The “hard-boiled egg diet”, the “cabbage soup diet”, the “water with maple syrup and cayenne pepper diet”… any of these sound familiar? These are known as “crash” or fad diets. Basically, you severely restrict your calorie intake and deprive yourself of nutrition in order to lose weight rapidly.
While you may see the scale go down in the short term (sorry folks, it’s mainly water weight!) those crash diets can have major impacts on your body and blood sugar.
For example, one research study fed 21 participants a diet of between 600-800 calories per day for 8 weeks. After one week, the participants all experienced loss of body fat.
However, the levels of fat around their hearts increased by over 40%! Researcher Dr. Jennifer Rayner of Oxford University explains the changes are due the sudden drop in calories causing stored fat to be released into the bloodstream for fuel.
Dr. Rayner goes on to explain that the heart prefers to choose between fat and sugar for fuel. However, when the heart is inundated with excess fat, its function is compromised. (A few weeks after the study, the excess fat around participants' hearts did begin to clear as the body acclimated to the lower calorie diet.)
Not only can the heart be affected by extremely low calorie diets, other considerations must be made, especially for diabetics. It is crucial to understand the effects dieting can have on blood sugar and overall health.
New research has found that individuals who fluctuate in weight have twice the risk of death, heart attack, or stroke compared to individuals who maintain a stable weight. Those who lost, and then re-gained the weight, also had a 78% increase in risk of developing diabetes.
The first thing to do is to speak with your healthcare team. If you are not currently at a healthy weight, your physician will set a goal weight for you to reach. Check in regularly with your physician regarding your progress to ensure you remain on track, and do not experience any negative side effects.
Don’t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. While it may be tempting to cut calories by not eating, this strategy will backfire. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar goes haywire. It can drop to unsafe levels; you will notice that you have less energy, and you may develop a headache, or stomachache.
When you finally do eat something, you are likely to over-eat (thereby consuming more calories than you would if you had eaten two regular meals), or make a less-than-ideal food choice because you are so hungry. Not to mention, your blood sugar will skyrocket because it is getting stimulated all at once instead of over the span of an entire day.
Eat regularly to make sure that your body is getting the fuel it needs. For some, this means 3 larger meals and 2 snacks, for others it may mean eating every 2-3 hours. Find what works best for your blood sugar.
Moderation is key. Telling yourself that you can never have (insert name of favorite food here) because you are now diabetic, is completely unreasonable. Check out these food hacks and enjoy your favorite foods again!
Don’t fall for fads. While the “lose 20 pounds in a week with the XYZ diet” may sound appealing, don’t trust it. As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Simply stated, if you aim to lose weight, do it the right way. Punishing your body by withholding nutrition is not a way to sustain weight loss. You are actually far more likely to gain back not only any weight lost, but additional pounds on top of that. A few pounds of “quick” weight loss is not worth the devastation to your blood sugar and your overall health.