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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t “Crash Diet”

Obligatory reminder: I’m not a doctor, so you shouldn’t treat me as one. If you have specific health issues, don’t listen to me, consult with your doctor, physician, or nutritionist. I write from personal experience, not a medical background!
 
Weight Watchers, Atkins, Paleo, Keto, & Low Carb are just a few of the popular diets readily available for anyone to start right now. Famous backers for these diets, such as Oprah with Weight Watchers or Joe Rogan with Keto, also aids in their popularity.
 
Please understand that I am NOT saying these diets are inherently bad. Most of them have plenty of great health benefits, and they can be a great way to change your life if you’re willing to stick to them. But, THAT is where the line is drawn- “if you’re willing to stick to them.”
 
My position is not that these diets are bad, but rather that our interpretation of “diet” is bad. Here are 5 reasons why we shouldn’t crash diet:
 

  • Crash diets give a short-term solution to a long-term need

The longer we stay healthy, assuming no external issues, the longer we live. Health, then, is something we should view through a macro lens rather than being super worried about day-to-day progress. This desire to see immediate change is usually the #1 thing keeping us from actually seeing it through over a longer period of time, and crash diets (in my humble opinion) feed this unhealthy desire for many people.

We want 6-pack abs, and we want them tomorrow. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. If it did, do you think close to 2/3 of Americans would still be overweight?

This short term desire to be healthy, plus my laziness in not setting up proper systems for myself, is the main reason why I was 40lbs overweight for most of my time in college. Want to be healthier or look better? Put in the work and the time!

  • The goal of health is happiness, not weight loss

There is a sense of clarity and accomplishment that comes with gradual progress in the gym and the kitchen. Over a longer healthy journey, you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before. You get a good sense of what works for you, what doesn’t, and where your strengths/weaknesses lie.

This does not happen in a crash diet. Honestly, you don’t really learn anything other than to say “no” to any type of balance. There’s also a bit of a misconception in that stars who subscribe to certain diets, such as Joe Rogan with Keto, do this ALL THE TIME. It’s his lifestyle, not a 2-month sprint.

Your goal shouldn’t be to lose weight, but to be healthier and happier. Usually, they go hand in hand, but only when your motives are clear.

  • You can lose weight and still be unhealthy

Obviously, losing weight often leads to you looking better- which is great! However, if the goal becomes weight loss, you can do some pretty unhealthy things to meet your goal. A person’s weight just isn’t that great of a metric to truly test how healthy they are.

Those that have been exercising and eating healthy foods for a long time can vouch for this: your nutrition matters more to your overall health than exercise! If you had the option to workout every day and have a diet of potato chips and soda, or never work out and eat healthy foods, you’d find that the 2ndmethod will give far better results for both your physical and mental health. Fortunately, that’s not a choice we have to make!

Losing weight is a metric to track your progress, but should never be the only goal.

  • Ultra-restriction leads to binge eating

Those who have military-levels of discipline might be able to go on a super restrictive diet and be fine. If you can do that, awesome! Do that! However, I cannot, and know this because I’ve tried it many times.

Sure, I might go a couple of weeks while only eating grilled chicken and broccoli, but eventually, I’m going to give in. I see the chocolate muffin, I JUST eat one of them, which leads to eating 4 of them, which leads to washing it down with a large coke, etc. etc. Ultra-restriction leads to binge eating, which is yet another reason why crash diets are not ideal.

Again, while some of you might be able to stick to a very strict diet for a long period of time, I’m willing to bet that most of you reading fall into the same category as me. If that’s the case, why not just accept that fact, and adopt a long-term approach? Food for thought (pun intended).

  • Even if it works, what next?

 
Alright, let’s say your crash diet actually “works” (whatever that means to you). Perhaps you drop some weight very quickly, so you build some momentum and start feeling better about yourself. You FINALLY lost the weight- now what?
 
This is my biggest issue with crash diets– they help you lose weight, but they don’t really teach you how to live a healthy life. They show you how to quickly correct your poor choices, not how to sustain lifelong good choices. A crash diet may teach you some discipline, but it doesn’t teach you practicality, nor will it equip you with sustainable habits. 
 
If you’re overweight or unhealthy, I empathize with you. It makes you uncomfortable, and can genuinely get in your head and kill your confidence. However, while you may not want to hear it, a crash diet is most likely not the best thing for you right now (unless you are severely overweight. In that case, you shouldn’t be listening to me anyway, and should consult with your trusted physician.)
 
Make a promise to yourself, and just try it for 6 months. Get your nutrition in check, but look to incorporate foods which you can enjoy without feeling guilty. Start exercising, and add a little more every week. If you’ll commit to that for just 6 months, I think you’ll be very surprised by how much progress you can make!

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5 Misconceptions About Weight Loss

Let’s talk about weight loss! As with any health and wellness article I write, please realize that I am not a health expert, nor do I claim to be. Any changes you make to your daily diet or workout routine should be because of your own research and/or recommendation from your trusted physician or nutritionist.
 
With that being said, there were many ideas I had about weight loss which I later found to be either inaccurate or 100% false. There’s so much information on the internet, and that can make it difficult for us to truly understand what to do. Below are just 5 of these common misconceptions:
 

  • Following a crash diet is not ideal for long-term results

This isn’t a “knock” on some of the popular diets in 2019. For many people, different programs like the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting work very well (I have personally been intermittent fasting for the last 10 months).

However, it’s a HUGE knock on those trying to sell you a SUPER restrictive diet for a few months just so you can lose some weight and go back to your less-than-ideal eating habits. This approach is absolute garbage! I should know- I tried it all 4 years of college.

I gained roughly 40 pounds within my first 1 ½ years while in school. That’s not “stress”, that’s having no self-control, and I fully admit it. What made it worse? I tried to lose weight once or twice a year and failed every single time because I was thinking about it the wrong way.

The truth is that if we want to become healthy long-term, we don’t need a diet, we need a lifestyle change. We need small habits which over time deliver big results, not a crash-course diet which deprives us of everything we enjoy eating. While some people find success with that method, most of us quit after a couple of weeks. Remember: If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. 

  • Eliminating all fats from your diet is not healthy

“Fat makes you fat” is scientifically false- there’s no other way around it. FAT IS NOT YOUR ENEMY!

Contrary to popular belief, SOME fat actually promotes overall health (and specifically heart health). Monounsaturated (found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) are excellent for heart health. In fact, one of the most common polyunsaturated fats are Omega-3s, which are the essential nutrients found in fish oil.

Fat doesn’t make you fat- too much bad fat makes you fat. Understand the difference, and then eat your avocados! 😀

  • You cannot target weight loss in specific areas of your body

Spot reduction does not exist outside of liposuction. This is another HUGE idea which I did not understand until recently. Fact: It does not matter how many crunches, sit-ups, or leg lifts you do- if stomach fat is covering your abs, you will NEVER see them!

Literally, never, ever, ever!

That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true, and the moment we accept it is the moment we can take necessary steps to get that 6-pack (or at least lose some belly fat). The trick is quite simple, and it’s been true since the dawn of man: If we want to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume. 

Before you go out and buy the newest Ab Blaster Deluxe 5000, take a look at what you’re eating. Understand how much cardio you are doing every week. Get a baseline understanding of how many calories you need to burn a day in order to be in a caloric deficit.

After that, you can look to specifically target your abs (or any specific body part). Don’t misinterpret my intentions- ab exercises are EXCELLENT for developing solid core strength and overall aesthetics, but doing them alone will probably not get you the results you want.

  • All calories are not the same- WHAT we eat matters!

Having a daily caloric intake goal is a nice way to keep track of your progress and keep yourself accountable. However, if that goal becomes your sole focus, you may fall behind in your weight loss journey.

Think of it this way: If your goal is to consume 2,000 calories a day, you can do that by eating 2-3 good sized meals filled with protein, healthy fats, and some carbs. Alternatively, you can eat 13.33 Twinkies (roughly 2,000 cals) and meet your caloric requirements that way.

Did both options meet your calorie goal? Yep! Was the 2nd one a good idea or even remotely healthy? Nope! Obviously, your situation may not be that extreme, but using an extreme scenario gets the point across. What you eat matters to the way you feel and look, so make it a goal to incorporate healthy foods in your life rather than just trying to hit a specific calorie intake.

  • Make incremental changes rather than changing everything at once

 
This is the biggest mistake I made when trying to lose weight in college. While this may be counterintuitive, and perhaps not as motivating as going as hard as you can from the very beginning, making small changes to your lifestyle at the beginning will create the best chance for your success.
 
When I wanted to lose weight, I’d say to myself, “Alright, Sean. Starting today, you are going to eat nothing but clean calories, do 45 minutes of cardio a day, lift weights 5 days a week, and find the cure for cancer by next Thursday.”
 
Ok, the last one was a joke, but in all honesty that method was going to get me about as close to my weight loss goals as it was to me curing cancer (while I’m a ‘jokester’, cancer kills people every day. Check out the American Association for Cancer Research to donate and learn about cancer research being done today!).
 
Rather than trying to do everything at once, start with small goals like going to the gym 2-3 times a week, limiting yourself to 1 treat/day, and then go from there. Will this take longer than a crash diet which deprives yourself of any enjoyment? Yes. Will you have a better chance of actually losing weight and gaining physical/mental health in the process? You bet!