Why crash diets DON’T work (sorry!): Diet expert reveals how restricting yourself to fewer than 1,200 calories a day could make you fat

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Written By Daily Mail

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Millions of us will have entered the New Year with the goal of losing weight.

But if you go for a strict diet (eating less than 1,200 calories a day), keep in mind that it may not work.

Even if you initially change the scale this month, you’ll likely end up piling on the pounds again.

That is according to Dr Christopher Gaffney, senior lecturer in physiology at Lancaster University, who says The approach slows down the body’s metabolism (the rate at which it burns calories).

Crash diets could damage your metabolism and leave you struggling to lose weight once you start eating normally again.

Crash diets could damage your metabolism and leave you struggling to lose weight once you start eating normally again.

On top of that, it interferes with hormone levels and causes a drop in energy, says Dr. Gaffney.

On average, women need to consume 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight, but men need 2,500.

Therefore, following a strict diet, which may involve reducing intake to just 800 calories per day, tends to work initially because dieters burn more calories than they consume.

A 2018 study recruited 278 obese people who followed a strict 810-calorie-per-day diet for three months.

The results showed that this group lost 24 pounds (11 kg), while those who simply reduced their portion sizes lost only 7 pounds (3 kg).

However, these effects are almost impossible to maintain.

A 2011 study, which investigated the benefits of intensive calorie restriction for patients with type 2 diabetes, found that those who ate just 600 calories a day for two months lost 33 pounds (15 kg), on average.

However, three months later, the participants regained about 7 pounds (3 kg).

In an article in The Conversation, Dr. Gaffney said that overall, eight out of 10 dieters regained all of their lost weight. Some even end up weighing more than when they started.

One reason for this is how crash diets wreak havoc on metabolism, a process responsible for converting food into energy.

When the body receives many fewer calories than it is used to, it adapts and burns less, a survival mechanism that has evolved over hundreds of years and is known as starvation mode.

As a result, strict dieters can lose weight quickly in just a few weeks. But when the body enters this mode, progress suddenly stops.

Even when a diet is finished, the drop in metabolism can last for years.

In addition, crash diets trigger a series of unpleasant short-term effects, such as fatigue, which makes it challenging to perform any activity.

Eating less on a strict diet will lower your metabolic rate and may even increase hormones that help retain fat.

Eating less on a strict diet will lower your metabolic rate and may even increase hormones that help retain fat.

Continuing to eat a minimal amount of calories triggers changes in hormone levels, causing more of the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which within a few months can cause the body to store more fat, according to Dr. Gaffney.

Crash diets can also reduce levels of the hormone T3, produced by the thyroid gland and vital for regulating metabolic rate.

‘Taken together, all of these changes make the body more adept at gaining weight when you start consuming more calories again. And these changes can last for months, if not years,” she warned.

Instead, those looking to lose weight should take a gradual and sustainable approach, which will leave them with enough energy to exercise and will have less impact on metabolic rate.

According to Dr. Gaffney, an ideal diet will only reduce body weight by 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) per week.

While dieting, he suggests eating more protein to feel fuller for longer.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS.

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS.

• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables count

• Base meals are based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.

• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole wheat bread, and one large baked potato with skin.

• Eat some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) by choosing low-fat, low-sugar options.

• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish each week, one of which should be fatty)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small quantities

• Drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should consume less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day.

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

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