Why Crash Dieting Doesn't Work
I'm going to give you a simple reasons that crash dieting (less than about 1200
calories per day) does not work in the long term: hormones. We've
all known many people who have rapidly dropped the pounds only to quickly regain
the same weight again. Dieting is painful and we all want to see results
quickly, i.e. an immediate reward for our pain, so crash dieting is a natural
for many people. Unfortunately, crash dieting negatively affects several key hormones and can
sabotage your long term efforts.
Below I am going to cover three of those
1. Thyroid. Imagine this: you try to shed the pounds by
rapidly dropping calories and your body resets its baseline metabolism
making it much more difficult for you to lose weight. Well, you don't have
to imagine it: this is exactly what the body does according to one study
on obese subjects.  Dramatic calorie reduction resulted in significant
alterations in thyroid function, particularly decreases in T3 output. The researchers
tried to compensate by restoring T3 but still baseline metabolism could not be
fully restored. Some experts believe that crash dieting negatively alter your
baseline metabolism long term.
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2. Testosterone. Significant drops in calories lead to significant drops
in testosterone. Over time this can lead to muscle loss, which is never
good for weight loss, self-image or your general health. See my link on
Losing Weight the Right Way for more information.
3. Cortisol. Researchers have found in several studies that
crash dieting scenarios and/or fasting lead
to increased cortisol output.  Cortisol dampens testosterone, depletes
muscle and can increase visceral (belly) fat. Again, none of this is good
weight loss, self-image or your general health in the long term. See my
link on Visceral Fat for more information on the cortisol-visceral fat
connection. CAUTION: Crash dieting is also associated with
arrythmias likely for this same reason.
Rapid weight loss also negatively alters most of the key appetite hormones as I
outline in my link on Hormones and Your Appetite. This requires crash dieters
to display almost superhuman will power and can easily lead to rebound eating.
By the way, one area of anti-aging research is caloric restriction.
Reducting calories by about 30 percent extends maximum lifespan in mice and many
animals. (It doesn't seem to work as well in humans.) How does caloric
restriction do its magic in animals? Researchers
believe it may work in mice by "feminizing" them. In fact, here is the title of
one article: "Short-Term Calorie Restriction in Male Mice Feminizes Gene
Expression and Alters Key Regulators of Conserved Aging Regulatory
Again, I ask if crash dieting really how you want to lose weight?
CAUTION: Rapid weight loss may be desireable for some very obese
individuals: discuss with your doctor.
Metabolism, 1986 Apr, 35(4):289-91, "Decrease in resting metabolic rate during
rapid weight loss is reversed by low dose thyroid hormone treatment"
2) The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Jun 1 1989,
68(6):1013-1018, "Fasting Alters Pulsatile and Rhythmic Cortisol Release in