7 Reasons to Quit Crash Diets

A crash diet for rapid weight loss will never be a long-term solution, and honestly, you're more likely than not to gain the weight back and then some.

You deserve to feel good and nourish your body in your weight loss journey, not intentionally starve yourself. Stop the quick fixes and focus on building rituals that promote sustainable weight loss and health.

What is a Crash Diet? 

Oftentimes, quick weight loss goes hand in hand with crash dieting, but this isn't always the best solution.

“Crash diets” are typically extremely low-calorie diets that require drastic measures - like eliminating multiple food groups, drinking only juice or soup for weeks, or fasting for numerous days to cut out as many calories as possible.

But starving yourself for weight loss only works for a little while. And even if you are successful in sticking to an extreme crash diet, you may end up gaining it all back once you go off it. This is mainly because short-term crash diets can promote a lot of water loss (not just fat loss).

In addition, depending on how long the crash diet persists, they can do a number on your hunger-regulating hormones, mental state, and potentially your metabolism.

Crash diets can also be dangerous for certain individuals struggling with disordered eating patterns, nutrient deficiencies, and other underlying health conditions.

A crash diet refers to drastically reducing your calorie intake to try and achieve faster weight loss. This could mean reducing your calorie intake to anywhere between 800-1,200 calories per day.

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Have You Been Crash Dieting?

When people crash diets, they are often taking their caloric deficit to the extreme, eliminating meals, using meal replacement shakes and protein bars, and completely changing their diets. 

You may have experienced a crash diet if you have: 

  • Fluctuated between extremely restrictive eating followed by a period of no rules and/or over-eating 
  • Tend to diet with an "all-or-nothing" mindset 
  • Start diets, then "fall off the wagon" and return to old habits and ultimately abandon it 
  • Attempt many "quick weight loss" diets and hacks 
  • Have felt like you failed a diet 

Crash dieting can be vicious, relentless, tiring, energy-sucking, and sets us up for failure; it doesn't teach us how to be healthy long-term.

If you're finding yourself in this perpetual cycle and feel like you're never going to stick to your diet, drop the dieting and focus on building healthy habits that you enjoy and promote long-term health and sustainable weight loss. 

Wherever you are right now in your wellness journey, stop and give yourself some words of encouragement; no one said this would be easy. 

Crash diets teach an all-or-nothing mindset; abandon dieting, and build healthy habits that promote long-term wellness instead. 

It's important to note that sometimes very low-calorie diets (VLCDs) are used as treatment against obesity in some medical centers, but these programs are supervised by trained physicians and are not necessarily the right approach for every one (1). 

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7 Reasons to Ditch the Crash Diets 

There are a number of ways to cut calories and drop pounds fast, but not all methods for quick weight loss are safe, sustainable, or even painless.

A lot of “crash diets” may come with side effects, including ravenous hunger, short-lived results, and the potential risk of long-term consequences for your physical and mental health. 

1. Many Crash Diets are Not Scientifically Backed

The realm of nutrition is vast, and now more than ever, we are faced daily with misinformation on this scientific subject. In a world full of juice cleanses, fancy supplements, social media influencers, and nutrition “experts,” do you ever wonder if they have any credentials at all or if their diet methodology is backed up by anything other than their personal experience? 

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the latter is true. Believe it or not, anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’ in several states without actually having any formal training in the field. These personal trainers, social influencers, health coaches, or fitness industry celebrities can be fairly knowledgable and decent at nutrition coaching, but often they apply broad myths with no scientific backings and teachings from their own personal experiences.

In other words—“this worked for my friend Jenny, so it must work for everyone” type mentality.  Their lack of formal training leads to them making false claims about nutrition, promoting dangerous fad crash diets, and potentially encouraging disordered eating or triggering eating disorders. 

For example, in the case of juice cleanses, they cause you to be at a calorie deficit, so you may lose weight for that reason, but it has nothing to do with the juice. Your liver, kidneys, and other organs help process toxins from your body – not juice! 

It’s fair to argue that most of what we know about nutrition today started out as anecdotal evidence. And diets are inherently difficult to study—it’s impossible to do true double-blind randomized controlled trials (the gold standard) with diets—there are too many variables.

There is a vast amount of evidence-based nutrition research that focuses on dietary approaches such as the keto, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian as well as specific nutrient therapy or medical nutrition therapy; none of these focus on drastic calorie-cutting or crash dieting methods. 

For the best healthy eating advice, look for evidence-based nutrition provided by or recognized by leading experts and supported by years of trusted studies.

2. Your Nutrition Suffers

The thing is, your body isn't a calculator. And while it needs a daily dose of energy to keep surviving, it also needs proper nutrition to function properly.

It is nearly impossible to get all the nutrients your body needs on a very low-calorie diet, even if you're eating only healthy food. And most of the time, this isn't the case with crash diets, where whole-food meals are often replaced with shakes, protein bars, and empty-calorie salads. 

Minor nutrient deficiencies can create some serious complications, in fact, very low-calorie diets have been linked to heart problems, dehydration, mental confusion, and decreased immune function (2). And starving yourself over longer periods of time can also lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, impaired liver and kidney function, seizures, and eventually death (3,4,5).

3. Your Metabolism May Become Dysregulated

When you crash diet, you may see some instantaneous results, usually from losing water weight and starting a calorie deficit, but your body is putting in a lot of work to maintain some kind of normalcy. 

Studies suggest that although initial weight loss is possible, long-term maintenance when crash dieting may be problematic; an estimated 33% of adults regain all weight lost within a year after modest weight loss (10% of body weight) (6). 

The constant back and forth between severe restriction and overeating can really confuse your body and doesn't give your metabolism a chance to normalize and function as intended. 

It's not possible to destroy your metabolism, and starvation mode is a bit of a myth, instead, Our metabolism adapts over time-based on things like our diet and exercise routine but your body will slow down your metabolism temporarily when you cut your intake drastically via a process called adaptive thermogenesis (7,8).

The weight gain caused by crash dieting can be attributed to our tendency to return to the way of eating that got us there in the first place, choosing highly processed, fatty, and sugary foods thus causing a spike in excess calories and poor-quality food intake. 

Give your body a break; contantly changing your diet prevents your body from settling into its natural rythm and makes it harder for you to pin point what you actually need. 

The 80/20 Rule

4. It Challenges Your Relationship with Food and Your Body 

Crash diets can cause us to develop some harsh mindsets toward our bodies and create unhealthy relationships with food. 

We start diets and often get stuck in the 'all-or-nothing" mindset, thinking we have to change everything all at once to guarantee success; we inevitably get into the relapse cycle and it can be hard to brush off the sense of failure and inner critic. 

Guilt over telling yourself you “shouldn’t eat this or that” may influence the risk of cravings, bingeing, and the development of eating disorders (9). Restricting our food intake may also lead to an increase in our feelings of hunger and lead to using food as a reward (9).

Would you approach anything else in life with this all-or-nothing mindset?

Here is your reminder that you don't have to change your whole entire life at once—this isn't a race, this is your journey. A key to sustainable weight loss is time and a lot of self-love.

5. You Get Really Hangry 

Losing weight, in general, can affect your hunger and fullness hormones causing you to feel more hungry, even after you’ve stopped dieting. While going a little hungry can be helpful for weight reduction, being extremely hungry can be downright painful.

If you can get past the constant hunger pains, you may also find that crash dieting makes you obsessed with food. Your body is so hungry that food becomes all you think about (10). 

Being hungry all the time is bad enough, but very low-calorie diets can cause you to be in a terrible mood as well. Calories, especially carbs, play a significant role in regulating your emotions, and being so hungry that you are angry is a real thing.

Carbohydrates are linked to self-control, which is why we cannot control our temper when we have low blood sugar, and we get hangry. 

6. You Get "Skinny Fat" 

If you aren't getting enough protein and are not strength training regularly, extremely restrictive diets may cause you to start burning more lean muscle for energy instead of fat (11). Why does this matter?

You are losing precious muscle mass - which is key for keeping your metabolism intact and improving your overall quality of life.  In addition, reduced lean muscle mass increases your overall body fat percentage, even though the number on the scale is decreasing.

Muscle is denser than fat, which can make you look leaner overall. Once you reach your desired weight, you may not feel as fit and toned as you would if you lost more fat and maintained your lean mass throughout the process. In order to decrease your body fat and get toned, you would have to gain muscle mass, essentially gain the weight back, and try to lean out by burning fat.

It is pretty counter-intuitive to drop pounds from losing muscle weight just to try and gain back more muscle weight in the end.

7. Your Workouts Suck 

Without the proper fuel, you might find that exercising is extremely difficult or darn near impossible. This matters because physical activity is one way to help increase your calorie burn. In addition, strength training is key to maintaining your precious lean mass while cutting.

Not to mention, trying to train on low energy can lead to light-headedness and possible injury if you aren't careful.

The Truth About Weight Loss


Help Me Lose Weight

how weight loss works

It's time to drop the crash diets and define your wellness. 

The first step towards sustainable weight loss is less about how many calories you can cut and crash diets and more about your mindset. You can’t do the same old crash diet or resolution and expect different results; long-term improvements require long-term changes. 

If we are not consciously connected to how we feel, our motivation, and our strengths then our actions and choices become mindless. We often get caught up in unhealthy habits and lifestyles that end up directing us away from our goals and not toward them. 

Your health is a reflection of your habits in every area of your life. This is why choosing to change your eating habits is ultimately choosing to adopt a new lifestyle that supports your health.  

Set aside any articles or books about quick weight loss, permanent weight loss, or easy weight loss; instead, start by figuring out how you want to feel and what you want to achieve.

The Best Meal Plan for Weight Loss 

healthy meal plans for weight loss

Calories in versus calories out is the basic foundation needed for any weight loss diet; then factor in things like sleep hygiene, stress levels, and hormones as all of those may affect our ability to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. 

And while a calorie deficit is an answer to losing weight, how you get there can differ from one person to the next. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, what works for some doesn't necessarily work for everyone. You've got to find your own way.

It can feel even more complicated to find a meal plan for weight loss when there is an endless array of diet programs, juice cleanses, and self-proclaimed miracle pills.

Many diets claim to have the answer to lasting results, but the truth is, the best diet for you is the one you can stick to the longest.

Unless you are in this for fast results that disappear as quickly as they came, consistency is the name of the game. If you can create a new habit or behavior change and repeat it enough times for long enough, lasting change is inevitable.

If you hate the food you are eating and can't stick to your diet, there is no way you are going to be consistent and this is going to make getting results that much harder.

When you craft a dietary approach that includes foods you enjoy eating, in the right amounts, at the right time, you'll ultimately start to build healthy habits around your meals and lifestyle, leading to natural weight loss. 

Calorie counting and tracking your intake can be a powerful tool in optimizing your nutrition and weight loss, but it’s not for everyone. A simple 3-day food log can still help you understand what your current dietary patterns are and identify areas for improvement while eating more mindfully. 

All foods, even the highest-calorie junk foods, can fit into a healthy weight-loss diet. And while you could theoretically lose weight by eating unhealthy foods, having a little more balance and good nutrition in your diet will do a little more than just help you shed pounds.

Nutritious foods support better moods, energy levels, and appetite control and when coupled with the right fitness routine, can support a better overall body composition—more lean mass and less body fat.

Which Meal Plan Is Best For Your Goals?

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How to Plan For Sustainable Weight Loss 

Sustainable weight loss is about building a comprehensive wellness program tailored to you. Take into account things like your sleep, stress levels, and lifestyle, as all of those factors and more can influence our ability to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

You are on a wellness journey, and defining what wellness means to you will ultimately help you become more mindful and intuitive about what is right for your body. It will also help you plan and initiate whatever the next steps are in your journey.

If you're looking for a place to start your journey or in need of some tools we have tons of amazing resources to support you. 

Day one or one day? No matter where you're at in your journey we can help you build habits. It's as simple as starting with one macro-balanced meal a day. 

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