Crash Diets : Do they really work?

Crash diet? Sounds like disaster to me!

Why are crash diets so appealing to us? What is it about this promise of a "quick fix" that lures so many of us into its lair only to mash us up then spew us out shortly after, often in a worse state than we were before?

Crash diets, (or fad diets as they are also known) have been described as a sudden change in dietary behaviour, usually by reducing calorie-intake drastically or drastically limiting the food groups to be ingested. These diets are not recommended by the medical profession and even are actively discouraged by many doctors and health care professionals. Despite this fact, a very high percentage of the overweight female population will try one of these types of diets at least sometime in their lives. But are they really to blame??. There is an important target group of women who are vunerable to the advertising pressure exerted by the media including some women's magazines, and easily entice them into embarking on weight/loss diets which, are not only doomed to failure but also are extremely bad for health.


Personal battle

I have battled with weight issues all my life and have many times fallen into the crash diet trap but now I want to take a real look at WHY I have been having this bad relationship with food for so many years. I want to know what makes us think that a crash diet would solve our weight problems. I have to own up to the fact that it invariably never did for me, but strangely enough, it has taken me literally years, and many crash diets, to come out and admit to the fact. However now I realise that, as well as being addicted to food, I was also addicted to fad diets and quick fix solutions.

Triggers leading to The Crash Diet Syndrome CDS

As in many of our behavioural reactions, there are "triggers" which set off a chain of reactions within us. A "trigger" could be an event or a situation which links into the behaviour we are addressing, such as the decision to go on a crash diet, and results in our conducting that behaviour pattern, almost subconsciously. It is of the utmost importance to identify "triggers" in our behaviour patterns so that we can avoid them or reduce their frequency, especially if they trigger a behaviour pattern we wish to control or even eliminate. The decision to go on a crash diet is no exception and the triggers are multiple and can range from something like catching a glimpse of yourself in an uncomplimentary photo posted on social media to a medical warning from your local GP that you need to "lose some weight".

Find out why we eat badly

Does it work?

The incredible thing is that I let myself be convinced into thinking it can work and that all will be well afterwards. The incredible thing is that I believe the "diet" will produce the results that I want and that when it is"over", I will be able to eat what I always eat, bad habits included.. And here is the whole crux of the matter. I believe that "the diet" will do all the hard work for me. Somehow I manage to take away the ME in this and the PERSONAL SACRIFICE that I will have to make and I think I actually come to have 'faith' in the creator of the diet, with the magical formula.

Crash Diets Lower Metabolic Rate

There have been many articles written about why crash dieting doesn't work and there are many websites which can cite medical surveys and opinion denouncing the whole concept of crash diets.......Linda Bacon, PhD professor of Nutrition at the University of City College of San Francisco has said that weight is not the problem, but dieting. (See link to her book and biography below) Also a study from the University of Colorado found, surprisingly that 35% of all dieters turn into "pathological" dieters at sometime in their lives. This is all depressing news. It has been well documented that one main reason for the failure of crash diets is that the hypothalamus in the brain controls metabolism and when this gland detects a drastic reduction in usual calorie intake, (such as at the onset of a crash diet) then it sends out messages to the body to also reduce drastically basal metabolic rate. This means that the body is using even fewer calories than normal to perform basic life functions. Quite the opposite to what was intended !

What does this mean?



Another reason why 'crash diets' are doomed to be failures from the beginning, is that they are so boring, monotonous and often unsociable. Just think: before the diet begins, you are probably eating exactly what you want and however much you want...ironically, this is probably why you can be so determined in spirit to embark upon a 'crash diet'. The problem lies in the fact that we cannot avoid food altogether, like other habits. We can't just avoid food completely, because h eating is absolutely vital to our survival. So after 3 days on the "only raw vegetables for a week" diet, you will probably be crawling up the wall, wishing you were one of those deep-rooted carrots themselves. The monotony of the crash diet means that it is virtually impossible to sustain for the length of time suggested.....and if it is, it is only because you then become completely obsessed and can hardly function on any other level than focusing on the diet. The unsociable nature of these diets only adds to the effect of their unsustainabilty. You have to forego a meal out at the weekend even though you could easliy order sensibly from a good menu, becaue you are on the "only raw carrots for a week" diet.It is really no wonder these diets are impossible.

Is this you?

don't fall into the yo-yo syndrome
don't fall into the yo-yo syndrome | Source

The Yo-yo effect

Even if you make it to the end of the Crash diet programme and you have lost the weight you intended to lose, this is not the end of the story. For many it is only the beginning. Firstly, my natural reaction is to get back to the food I really enjoy. Well, I deserve it! I have been "good" for a whole 2 weeks and I need to relax. Unfortunately, my body says the same, and is overjoyed that it is back to normal. But the old body has a good memory and cannot be tricked. It remembers that it was starving and lacked a lot of the nutrients it needed and so it goes into 'fat storing' mode; just the opposite to what we wanted. The reult is that we find in 2-3 days of former eating habits we can easily recoup all the weight we lost after the week's crash diet. So after a fewweeks of recouping all I have lost (and perhaps more) I often find myself more depressed and down about my weight. I tend to start searching for a new system or crash diet that could get me back on the right track again: and thus the Yo-yo effect! Back again on the diet treadmill one more time and the viscious circle is complete!


I find it very disconcerting that although I have read a lot of theory and physical facts about dieting, I can still fall into the Crash diet trap. Although I am coping much better recently I still struggle with the psychology behind dieting. i would like to hear from other dieters addicted to the "quick fix" and find out how you are coping.

Have you ever been on a crash diet?

Please describe your experience after having undergone a crash diet of any sort.

  • I lost the weight I intended to lose and have kept it off
  • I lost the weight I intended to lose but regained it after the diet
  • I didn't manage to reach the end of the crash diet and didn't lose the weight
See results without voting

Have you ever been on a Crash Diet ?

I would greatly appreciate any comments about your own personal weight-loss struggle especially Crash dieting. Please share how you are managing this issue.

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Comments 13 comments

soconfident profile image

soconfident 3 years ago

Great article, people are sucked into going on a crash diet mostly because something they saw on TV

Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 3 years ago from San Diego, California

I've not done crash dieting before, but I was wondering what your opinion was on fasting. They're similar in the sense that they drastically limit calorie intake. I know persons who have fasted a full 24 hours each week and highly recommended it. They said when you space fasting out to one day a week, the metabolic rate doesn't take a hit.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Very nice and well written hub! I think all those who indulge in crash dieting must read it. I have never done it and will never do it.

I believe that eating sensibly combined with exercises or walk is the right thing to do, in order to reduce weight.

Nice and useful hub-Voted up!

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

@ soconfident, thanks. You are so right; I mentioned magazine front covers but, of course, as you say, TV also plays its part!

@Benjimeister, I am sure there are pros and contras to fasting and you will be able to find medical research into this elsewhere. My personal opinion is that a "healthy lifestyle" is the safest way to go. When I have fasted in the past, I have gone too far and that was the point of the article. No quick fix, just balance and sensible lifestyle is the safest way for me, as I tend to let this sort of thing get out of control.

Thanks for bringing this point forward. Let me know what you think.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

thankyou ChitrangadaSharan. I think you are right.......eating sensibly and mild exercise is a 'way of life' and should be simple and should be the least stressful way of life. Unfortunately, it is so ironic that for many , eating sensibly and taking mild exercise is very stressful

rosa 3 years ago

@benjimeister fasting diets are becoming more common. there is a recent popular one called 5:2. which consists of intermittent fasting. eating normal for 5 days and fasting for 2. it suggests that since the body is used to metabolizing a lot of calories it will still try to burn the same about on the days when you are fasting. thus making you loser some weight

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Hi Rosa,

Interesting theory! I can see how 5:2 could possibly work as you are only fasting for 2 days. The body hasn't got time to adjust metabolism and "save" the calories.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Great information. So many want an easy fix but it's not easy and takes dedication, healthy eating and exercise.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

Oh, if only there were an easy fix! I'm still in hope looking for one, but I think if I haven't found it after all these years, I might as well surrender and just give in to the healthy, balanced life-style! We know it makes sense!

Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

I don't think they work, but I know that everyone sort of looks for a quick fix. I guess after a crash diet you just really have to stick to the rules.

marieryan profile image

marieryan 3 years ago from Andalusia, Spain Author

MonisMas, thanks for commenting ---the only use of a crash diet (or 'a quick fix' as you put it) is that after a few, you start to get the idea that they really don't work and that, as you say, you have to stick to the rules.

It is amazing that us human beings cannot learn lessons the easy way and learn from what other tell us! We ALWAYS have to go through the grind ourselves to be able to learn the lesson! What a hard road to take....( I also was one who wouldn't listen to advice for years...and had to learn the hard way.) Only after many crash/fad diets and a lot of money on 'miracle cures' did I learn the lesson of a balanced diet and exercise!

Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

That was an interesting read. Crash dieting I've never done, but in the last ten years my body has suddenly started to put on weight. I've been told its hormonal, especially after the menopause.... What has worked for me is counting points according to (weight watchers) and keep a high-protein, low-carbs diet. Walking each day is a must and no sugar whatsoever. This way I keep my weight within an acceptable level.

poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 2 years ago

I say stop dieting. Just change the way you live.

No soda, not even diet.

Drink more water. Eat more veggies. Done.

It you want to do even more than consider that there is no minimum daily requirement for refined sugar so eat less of it.

Never eat anything with corn fructose.

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