The Dark Side of Crash Diets

crash diets - person checking the size of their waist with a tape measure

In the pursuit of weight loss, people can do a lot of crazy things. They may train intensely, go under a surgeon’s knife, or not eat anything for days. Dieting or regulating food habits can be effective only when done under the supervision of a medical doctor. Unfortunately, most people on a crash diet are doing it on the recommendation of their friend or family member and not a doctor. So, what is a crash diet and why is it so bad?

A Brief Intro to Crash Diets


A crash diet is an extremely low-calorie diet that severely monitors your eating habits. There is no standard crash diet as such. Any form of diet that intends to achieve high weight loss within a short time period can be considered a crash diet.

According to some doctors, consuming less than 1,200 calories a day as part of a diet plan is crash dieting. You would reduce the amount of food intake and decrease the frequency at which you eat to stay within the upper-calorie intake limit. Day-long fasts, detox programs, yo-yo diets, and cleansing diets are all manifestations of the crash dieting theory. These diets are quite popular because they claim to quick fix a problem that needs a long-term approach.


Such restrictions on calorie intake and food, in general, are not sustainable. In other words, it will not take too long for people on such diets to go back to their regular eating habits that contributed to their weight gain in the first place.

woman biting into a carrot

Crash Diet and Health Concerns


Following a crash diet is as simple as reducing your calorie intake. However, you could end up paying heavily for that act. Crash diets are unbalanced nutritionally and could cause long-term poor mental and physical health. The major side effects include:


  • A weakened immune system
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Irritability
  • Hair thinning
  • Headaches


Rapid weight loss could bring down your metabolism, not providing essential nutrients to your body. Moreover, crash diets could negatively impact your immune system, pushing up your risks of heart palpitations, dehydration, and cardiac stress.

health check with a doctor

Crash dieting for a day or two may not hurt your heart. But if the dieting continues for days and weeks together, then there’s a problem in hand. Long-term cutting down of the calories could eventually lead to loss of heart muscle. Yo-yo dieting could harm your blood vessels. This is because all of the growing and shrinking lead to micro tears, which create the mechanism for atherosclerosis and other kinds of heart problems.


Though crash diets cause weight loss, most of the weight is lost to a reduction of water stores and glycogen in the body. This could lead to energy loss and make you feel fatigued. Also, due to the decrease in nutrients and vitamins consumed during the diet, your body would not be able to produce energy, leaving behind a tired and sluggish you.


Also, crash dieting encourages fat storage and burns the muscles instead for energy. This not just causes a significant amount of tissue loss surrounding the vital organs of your body, such as the kidneys, liver and brain, but you would also look ill and malnourished. If looking good was one of the reasons behind your food abstinence, crash dieting is not what you should be looking at.




A diet isn’t forever – be it a crash diet or any other form of dieting. There would be start and end points, which means your eating habits only change when you are on the diet. After the diet period is over, you would invariably revert to your unhealthy eating habits of the past and gain those lost pounds again. In fact, regaining weight after the hard work you put into the crash diet would break your confidence in the notion of weight loss. In short, avoid crash diets.

fresh fruit in the summer

The ideal and most effective way to lose weight is following a well-balanced, nutritious diet that packs in all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. Being physically active is equally important. You could do strength training two times a week or cardio for 100 minutes per week. Remember to always talk to a doctor before taking up any dieting plan or training regimen, particularly if you have health issues.

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