Doctor-Approved Crash Diets

The Can-Do Doc’s Plan

Weight expert Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, uses fresh fruits and vegetables as her main source of carbohydrates and adds more lean protein, such as chicken and fish, to help eliminate excess fluid retention caused by too much sodium intake or fluctuating menstrual cycles. She also buys calorie-controlled frozen meals from Lean Cuisine or South Beach Diet and saves the containers to measure out her own food portions. Another solution: Replace one meal with a protein shake.

Her Moves

“I’m the ultimate multitasker,” says Fernstrom. “I want to exercise and de-stress at the same time.” While she’d love to take a yoga class, she just doesn’t have the time, and she won’t even attempt to rearrange her schedule. Fernstrom isn’t a fan of anything that she won’t be able to maintain long-term. Her modest but effective commitment: one 30-minute walk carrying 2-pound weights every day.

Her Motivation Tip

“Lack of shut-eye and weight gain are hugely connected, so I make sure to get seven to eight hours of rest a night,” she says. “It takes a certain amount of concentration to make healthful decisions.”

— Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

The Brainy Approach

Psychologist Judith S. Beck, PhD, usually plans to have a small bite of some favorite cheat food (like a miniature candy bar) once a day. That way, cravings are easier to withstand.

Her (Mental) Moves

“I accept the fact that I may feel hungry an hour and a half before dinner,” Beck explains. “But I don’t have to satisfy my appetite by eating at that moment. I make the decision to wait.” If the yen won’t quit, she can break out that bite-size candy bar. Her other tactics:

  • Negotiate with temptations. Cravings can be harder to resist than hunger, because they attack at will and tug at your tongue. “I remind myself that the feeling is temporary and it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as when I broke my arm or pulled a muscle,” says Beck. “If I can tolerate that pain, I can resist the snacking impulse.” Besides, at least one chocolate indulgence has already been planned for.
  • Positive reinforcement. Write down the reasons why losing weight is important, and read the list at least once a day. Or better yet, meditate on each goal. Create encouraging e-mail alerts or flash cards, and stick them in hot zones — the pantry, the snack drawer, the jelly-bean jar (on the top, not the bottom).

“Instead of trying to find a way to fit exercise into my life, I arrange my schedule around exercise, which means I may not be able to get everything done in one day,” Beck says. “But working out is my priority.”

— Judith S. Beck, PhD, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, author of The Beck Diet Solution Weight Loss Workbook

The Drill Instructor’s Program

Retired marine Harvey E. Walden IV follows a regimen that’s as pragmatic as he is: six small, 300- to 350-calorie meals a day, with lean protein at each sitting — such as a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with a low-fat yogurt (yup, the man-of-war does yogurt!). Green apples serve as snacks. Dinner by seven. “You’d be surprised how much weight falls off just by cutting portions and adding exercise,” he says.

His Moves

Cardio: Two sessions three times a week. Mornings: Forty-five minutes on the elliptical machine. “Working out before eating breakfast shocks the body into burning maximum fat,” he says. Research has shown that you’ll torch more fat during your workout if you exercise in the morning before eating than if you perform the same exercise at night. In the evenings, Walden does interval training: one-minute sprints on a track or treadmill, followed by two minutes of fast walking, for a half hour. He finishes with running 30 flights of stairs.

Strength training: One session three days a week (on days when he’s not doing cardio). Hit all the large muscle groups (back, chest, glutes, legs, core) doing three sets of 15 repetitions, using light to medium weights, with minute-long breaks between sets. “Bench presses, cable rows, biceps curls, triceps push-downs, calf raises, leg extensions, crunches — the bigger the muscle you work, the more calories you’ll burn,” Walden explains. Take one day off to rest.

His Motivation Tip

“I keep a workout diary so when I hit a wall, I can see what has worked in the past for my body and what I’ve achieved,” Walden says.

— Sgt. Harvey E. Walden IV, fitness instructor, Celebrity Fit Club, author of Harvey Walden’s No Excuses! Fitness Workout

Dr. Flavor-Full’s Diet

Secret sauces and extra seasonings get the boot! Nutrition researcher David Katz, MD, won’t overexcite his taste buds while trying to lose weight. “The more variety of foods and flavors you introduce, the more appetite is stimulated,” Dr. Katz explains. “If your diet resembles an all-you-can-eat buffet, you’re going to eat a lot.” Dr. Katz also says that restricting meal options will help eliminate temptation. Redundancy is the safest bet.

Aim to consume 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, and stick to the plan for four to six weeks, he advises. Take a multivitamin to get the proper nutrients. Adhering to this program for the full six weeks should help you shed up to 20 pounds, he notes.

Ideally, Dr. Katz would do a two-hour walk, bike ride, or swim daily. He’d turn up the heat by strength training three times a week. “Every pound of muscle you gain consumes twice as many calories as fat,” he explains.

Make strength training a staple in your workout to help maintain a toned physique, he says. “When I was 13 years old, I did 1,500 sit-ups a day. Now that I have a life and have built some muscle mass, I do a short training routine every day, and I’ve never lost my abs!”

Dr. Katz’s Sample Daily Menu

Breakfast: Bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk and mixed berries

Lunch: Mixed green salad with lentils and egg whites

Dinner: Mixed green salad, grilled fish or chicken, cooked vegetables, and whole-grain bread, pasta, or grains

Snack: A mixed-berry salad or a handful of unsalted almonds or walnuts

— David Katz, MD, director of Yale Prevention Research Center, author of Dr. David Katz’s Flavor-Full Diet

The Taster’s Choice

Christine Lydon, MD, wears many hats: pin-up, ripped hottie/doctor/writer. But her diet is simpler than her resume. If she wanted to lose a little around the middle, Dr. Lydon would eat primarily protein and vegetables. Try this saucy recipe from her upcoming book:

Indian Chicken

Makes 8 servings

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

  • 8-10 skinless chicken hindquarters (thighs and legs)
  • 6 cups canned chickpeas, mashed
  • 2 cups baby-cut carrots

For the sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup low-fat or nonfat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 5.5 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup nonfat, sodium-reduced chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay chicken pieces flat over bottom of a 9-x-12-inch casserole dish. Evenly spread mashed chickpeas and baby carrots between and over chicken quarters.

In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until onions are translucent. Add remaining sauce ingredients and stir over low heat until mixture is well blended. Pour sauce over chicken, baby carrots, and mashed chickpeas. Place on the middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.

Nutrition facts per serving: 570 calories, 42g protein, 5g carbohydrate, 23g fat (4g saturated), 13g fiber.

“You burn the most calories when you spike up your heart rate at least four or five times over a 20-minute period,” Dr. Lydon says. Her favorite way to get that cardiac fluctuation is by playing sports, such as ice hockey and skiing in the winter and mountain biking during the warmer months. When she’s not shredding dirt or snow, Dr. Lydon pumps iron with two pairs of weights, 5 and 10 pounds. “Multijoint movement, such as doing a squat and a shoulder press at the same time, will give you the best results,” she says, and it saves time.

Drink about 60 ounces of water a day. Says Dr. Lydon, “Physiologically speaking, you burn fat most efficiently and are able to retain more muscle when you’re adequately hydrated.”

— Christine Lydon, MD, author of Ten Years Thinner, out in January

The Heart Doc’s Plan

Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, knows that ignoring the little things, like nutrition labels, could pack on the pounds easily. “Processed foods may advertise as being low in cholesterol when they’re loaded with sugar,” warns Dr. Goldberg. So don’t eat anything processed, fried, slathered in butter, coated with sugar, or made with white flour. Also, “weigh food portions to make sure a 3-ounce serving of chicken is really 3 ounces,” she says.

Recruit an exercise buddy for inspiration — and emancipation from boredom. And if Dr. Goldberg couldn’t find an ally? “I’d make my husband do it with me,” she says, laughing. As a bonus to burning calories, Dr. Goldberg notes, “Doing any kind of physical activity actually keeps me from thinking about food.”

Dr. Goldberg knows she’ll lust after carbs — the bad ones, of course — right before her period. “To avoid temptation, I just try to remember how bloated and sleepy they make me feel,” she says.

— Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the NYU Women’s Heart Program, author of The Women’s Healthy Heart Program

Thin in a Flash!

Want that little black dress to snug you just right? Try these slim-fast tips:

Don’t chew gum on the big day!

“We’ve found that models avoid it before a show, so they won’t look bloated.”
— Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, author of Mindless Eating

Suck it in!

“Wear Spanx. Every woman should own this body-contouring miracle.”
— Celeste Brown-Wright, senior fashion editor at FITNESS

Get shimmery!

Crash dieting this time of year is unfortunately pretty common. Holidays are looming, which means self-esteem ends up plummeting at the realisation we don’t all look like Kendall Jenner in a bikini. And so the crash diets commence…

Body confidence, or the general lack of it, is an issue in itself. But the other concern about the above scenario playing out is the damage it can do to your health.

“While a crash diet may help you lose those extra pounds in time for that week on the Costa Del Sol, the results are generally short-lived and can ultimately have a negative impact on your body and mind,” Dr Julianne Barry, General Practitioner at London Doctors Clinic, told Cosmopolitan UK.

It can be easy to be tempted by the quick fix of a crash diet but here, Dr Julianne lays out exactly how crash dieting can impact your body so you might just reconsider:

1. It can reduce your metabolic rate

A high metabolism is key to losing weight, but crash dieting can actually make your metabolic rate lower. “Muscle breakdown is much greater with extreme dieting, rather than a steady prolonged approach. Less muscle reduces your metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while resting and can ultimately result in weight gain later on,” explains the doctor.

Cosmopolitan UKGetty Images

2. It can weaken your immune system

“By depriving yourself of essential minerals and vitamins you risk weakening your immune system,” says Dr Julianne. And we all know that a low immune system makes getting ill far more likely – not what you want while you’re away on holiday. “If you cut out all fatty foods from your diet, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K may prove problematic,” the doctor explains. “These vitamins are necessary as they help to support your immune system, so lacking in them could cause future issues.”

3. It can cause ketone production

“With a very low carbohydrate diet, your body may start to break down fatty acids to produce ketones,” says Dr Julianne. You might have heard of ketones if you’ve ever read up on the keto diet. Sure, it might cause you to drop a few pounds, but it’s also got some damaging side effects too, including “nausea, bad breath and liver or kidney problems”.

4. It can cause dehydration

Have you ever wondered why some diets, like juicing, lead to such quick weight loss? It’s because you’re losing water weight – but that’s not ideal for longer-term weight loss. “Glycogen stores, which are a source of energy that binds water, are depleted faster than the fat cells releasing the water. So, when you start eating again, your body will replenish glycogen and water store and weight gain follows,” Dr Julianne explains. “You run the risk of dehydration as a result, which can manifest with a headache and dizziness.”


5. It can trigger heart issues

“Crash dieting can have some positive outcomes, for example, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” notes the doctor. But they can also have some potentially harmful effects on the heart as a result of increased heart fat levels which can occur. “Anyone with heart problems should discuss with their doctor prior to embarking on a crash diet due to the risk of heart problems arising early on in the diet,” she adds.

6. It can damage your hair and skin quality

If vanity’s your thing, this might convince you to avoid crash dieting. “When you go on a crash diet, you limit the amount of vital vitamins and nutrients that your body absorbs,” explains Dr Julianne. And this, in turn, may have a negative impact on your physical appearance. “The lack of nourishment may be reflected in your hair, causing it to look lacklustre, fall out and generally reflect your lack of the right vitamins. Similarly, your skin could be left feeling dry and you may experience an acne breakout,” adds the GP.

7. It can disturb bowel habits

A crash diet can also result in some tummy trouble. As the expert explains, “if you are not getting the right nutrients in your diet, this could result in irregular or inconsistent bowel movements.” Dr Julianne advises taking note of the consistency of your stool to work out whether your diet is healthy. “If it is either too runny or very difficult to pass, it is a sign that you should make a dietary change,” says the GP, adding: “If you are worried be sure to contact your GP.”

Getty Images

8. It can leave you with low energy levels

“While crash diets may lead to weight loss, most of this weight comes from the reduction of glycogen and water stores in the body which can result in the loss of energy, making you feel fatigued,” says the doctor. “Similarly, due to the reduction of vitamins and nutrients taken in while doing a crash diet, your body is unable to produce energy, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired.”

9. It can make you irritable

Don’t want to be a grump on holiday? Crash dieting might not be the way forward. Dr Julianne explains how fad diets “can trigger the release of corticosterone from the brain, which predisposes us to heightened stress levels, irritability and risk of depression. You may also experience poor concentration and disturbed sleep which can lead to fatigue,” she adds.

An alternative to crash diets

“Rather than putting yourself under the pressure and perils of a crash diet,” Dr Julianne advises, “try to give yourself more time with regular realistic weight loss goals.”

With longer-term lifestyle changes you will be more likely to make a long-term difference of a more toned and healthy physique, while avoiding the turmoil of depriving yourself of a nutritious and balanced diet.

Here are 11 little things the GP advises you can do instead of crash dieting to improve your health:

  1. Reduce alcohol intake
  2. Reduce intake of sugary foods and less processed foods
  3. Include more lean protein in your diet
  4. Aim for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and nuts, pulses and whole grains
  5. Reduce stress levels
  6. Avoid foods that contain trans fats but do go for healthy fats
  7. Increase dietary soluble fibre
  8. Maintaining a regular level of physical activity will keep your metabolic rate higher, not to mention the hugely positive effects of exercise on your mental health
  9. Try to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and make an effort to fit it into your daily routine. Lifting weights is known to build muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat
  10. 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week, with some resistance training is recommended
  11. Try to achieve your 10,000 steps per day

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Related Story Catriona Harvey-Jenner Digital Features Editor Cat is Cosmopolitan UK’s features editor covering women’s issues, health and current affairs.

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If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard that crash dieting isn’t the best way to go about it. Although you may lose lots of weight initially, you won’t be able to keep the weight off and may even end up being heavier than you were before. But our latest research suggests that this isn’t always the case.

Most people are aware that being overweight is bad for their health, so it’s not surprising that about half of the UK population is trying to lose weight at any given time. But many people struggle to stick to traditional diets long enough to achieve results.

Some people opt for a quicker, more drastic solution: crash dieting. These diets, otherwise known as total diet replacement (TDR) programmes, involve drastically reducing calorie intake to between 800-1,200 calories per day. (The usual calorie intake for a woman is 2,000 calories, and for a man it’s 2,500 calories.) People on these diets consume nothing but specially formulated soups, shakes and bars for up to 12 weeks.

Although lots of retailers sell these TDR products, they are more effective when combined with support and encouragement from a dietitian or trained counsellor. This professional support helps dieters develop the skills to stick with the programme and keep the weight off once the programme is complete.

However, in the UK, GPs don’t tend to refer people who are looking to lose weight to these programmes. This is because NICE, the agency that evaluates treatments for the NHS, doesn’t recommend TDR programmes, perhaps because there wasn’t enough evidence to support TDR when NICE published their guidance. But recent studies suggest that it may be time for NICE to reevaluate the evidence.

Time to reevaluate crash diets

For our study, which is published in the BMJ, we recruited 278 obese patients. Half were randomly assigned to a 12-week TDR programme, while the other half were assigned to see the practice nurse for advice on how to lose weight (“usual care”).

After one year, those assigned to receive the TDR programme lost an average of 11kg, while those in the usual care group lost an average of 3kg. Using a tool that helps GPs estimate a patient’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years, the people in the TDR group had significantly reduced their risk score.

Participants on the crash diet lost on average 11kg in 12 weeks. Billion Photos/.com

The TDR group also had significantly greater improvements in blood glucose control than the usual care group. Perhaps most important of all, participants in the TDR group reported bigger increases in quality of life than people in the usual care group.

More people in the TDR group reported side effects, but the number of more serious side effects was similar across groups. Side effects that were more common in the TDR group than in the usual care group included constipation, headache, fatigue and dizziness.

This new evidence suggests that TDR is a safe and effective way to lose a large amount of weight. For now, though, TDR programmes are not available on the NHS. Those interested in losing weight using TDR have to pay for it themselves, which means that many people who could benefit from this treatment may be unable to access it.

Why Is It Called A Crash Diet?

It is called a “crash diet” to refer to the quick weight loss in less time. This calorie-restricting plan requires dieters to be on a very low-calorie diet (<= 800 calories). The result is, however, short-lived, and you will gain the pounds right back. A crash diet is not meant for long-term weight loss.

If you do need to go on a crash diet for an upcoming event, there are various types of crash diets that you may choose from. Here’s the list.

What Are The Types Of Crash Diets?

Here are six types of crash diets:

1. Master Cleanse

Pros – The Master Cleanse may help lose 10 pounds in a week. It includes vitamin C-rich lemon juice, two to three teaspoons of maple syrup, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Cons – All you can drink is the lemonade! You may feel extremely hungry and experience nausea, irritability, and mood swings.

2. Juices Diet

Pros – You will consume dietary fiber-rich and vitamin C loaded fruit juices. It is good for skin health.

Cons – It may not be sustainable for more than two days.

3. Cabbage Soup Diet

Pros – It takes less time to cook. The soup is nutritious and delicious and can be stored.

Cons – Consuming only this soup for more than a day might cause boredom.

4. Grapefruit Diet

Pros – The grapefruit diet includes consuming half a grapefruit and other healthy foods in every meal. It aids quick weight loss without compromising on health.

Cons – Consuming grapefruit for every meal may get tiring.

5. Hollywood Diet

Pros – The Hollywood diet claims to cause a weight loss of 10 kg in just 48 hours. All you have to do is drink an herbal mix called “Hollywood diet,” which is available in supermarkets and online.

Cons – It is for temporary weight loss and may make you irritable.

6. Chicken Soup Diet

Pros – This diet requires you to consume chicken soup for 7 days. You may add veggies of your choice to enrich the soup with vitamins and minerals. You may also have freshly pressed fruit juice as a snack.

Cons – It is not for vegans and vegetarians.

These six crash diet methods reiterate one point – crash diets aid quick weight loss in a short period. But, is it safe to lose so much weight in a short time? Let’s find out.

Is The Crash Diet Safe?

When done for one to two days, crash diets are safe. Sometimes, trained professionals recommend crash diets to people who need to lose weight quickly for surgery. But being on a very low-calorie diet for a prolonged period, without the supervision of a professional, might make you land in hot water. Check out What Happens When You Misuse It?

It is better to refrain from being on a crash diet for a prolonged period. In the next section, you will understand how to crash diet safely.

How To Crash Diet Safely

  1. Choose A Crash Diet That’s “Doable” – Crash diets are emotionally taxing, but when you have so many ways, choose the one that’s convenient for you. If only eating an apple a day is not your thing (must be supervised by a doctor), go for a soup diet that will keep you full and nourished.
  1. Cut Back On Refined Sugar – Avoid consuming refined sugar or foods containing it, like cake, pastry, doughnuts, ketchup, dips, candies, and chocolates.
  1. Snack Smart – Going on a crash diet can be easy if you know how to snack smart. Consume low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, baby carrots, cucumber, unsalted nuts (limited quantity), half a cup of plain yogurt, home-baked veggie chips with yogurt dip, and green tea.
  1. Do It For A Limited Time – Every crash diet has a time duration, say, two days or seven days. Stick to the specified duration, and you will not overwhelm your body with low-calorie diets. If losing weight is not urgent, you can follow the 1200 or 1500-calorie diet.
  1. If Possible, Avoid Social Gatherings – You know what happens when we go to parties and gatherings – diet goes out the window! Hence, it is best to avoid parties. If you need to offer support to a friend or a family member (and you happen to live in the same city), carry your food or choose foods that will not throw you off your diet.
  1. Avoid Alcohol – Alcohol gets converted to sugar, which gets stored as fat. Also, drinking alcohol while on a crash diet may cause glucose imbalance in your body.
  1. Refrain From Vigorous Exercise – If you are on the Master Cleanse or Juice Diet, it is best to avoid exercising. You may do light stretching and yoga but not full-fledged cardio and strength training.
  1. Drink Water With Rehydration Salts – Crash dieting might require you to drink water or fruit juice frequently. To keep your electrolyte concentration balanced, drink water with rehydration salts at least twice a day.

NOTE: Talk to your doctor before you start being on a crash diet.

These are the top eight precautions you have to take to make crash dieting safe for you. Here’s a sample 7-day crash diet plan to lose weight quickly.

7-Day Crash Diet Plan For Quick Weight Loss

What results can you expect after going on this 7-day crash diet? Let’s find out.

How Much Weight Can You Lose By Crash Dieting?

You may lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in 7 days. Now, a very important note – crash diets are only meant for the short-term. Assuming that being on it continuously will help you lose more weight is wrong. Here’s what may happen if you misuse it.

What Happens When You Misuse Crash Diet?

Crash Diet Side Effects

It is really easy to get carried away and misuse crash diets. In that case, the following may happen:

  • Eating disorders
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle loss
  • Slowed cell and organ function
  • Compromised immunity
  • Impaired brain function
  • Weak bones
  • Poor attention
  • Hair loss
  • Skin problems

Crash dieting for a prolonged period is unhealthy. This brings us to the next topic – should teenagers crash diet? If you are a teenager or know one who wants to go on a crash diet and lose weight, the next section is for you. Scroll down.

Should Teenagers Crash Diet?

No, teenagers should not crash diet. The ages of 13 to 19 are part of the growing phase. Going on crash diets might stunt your growth and affect your mental health. However, if you do need to lose weight, seek the help of a professional. Talk to a registered dietitian and get a customized diet chart. You must also be physically active and aim to be fit and strong.

On a side note, you don’t have to fit into any size to feel beautiful and worthy. Be healthy and happy and pursue your dreams.

If you are above 19 years and want to go on a crash diet, check with your doctor first.

Are there any benefits of going on such extreme diets? Let’s find out.

Are There Any Benefits Of Crash Dieting?

Yes, there are a few benefits of crash dieting:

  • Causes quick weight loss
  • Might be good before certain surgeries (has to be approved by your doctor)
  • Less costly

Here’s how you can prep your mind and body for the very low-calorie diet you are going to be on.

Things To Do Before Going On A Crash Diet

  • Count the number of days you have before the special event. If it is a month away, try the Mediterranean diet, and do some cardio to lose weight.
  • Talk to a dietitian or your doctor, especially if you are a new mother, have undergone surgery, have a BMI over 30, are on antidepressants or any other medication that hinders weight loss, or are over 50 years of age.
  • Stock your kitchen with foods you are going to consume in the coming week. Toss out all other “distraction foods”.
  • Keep a journal. You will undergo mood swings. During those times, writing a journal can help.

Before we come to a close, here’s the last thing you need to know.

Why Are Crash Diets Not Recommended?

Crash diets are unsustainable and unhealthy. The weight that you lose is mostly water weight. Moreover, most people tend to misuse these diets, which causes health issues. We do not recommend going on an unsupervised crash diet. You must consult your doctor before trying out our sample 7-day crash diet plan.


If you just have a week to attend an occasion, a crash diet is great! Make sure you do not get carried away and make it your regular diet. Eat healthily, exercise, and sleep well to lose weight without going on crash diets – because putting yourself through such a restrictive diet is not really worth it.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What can I do to recover after a crash diet?

Increase your calorie intake gradually, but keep a check. Do not start eating high carb foods, more sugar, and fat just after the crash diet. Continue eating veggies, fruits, and proteins in bigger portions now, and drink a lot of water.

What’s wrong with crash dieting (or controlled anorexia)?

Anorexia is an eating disorder. A crash diet will not go wrong until you do not follow the dietitian’s or doctor’s instructions. To lose more weight in a short span of time, many of us crash diet by starving ourselves. That’s not the way to go about it. Consume small portions of all kinds of healthy food.

How does a crash diet affect health and metabolism?

Crash dieting for a prolonged period will affect your body’s normal activities. As it is a low-calorie diet, your body will be deprived of the nutrition that is required for it to function properly. You will start feeling weak and end up weakening your body’s immune system. As you starve for longer hours, the body starts accumulating whatever food it gets. This reduces the metabolic rate and leads to a host of eating disorders. Also, this can lead to weight gain instead of weight loss.

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. And that prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.

#RealTalk: Losing weight is a daunting, difficult task, and it takes time to see results. That’s probably why extreme diets that promise massive weight loss in a short period of time are so appealing. “Sure, I can consume only liquid for 10 days if I can lose 20 pounds,” you may think. (Trust me, I’ve been there.) But should you? Here are the most extreme diets according to nutritionists, with ratings based on how nuts they are. Take a look.

7 Extreme Diets Evaluated By A Nutritionist

Master Cleanse

What it is: An all-liquid diet in which you only consume a concoction of water, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. (Also known as the Beyoncé diet since the singer followed it to lose weight for her role in Dreamgirls.) You drink six to 12 glasses of the mixture every day for 10 days, explains Jessica Nelson, RDN, CPT. You’re also allowed to sip on salt water and an herbal laxative tea. (Editor’s note: Sounds like fun and as though it wouldn’t interfere with your job/life at all.)

Why people try it: To drop lots of weight, fast.

The reality: “This is honestly the worst fad diet. Not only is it devoid of all nutrients, but none of its health claims can be backed up,” says Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, CLT, RYT. “After a few days (or day!) on the Master Cleanse, you can expect to be hangry, tired and grouchy.” That’s because the diet is so low in calories that your cells aren’t getting any energy.

“Calories are thought of in such negative terms, but we need calories in the form of energy to survive,” adds Caspero. Yes, you’ll drastically lose weight—but it’s not the weight you want to lose. “Water weight is different than fat loss, which is different than muscle loss,” Caspero explains. “When you reduce calories to almost nothing, you will lose weight mostly in the form of water and muscle loss.”

Her overall grade: “This diet plan gets a big fat F from me. You can expect most of the weight to return after you resume eating normal food.”

This is one (and perhaps the only) instance in which you shouldn’t do as Beyoncé does.

Juice Cleanse

What it is: An all-liquid diet in which you consume only fruit and vegetable juices. The majority of juice cleanses involve drinking six to eight juices per day for up to 10 days.

Why people try it: To detox their bodies and lose weight quickly. Proponents of juice cleanses say that drinking juice gives your digestive tract a break and can help you lose weight, Nelson explains. “Other people may simply do it as a fast way to get in more fruits and vegetables.”

The reality: “Sadly, the juice industry has convinced the American public that drinking a green juice will help them detox the body. It isn’t the whole truth,” Caspero says. “Yes, juice contains nutrients in the form of fruits and vegetables, but so do whole foods.” You’re better off eating whole fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber that helps you feel full.

Plus, the high fructose content of most juices can make you feel bloated and can even cause diarrhea, adds Nelson.

“Lastly, juicing produces a lot of food waste. Imagine how much pulp you throw away for one eight-ounce juice. Skip the juice, eat the produce instead (and save the $8),” says Caspero.

Grapefruit Diet

What it is: You eat half a grapefruit before every meal. You eat your meals at normal times, but forego dessert, bread, and white vegetables while tripling your intake of meat and other vegetables. “Additional suggestions for the diet include going four hours between protein-based meals and starch-based meals,” Nelson says.

Why people try it: “It’s believed that grapefruits can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss by providing fat-burning enzymes,” Nelson says. There’s also the promise of a 10-pound weight loss in only 12 days.

The reality: “Eating the half grapefruit before a meal may help you eat less because of the fiber and water content found in the fruit. So, theoretically, it could help you lose weight overtime,” says Nelson.

“However, the diet doesn’t help you change your eating habits. So although you’re eating a healthy fruit more often in your diet, the meals that follow can continue to be not so healthy for you,” she adds. Plus, grapefruits interfere with many medications, so you should check with your doctor before adding them to your diet.


What it is: “Souping is basically juicing for the winter crowd,” says Caspero. “Instead of sucking down green elixirs, you’ll sip on ‘detox’ soups throughout the day.”

Why people try it: They see it as a healthier, quicker weight-loss program than juicing.

The reality: “While soup is a really great food and a healthy way to get nutrients in, soup cleanses tend to be quite low in calories,” Caspero says. Typically you’ll consume around 1,200 calories a day on a soup cleanse. But, Caspero says, most women need between 1,400 and 1,600 calories a day. “While you’ll lose weight with 1200 calories, it’s not very sustainable and you’re more likely to lose muscle mass,” she says.

Cabbage Soup Diet

What it is: This extreme diet hearkens all the way back to the 1950s. The theory behind this diet is that including cabbage soup in your diet regularly—in place of 1-2 meals a day—can help you shed weight,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, nutrition expert, and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

You eat cabbage soup every day for most—if not all—of your meals for seven days.

Why people try it: Since cabbage is a diuretic, people think that increasing their cabbage intake can help get rid of water weight.

The reality: “An updated version was released which is more in line with healthy eating patterns recommended by the dietary guidelines for Americans,” says Amidor. “Weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week, which is in line with the NIH standards for a safe rate of weight loss,” she explains. But like most crash diets, it isn’t sustainable and you’ll likely gain back all the weight you lost and more. (Plus, all that cabbage soup has gotta make you… ahem… rather flatulent.)

Tapeworm Diet

What it is: You eat a tapeworm (or the larvae of a tapeworm), so it can grow inside you. (Anyone’s gag reflex kicking in yet?)

Why people try it: The tapeworm will reduce the calories that your body absorbs, so you can still eat the same amount and lose weight. “Many dieters think they will magically lose weight without any side effects and that it’s ‘no big deal,’” says Amidor.

The reality: There’s a literal parasite living in your gastrointestinal system. The tapeworm eats gobbled-up food and nutrients that you need. “You lose weight due to lack of nourishment, and develop symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and abdominal pain,” she adds. Since the tapeworm is ingesting the nutrients you need, it can cause serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies with unpleasant side effects (like bone pain and anxiety, for example).

Decide you want that tapeworm out of you? You’ve got to give your doctor a stool sample, so they can determine the type of tapeworm you ingested. Then they’ll prescribe an anti-parasitic along with an antibiotic because, fun fact, tapeworms can cause bleeding in your intestines, and that can lead to infection.

Baby Food Diet

What it is: You eat 14 jars of baby food throughout the day. You can add in one meal of lean protein and veggies if you want.

Why people try it: It requires virtually no prep, is convenient on-the-go, and controls your portions. People try it for—what else—weight loss.

The reality: “Jars of baby food typically range from 30 to 100 calories each,” says Amidor. “If you choose to eat baby food all day for every meal, you may start feeling deprived of the variety of textures from a full meal,” Amidor explains. The flavor is also super bland and could lead to binge eating. As for weight loss? “It depends on the calories in versus calories out and also activity/exercise you do. You will, however, be able to find organic baby food and many are gluten-free.” So, you know, there’s that.

A Healthier Way to Lose Weight

Our consensus? Ditch the extreme diets and opt for long-lasting, sustainable weight loss instead.

“When you lose weight, you want to focus mainly on fat loss and preserving muscle mass,” says Caspero. The above extreme diets mainly result in the loss of water weight, and you’ll likely regain it when you stop the diet.

Her recommendation instead? Stick to a whole foods-based diet with lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, healthy fats, and some whole grains. Be sure to eat enough, as well. Caspero says most women need between 1,400 and 1,600 calories a day. Throw in some moderate exercise, and you’ll see sustainable results.

And if you need an extra boost for good measure, try these metabolism-boosting foods.

Crash diets, as we all know, don’t work. They are potentially dangerous, hard to maintain and the people who manage to lose weight on them invariably gain it back, and then some. It is not clear how we all came to know this, because a growing body of clinical evidence seems to suggest the opposite: crash diets do work. They may, in fact, work better than anything else.

In The Big Crash Diet Experiment, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim sought to investigate – with the help of four volunteers – the possibility that Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs) may provide more effective weight loss than the slow-and-steady approach recommended by the NHS for most people. “This is a controversial experiment,” he said, “but if it delivers, we may have to think again about crash diets.” Dr Abdelmoneim, by the way, does not strike one as the sort of person who has ever eaten an entire tub of ice-cream for emotional reasons.

Unlike old quick weight-loss regimes, modern VLCDs can be nutritionally complex. Although it is not for everybody, a crash diet can help to reset one’s approach to food, making relapse less likely, not more. The regime Dr Abdelmoneim is testing is a nine-week, liquid-only diet with a daily intake of 800 calories. You have to surrender a lot of your received prejudices against crash dieting to make this sound anything less than insane.

Among the volunteers were Father Paul Lomas, an overweight, married Catholic priest (yes, a lot to take in there; he used to be an Anglican, and got dispensation, but I had to Google that). He wants to be around for his grandchildren, but he has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Tracy still cooks meals for six, even though her kids have left home. Rebecca’s diet consists almost entirely of takeaways (“We got invited to our kebab man’s wedding”) and Yolande has fatty liver disease.

So difficult was the regime that for the first week the dieters were taken to a house in Rochdale, away from family and friends to embark on the diet together. There were tears and grumpiness at the start, but it was a mark of the maturity of the programme that it didn’t make a huge drama out the misery of the participants’ hunger.

If your only question is “Did it work?”, then the answer is a resounding yes. The results were immediate and dramatic. All four volunteers lost a considerable amount of weight – to the extent that they changed shape before our eyes. There was 20% less of Father Paul overall, and his diabetes went into remission. Rebecca lost nearly three stone. Yolande’s liver fat was reduced by a third. Four months on, all four had changed their eating habits and lost still more weight.

Against this overwhelmingly positive outcome, one had to weigh a note of caution from Dr Jonathan Valabhji, the NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity: even if it is shown to work and be safe, crash dieting might turn out to be too expensive for the health service because of the number of GP contact hours required. As this programme made abundantly clear, getting through nine weeks of 800 calories a day takes a huge amount of support.

Another eye-opening health programme followed: The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs (BBC One), fronted by Dr Chris van Tulleken, who questions why we are blindly medicating ourselves – and, in this series, our children – in spite of the known risks, and often without evidence that the drugs are even working. In his mission to “get Britain’s kids off the drugs they don’t need”, Van Tulleken has an appealingly dogged streak, and a good way with young people.

This week’s episode dealt primarily with teenagers and depression, an issue that dovetails with one of Van Tulleken’s prevailing preoccupations: the idea that drug company profits, rather than best practice, have driven the huge rise in prescription medication. In that sense it is a show more geared to confirming our prejudices than overturning them – who doesn’t think we’re over-medicating our children? – but its findings were no less shocking for that: of the 14 drugs commonly prescribed to adolescents for depression in the UK, only only one – Fluoxetine – has been shown to have any effect at all. If your outrage prescription is running low, top yourself up here.

Crash diets that work

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