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Crash diet: How to detect/avoid

Any diet that seems strange to you needn’t be a Crash diet or Fad diet. What is the criteria separating a crash diet from other unusual but feasible diet?

Every now and then our newspapers feature some weight-loss or fitness strategies. Go on a water fast, fast for 5 days, eat only cucumber/celery/fruit. Detox your body, GM diet, lose 5 kg in a week, blah blah. So we go to a “dietician” at the local gym and get a piece of paper telling us what to eat at what time. But how do we know if its not another crash diet or fad which will ruin our health?

Basics

There are 3 simple things you need to ensure and these are NOT hard to spot.

  • Protein
  • Fibr
  • Total Calories

Other than these three, another very important factor is lifestyle and preference. A diet you start should also suit your lifestyle and preferences. Only something you can stick to every day will bring you any results. If you are frustrated with the choice of food and preparation and give up, it will not help no matter how good it worked for someone else and how good it looks theoretically.

Eg: If someone tells you to eat only chicken and broccoli whole day, it will shred your willpower and eat away your motivation until you give up. Or if you have no time for 3 meals and someone tells you to eat 6 times, its again a recipe for failure. Try to match it to your lifestyle so it actually works for you.

Protein

If you are given a diet that is all fruits and vegetables, with no protein rich food, please do yourself a favor and chuck it into the nearest dustbin. While vegetables and fruits are a good source of fiber, micronutrients and sugar, they have little protein. I’m sorry, spinach and moringa leaves is NOT a good source of protein. Please do not believe random videos and articles.

While rice and lentils can provide protein, they are not a dense source of it. If you are consuming say 300g each of rice and dal per day, it can be enough(This comes to around 85g of protein). However, that alone means over 2000kcal of energy. Adding an essential amount of fat(40g minimum), it comes to around 2500kcal. One also needs a good amount of vegetables for a healthy diet. For a majority of us who lead sedentary lives, that amount of food will be over our daily energy budget.

A minimum of 1g per kg body weight would be required in any healthy diet. A dietician should be able to tell you how much protein is present in the diet he/she prescribed you. You can verify the same by entering the foods in a diet app.

Fibre

A normal diet with grains and vegetables does not need any extra fiber. However, if the diet is lacking both these food groups, it will probably be low in fiber. Also, if the vegetable intake is low, micronutrient deficiencies can occur. Adding a regular multivitamin is a generic way of handling it but in that case, fiber also must be considered. Low fiber can cause gastric issues as well as low satiety and frequent blood sugar changes which are not good for health and energy levels. Any good diet should provide adequate fiber.

There are several MLM that sell diet shakes. They usually advertise it to contain great ingredients and protein. If you check the nutrition information, the per serving protein might be actually low. Another missing point is fibre. A low satiety shake will leave you with fewer calories to satisfy either your hunger or your protein requirements. Meal replacement shakes are also unsustainable and expensive. Building a diet with readily available ingredients and groceries is definitely a better choice that you can sustain.

Total Calories

Last but not least, you must ensure that the average energy intake is above your BMR(Basal Metabolic Rate: Minimum amount of calories needed for basic functions). A crash diet is very low in total calories and severely affect the body’s healing and defense mechanisms. It is also a sure way to nutrient deficiencies because there is no way our body can get/absorb all its daily needs.

Crash diets are bound to fail over time because our body has evolved with survival in prime focus. Our body is smart and has an arsenal of hormones and a nervous system which reverse a survival threat such as low energy intake with a vengeance. Your control will break under that attack and you will regain what you lost and more. Statistics show that a whopping 95% of people who lose weight regain it back over the next 3 years. Better avoid picking that fight. So don’t threaten your body.

A diet plan from a dietician should mention the calories and macros (including protein) in the plan. Do make sure to ask if they don’t specify it. Don’t trust anyone unwilling or uninterested in disclosing this. It is the matter of your health and your body and nobody should be giving you meal plans without such basic information.

Crash diet: How to detect/avoid

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