Crash dieting leads to a crash and burn.
Crash dieting fucks up your Leptin (satiety hormone) and Ghrelin (hunger hormone) for years. There’s lots of good science about this now. Leptin and Ghrelin are parts of our metabolism. (Fast weight loss also affects other elements of your metabolism, but these are the main ones and are simplest to explain.)
When your satiety (fullness) signals and your hunger signals are out of whack, that is when people can’t control their eating and binge and yo-yo.
All those “serial starters” crash diet, overeat, rinse and repeat.
Fast weight loss causes yo-yo weight gain
There’s no point doing a crazy diet you hate then going right back to eating the way you used to. Hello yo-yo!
And that’s assuming you can even stick to the crazy diet long enough to lose any weight!
Please talk to a doctor and/or dietitian about your health and dietary requirements regularly.
People seem to think “eating healthy” or “losing weight” means punishing yourself.
Kale, steamed chicken, and 6 hours in the gym a week… Sound familiar?
The endless hype about motivation is your weight loss worst enemy.
The idea is to learn how to eat sustainably for the rest of your life.
You don’t even need to “eat less and move more” (a saying which causes a lot of extremism). You could just do one or the other.
Eat back your exercise calories!
If you’re already eating less food overall every day, if you fuel the exercise you do, it’s still going to mean you will lose weight.
If you don’t eat exercise calories back, that’s when you lose muscle, get weaker, move less, get really hungry, and can end up with an eating disorder, or crashing and burning and failing to reach goal weight.
Then when you fail, you go back to your bad habits and gain more weight back than you lost because your hormones and your perception of food can’t regulate your hunger.
You don’t have to count calories to lose weight, but you need an understanding of the body’s general “Energy Equation”. (A calorie is a unit of energy.)
- Small men less than 15 lb overweight should eat at least 1500 calories a day when dieting, plus what they burn in exercise;
- Small women less than 15 lb overweight should eat a minimum of 1200 calories, plus what they burn in exercise.
If you’re taller and/or heavier, you need to eat more because you need more energy to move yourself around.
These calorie figures are the bare minimum you need to function normally while still losing weight.
There are a couple of other general guidelines about weight loss rates.
One is not to lose more than 1% of your body weight a week.
If you are around 10 kg or 20 lb overweight:
- To lose 1 kg = 28,000 kilojoule deficit: Should not take less than 4 weeks. E.g. 1000 kj or one Mars bar less a day than if you’re maintaining.
- To lose 1 lb = 3,500 calorie deficit: Should not take less than 2 weeks. E.g. 250 kcal a day less.
If you try to lose it faster, you’ll gain it back fast!
I’ve seen this too:
If you have 75+ lbs to lose 2 lbs/week is ideal (1,000 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 40-75 lbs to lose 1.5 lbs/week is ideal (750 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 25-40 lbs to lose 1 lbs/week is ideal (500 calorie daily deficit)
If you have 15 -25 lbs to lose 0.5 to 1.0 lbs/week is ideal (250-500 calorie daily deficit)
If you have less than 15 lbs to lose 0.5 lbs/week is ideal (250 calorie daily deficit)
Crash dieting causes people to crash and burn and regain more than they lost. They get weak and lose muscle mass and hence get a slower metabolism (lower Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)) and lose perspective on how much they need to maintain weight.
Losing muscle and feeling weak means less non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.), so it lowers total daily energy expenditure. You feel lethargic so you don’t do as many little walks or jobs at home or work.
To keep losing weight they eat even less, and so it spirals downward towards hormone disruption & bingeing it back, and/or developing an eating disorder.
The massive and aggressive competition in the diet industry is a huge cause of so much yo-yo dieting, obesity, and eating disorders.
The diet industry feeds itself on the harmful goal of fast weight loss, offering fad diets, diet scams, quick fixes, and crash diets.
Cutting out all fat, carbohydrates, vegetables, or sugar, can lead to deprivation that is unsustainable.
Fast weight loss is bad.
Extreme diets are bad.
All those “Biggest Loser” contestants gaining all the weight back weren’t learning anything about weight maintenance being on the show.
Sustainable eating does not mean punishing yourself.
It takes quite a while to think this through.
It can be very hard to switch to having a mindset of sustainable eating when all around are advertisements offering fast and extremist solutions.
Once you notice this you see it everywhere.
We can’t change our mind about this easily, especially when society, family, and media teach us this mindset. Also genetics, biology and evolution.
Eat what sustains you as long as possible.
Here’s what’s sustaining me:
- Volume Eating. Fruit and veg have fibre which makes you feel full, and they bulk up the size of your meal and add very few calories.
- Protein and fat (and fibre) can make you feel fuller.
- My macronutrients are usually around 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat, 20% protein, and that keeps me very healthy, active, and happy.
- Most days lately, I love eating Greek yoghurt, cereal biscuits, fruit, vegetable and pasta Napolitano, vegetable protein/seafood/chicken with rice/noodles/potato, more veg, and dessert or chocolate depending on my day’s exercise.
- Some days (after a big sweat, perhaps), I need some salty chips, and maybe a chocolate protein drink.
- Some days, I like pizza (which can have all the micro and macronutrients you need AND not have too many calories).
If I deprived myself of things I love, I would never have lasted the distance.
What sustains you?
Again, see a doctor and/or dietitian about your health and dietary requirements regularly.
When you are maintaining your weight and tracking calorie intake, you can’t get the maths exactly right. Some days your intake will be higher than your energy intake.
I go by my weekly calorie limit, and make sure I stick to it, and also track my weight daily so I get data for the weight trend. If you can tweak smaller fluctuations, you don’t need to make larger changes.
Having a higher calorie day here and there balances out over the week if you have some lower calorie days. That’s how Intermittent Fasting works, in all its varying personas.
You can also gauge your calorie deficit by your weight loss via the scale and tweak that way.
Just don’t be a “Biggest Loser” wannabe because they gained it all back!
The slower you lose as you get close to your goal, the higher the chances of having hormones and habits that mean you can handle maintaining your goal weight for longer. This process is also aided by regular week-long diet breaks / refeeds of eating at maintenance calories, which let your hunger hormones settle down.
People set a weight loss goal deadline, and starve themselves to get there, not realising that they want to get there so quickly because starving themselves is so awful. A snake eating its tail.
“If I lose weight fast, the sooner I can go back to eating too much.” – Pretty much everyone dieting ever.
Someone had to tell me something similar after I’d been using My Fitness Pal to track calorie intake for about 6 months and not eating my exercise calories back. A hard lesson to learn. But I really appreciate what he said now so much.
If you enjoy the process you can stick to the process.