The Detrimental Effects Of Crash Dieting and Debunking Detoxes
In recent years, you may have noticed a large influx of ads, emails and content from Instagram influencers, all hoping to cash in on the newest fad. These range from detoxes using things such as gel sachets, skinny teas and other such magic potions to celery juice diets and other bizarre ways of eating.
Nutrition is a bit of a minefield to navigate at the best of times and it can be hard to know what to believe. Misleading information and false advertising are often marketed so cunningly that we can’t resist giving the products or method a go to get the result desired. Can we?
Crash dieting - what is it?
It refers to a diet characterised by a dramatic decrease in calories, often with the complete removal of certain food groups and is coupled with unrealistic promises regarding the amount of weight you will lose in a set period.
What are the downsides of crash dieting?
Short-term crash dieting damages your metabolism, causing it to slow down, making it more difficult to keep weight off, whilst cutting calories too quickly will often lead to a reduction in muscle mass. Muscle mass can also influence your metabolic rate as muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells. Therefore, a weight loss plan must always factor inadequate protein.
Crash diets tend to encourage an unhealthy relationship with your body, disordered eating behaviour and can make you obsessed with the number on the scales, rather than the bigger picture. Ultimately methods of this kind lead to inconsistent results.
Are crash diets worth it?
No! Whilst you may lose weight in the short-term, crash dieting will not be beneficial in the long-run. They are aptly named as may get you a quick result but it will not be sustainable and will be accompanied by an array of unwanted, negative side-effects.
Opting for a quick fix plan will often be more difficult to stick to and you may even see negative effects on both your physical and mental energy levels. This will translate into your daily life, making things like getting up in the morning or getting through a chaotic day at work 10x harder.
Detoxing – what is all the fuss about?
The products outlined above differ in their claims, but most state they will detox and cleanse your body, whilst promoting fat loss, heightened focus and concentration. Sounds like the perfect solution, right?
By definition, detox (detoxification), refers to a process or duration in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances (1). When it comes to ‘detox diets’, this definition extends to include ‘promoting health’ and ‘assisting with weight loss’ (2).
Toxins are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous to humans. They can also refer to certain medicines which may be useful in a minor dose, but poisonous in greater amounts (3). When it comes to detox diets, people are usually sold the message that certain toxins build up in the body over time and so a detox must be carried out to avoid negative health effects.
There are countless different approaches in the current market, including, fasting, liquid-only diets and the use of laxatives, diuretics and, or foods that are said to ‘cleanse’ the body.
However, the body has an innate ability to remove detrimental substances and get rid of the unwanted products of metabolism. This process is carried out by the liver, kidneys, lungs and several other organs, meaning we do not need to opt for detox diets for help with these processes.
Why do people buy into these fads?
Detox diets promise rapid weight loss and people want quick results.
It is important to be aware that the short-term weight loss is likely to be primarily water weight, rather than fat loss which is the desired outcome. Water weight can fluctuate greatly and so any so-called ‘benefits’ can quickly disappear.
The terms weight loss and fat loss are often used interchangeably, when in fact they refer to two very different things. Weight loss refers to a loss in total body mass, which can come as a result of reduced muscle mass, body fat, and fluid. Fat loss on the other hand refers to a reduction in body fat(1).
Are there issues surrounding this craze?
Firstly, the diets are usually extremely restrictive and deficient in calories and nutritional value. Many of the products have detrimental side effects, including cramps, diarrhoea and dehydration, which all, in turn, have negative effects on overall health and well-being.
Secondly, when considering these detox protocols, many of the companies do not state the toxin the products are targeting. They often refer to toxicity in a basic manner when it should certainly consider factors such as context and dosage before making bold, often misleading claims.
Additionally, many of the marketed products are sold as food or dietary supplements, meaning they do not have to go through the same testing and approval processes medicines do by the FDA (in the USA) or MHRA (UK). They are then subject to food safety laws instead which are less rigorous.
Lastly, celebrities are being paid to promote these products or detox diets, with little to no knowledge about what they entail and their effects. They have large followings, often made up of younger audiences, who can be more impressionable.
Are detoxes worth it?
It’s a definite NO from us! They’re expensive, pointless and potentially harmful. Further, to date, there does not appear to be any definitive scientific evidence which backs the use of detox diets for cleansing the body or for fat loss.
As with crash-dieting, methods of this kind will undoubtedly not be beneficial in the long-run.
To round up, be wary of anything or anyone promising you rapid results - Rome wasn’t built in a day after all! These things take time, effort and consistency. Anything that sounds too good to be true is very likely to be just that.
At Fresh Fitness Food we do not stand for any of the methods discussed above. Not only do we take a scientific-backed approach to nutrition, but we also fully appreciate the bespoke nature of this process and work to tailor your plan to you.
If your goal is to drop body fat, we can help you sustainably work towards your goal, without compromising on flavour and enjoyment.
- Allen, J., Montalto, M., Lovejoy, J. and Weber, W. (2011). Detoxification in Naturopathic Medicine: A Survey. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(12), pp.1175-1180.
- Klein, A. and Kiat, H. (2014). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 28(6), pp.675-686.
- Kao LW, Rusyniak DE.(2016) Chronic poisoning, trace metals and others. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders: chap 22.