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!