I’m a nutritionist – here’s what we really think about pre-holiday crash diets

SUMMER is just around the corner, which will certainly tempt many to go on a crash diet.

But one nutritionist has warned of precisely why you shouldn’t turn to a quick weight-loss fix.

Trying to get inches off your waistline in a short period of time is a bad idea, one expert has warned


Trying to get inches off your waistline in a short period of time is a bad idea, one expert has warnedCredit: Alamy

Experts often tell us that “diets don’t work.”

Phoebe Liebling, a nutritional therapist and clinical director, says depriving yourself of foods you like and then indulging in them post-diet is both mentally and physically harmful.

And she believes intensive dieting is actually fueling the UK’s obesity problem, rather than fixing it.

“The statistics say it all – in the UK, 28 per cent of our population is currently obese and a further 36 per cent are overweight,” she says.

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Restricting calories and suddenly exercising more can help you shed weight before hitting the beach this summer.

And you may feel fantastic – but for how long and at what cost?

The slack problem

What most people don’t realize when they embark on an abrupt weight loss plan is that they will end up burning more muscle than fat.

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“When someone goes on a crash diet, they lose weight quickly because they’re losing water and lean muscle mass,” explains Phoebe.

“You can’t physically get rid of body fat that quickly; It takes about 10 to 14 days to get rid of fat cells.”

With less muscle, you risk a variety of problems.

“A crash diet will cause your weight to drop on the scale, but from a physical appearance perspective, you probably don’t look the way you want to,” says Phoebe.

“That’s because muscle is smaller in volume than fat, and that’s what attracts us! Fat is lighter but takes up comparatively more space.”

But the main problem is that losing lean muscle mass while holding on to fat “makes your body less metabolically efficient.”

Muscles work harder to burn energy from the food we eat.

That means it keeps metabolism high and our bodies lean.

“Muscles are always working, which means you have to do less to maintain your weight,” says Phoebe.

“Fat sits there, doesn’t use energy, and actually produces hormones that distort the hunger signal (make you hungrier).”

The rebound effect

All of this ties into a long-term weight loss problem.

“[Due to] Muscle loss, even if you go back to your original eating habits, you won’t burn energy like you did before the diet,” explains Phoebe.

“Because of this, Jo-Joers find that with repeated diet cycles, they progressively gain weight and also find it harder to change each time.”

When the body loses a drastic amount of weight, its instinct is to regain it – as much as possible and more.

Phoebe says most people will gain more body fat from repeated crash dieting because “the body stores extra fat to protect against future ‘famine’.”

That’s why so many of us have dieted only to find that we were significantly heavier than we were when we started.

“For example, if someone goes on a crash diet for a week, going back to their original weight is basically just a reflection of the fact that they’re eating again,” says Phoebe.

“The ‘weight loss’ was just that water and colon contents were removed.

“If they go longer [than a week] and then get back to normal, because when they start eating again, their body quickly stores more fat because it feels like it’s starved.”

Additionally, Phoebe says that an “extremely low-calorie, semi-starved diet impairs immunity, sleep, and mood balance.”

Studies show that fatigue or mood swings can counteract weight loss by causing more food cravings.

What to do instead?

If weight loss is your goal, there are more sustainable ways to achieve it than an annual summer diet.

Instead of starving yourself in an “uphill battle,” Phoebe recommends the following rules for every meal to keep you “feeling full”:

  • 25-30 grams of protein
  • 2 handfuls of fibrous vegetables (not just lettuce, but foods like carrots, broccoli, and cabbage)
  • A slow-burning carbohydrate such as whole wheat bread (one slice), 1/2 cup brown rice, or whole wheat pasta (cooked)
  • A serving of healthy fat (1/4 avocado, handful of nuts/olives, 1 teaspoon nut butter/tahini/olive oil, 1 tablespoon yogurt),

“Eat like this two to three times a day, leaving adequate breaks between meals and making sure you drink 1.5 to 2 liters of pure water (adjust for your body weight and activity level) so that your body works the way you want it to,” says Phoebe.

She also advises against limiting treats as it can create a bad relationship with food.

“In my clinical experience, it doesn’t matter what the thing is, if you make it a ‘shouldn’t,’ then you’ll turn to it and probably have it in excess when you need an emotional/energetic crutch at some point.”

Then there’s exercise, which Phoebe recommends throughout the day.

“Exercise in spurts supports weight loss far more than a morning workout followed by eight hours of sitting still,” she says.

“Walking uphill is one of the most well-established forms of activity for weight loss, as is strength training.”

Phoebe says that cardio exercises like running or cycling are no more supportive of fat loss than lifting weights or resistance training.

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https://www.thesun.ie/health/8795885/why-crash-diet-before-summer-bad-idea/ I’m a nutritionist – here’s what we really think about pre-holiday crash diets

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