insists you can’t. If you don’t break the diet, you are likely to overeat when you reach target weight, and are freed from the diet. But, even if you don’t overeat, you will regain weight anyway, because of the greater proportion of lazy fat tissue in your body, because your metabolism has slowed, and because lost fluid will replace itself.

 

Diet/binge syndrome

 

Crash dieting is an uphill struggle, therefore, with the body resisting all attempts to shed that weight. Many people, particularly women, have been dieting on and off for years, and cumulative result is that they now eat a lot less than they did years ago, but they weigh a lot more. Their metabolic rate drops from one diet to the next, making them ever more likely to gain weight.

 

The psychological effects are devastating. They feel helpless and inadequate because they cannot cope with their problem. They are full of shame, self loathing and self disgust. Their lives are a continual circle of diets, broken by binges when the diets become too much for them.

 

How can the destructive diet/binge cycle be broken? The answer lies in a regular well-balanced diet, augmented by some form of aerobic exercise. Of course, the dieters have heard that before. And it is advice that they always reject. Your mind is probably jumping in right now saying “that takes too long, I need something fast”, ‘’what’s a balanced diet anyway?’ or ‘I hate exercise’. The invitation to ‘lose 10lbs in two weeks’ sounds much more attractive, so you opt for that yet again.