Author: Amanda Cofer, MPH
Losing weight quickly is entirely possible. It’s easy when you think about the math behind it. You eat fewer calories than you burn and that should be that. Sometimes this concept is taken to the extreme though to drop the pounds even more quickly than normal. Easy? Sure! But this may come at a price. If you’re wondering about how to lose weight fast, read this before you start cutting foods out of your day.
What happens when you crash diet
Before we dive in to what happens when you crash diet, we have to define what a crash diet is (makes sense, right?). According to Merriam-Webster, the medical definition of a crash diet is, “a diet intended to help a person lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time typically by reducing the amount of food consumed to minimal levels.” These diets are not meant to be sustainable for a long period of time and are incredibly restrive, sometimes cutting out entire food groups or involving consuming only liquids. So what happens when you put your body through something this intense to drop weight quickly?
One of the biggest things that happens is your metabolism slows to an all but screeching halt. When you’ve cut your calories to what may be a fourth of what your body is used to, your body has no idea where or when it’s next meal will be. So, to protect itself, your metabolism slows to conserve every bit of energy possible. This may also lead you to feel fatigued and tired much of the time. Along with this, you will burn lean muscle mass alongside your fat mass (because to your body fuel is fuel and it doesn’t care where it comes from). As your temporary diet comes to an end, this loss of muscle can be detrimental to your metabolism in the long run as well as hinder muscular strength.
You’ll be missing essential nutrients and minerals, including calcium, so your body may start to pull from what is stored in your bones. When your diet is limited to extremely tight calories, juices, or just a few specific food items, you miss out on key vitamins and minerals needed to function properly. Over time, this can lead to weakened bones, decreased immune system function, and even heart problems. Sometimes these diets cut out entire groups of larger nutrients as well, like carbs for example. Not only do we need calories to function but we need carbs. They’ve gotten a bad rap over the years and it’s true that not all carbs are created equal, but they are the main source of our body’s energy. Without them, combined with a low calorie count, you can say “Hello!” to some serious fatigue and brain fog.
Your sympathetic nervous system will say, “What the heck, man?!” The sympathetic nervous system is what controls our automatic processes, like heartbeat, blood pressure, and respiration, so that we don’t have to constantly think about them. But when our bodies reach “starvation mode”, are missing vital nutrients, and are running low on fuel, things get thrown out of whack. The chances of experiencing an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or a drastically slowed heart rate increases which makes it harder for oxygen to reach your brain, organs, and muscles. Your blood pressure may also drop quickly at times, meaning that you are likely to pass out. So, you may want to skip the gym if you’re starting to feel that lightheaded feeling come on.
Rebound is real. Research shows that many are likely to regain the weight they lost and then some after their restrictive, temporary diet has ended. Remember, our bodies are pros when it comes to self-preservation. This is another protection feature your body has built in, controlled by hormones. Once you bring back the calories you cut out before, your appetite starts to rev back up. The ghrelin gremlin rears its ugly head and you may find yourself feeling hungrier than ever before. Grhelin played an important role for our ancestors as a protection against starvation and maintaining body fat when food was scarce. Unfortunately, when access to food is no longer an issue for many, the physiological effects are still the same so you’ll find yourself regaining the weight you lost and then some.
Always opt for sustainability
Hopefully that previous section go you thinking about that “juice cleanse” (a.k.a crash diet) that your sister-in-law, co-worker, or BFF wants you to do with them. It’s easy to cut out calories, eat only certain foods, and skip meals, but the catch is that your body will revolt and in the end, it won’t work for long-term weight control. When looking to lose weight, always opt for something sustainable. Slow changes and gradually implementing them while working to lose 1-2 pounds each week makes losing weight more successful in the end. Why? Because you’ve now given your body a chance to adjust and understand that it’s ok, things are fine. No need for starvation mode or the ghrelin gremlin.
Having the patience to make these types of lifestyle changes over a temporary “quick-fix” takes a lot of grit and perseverance. It’s the harder way and sometimes the path less traveled. Noom can be there for you every step of the way and be your partner in the journey to some seriously sustainable changes in your habits to help you lose weight, and keep it off. Noom understands that we (as a general populous) have to stop dieting. When you diet and restrict, the root of your issues with food, exercise, or your own body aren’t addressed. Diets break foods down into “good” and “bad” categories adding an element of guilt and shame when you try to have a balanced time at a co-worker’s birthday party and enjoy a piece of cake. Learning the why behind your behaviors, learning to navigate these parties in a satisfying and healthy way is sometimes just as much, if not more fulfilling, than fitting into the outfit you bought for an event. In fact, it all goes hand in hand.
Sustainable lifestyle changes go deeper than the scale and focus on behavior. Behavior change may sound scarier to some than just sticking to 500 calories a day. Why? Because it can involve a lot of self-reflection and personal development and sometimes that can be uncomfortable; but you have to do the digging to get to the diamonds, right? Behavior change accounts for more than just the number you see each morning when you step on the scale. It gets at your weight loss in a more holistic way to help you understand you and your triggers more effectively. This is where knowledge meets action in your lifestyle change process. This is what your Noom Coach is there to help you do! Your coach will act as a guide in your self-discovery, lifestyle change, and weight loss process through action oriented goal setting and meeting you where you are now.
The bottom line: You can lose weight fast, but….
The bottom line is that you can lose weight fast, but it may not be safe for you or your body. You can lose weight fast, but you may do some damage to your metabolism in the process making it tough to keep the weight off in the long run. Crash diets and intense restrictions on calories and food groups are meant to be temporary which means your weight loss is also likely to be temporary. The lifestyle change approach is not only safer for your body as it changes with weight loss but more sustainable. You’ll truly learn about yourself and behaviors in the process and learn how to take action on them in a way that works for you. This is what will result in long-term weight loss success in the end. Afterall, diets are temporary and your health should be forever.