The rationalizations are easy. “It’s just a few months, and then I can relax.” “It’s just to jump-start me.” “I’ll be careful.” Mine was “I’m just trying it to see if it works.”
We all know that crash diets are terrible for you, but most of us have tried them anyway. And believe me, I understand the temptation. The whole sensible one-pound-a-week thing seems miserably long, especially when you have a wedding looming on the horizon and a platoon of gorgeous friends.
But don’t. Please, just don’t. Even though I did (for three days, until I realized that my juice fast made me want to scream at my friends, punch the walls, and eat anything chewable, including circus peanuts and radioactive waste), please don’t.
We’ve got some simple tips for getting in shape sensibly over here. They’re not as sexy as the “plans” that claim you’ll drop twelve pounds in fifteen days, but they’re also way less likely to make you gnaw on your desk. If you get tempted in the meantime, call your most level-headed friends for support or check out this handy rundown of why crash diets suck.
Over-the-counter diet pills
Stay the hell away from them. Remember Anna Nicole Smith? Stay the hell away from them. Over-the-counter pills are only barely regulated and can mess with other medications you’re taking.
The pills that are supposed to boost your metabolism can screw with your thyroid or make your body dependent on the massive doses of stimulants they deliver. Not to mention making you irritable and unable to concentrate. You crash into sleepiness or even depression when you come down, and once you realize what a rip-off they are and stop taking them, your body has to re-learn how to stay awake on its own.
The ones that are supposed to suppress certain hormones? Suppress certain hormones. Your body makes those for a reason. I have two different friends who tried those pills and ended up completely throwing off their menstrual cycles. Marriage isn’t just about kids anymore, but risking damage to your reproductive system to look good in the dress seems counter to the spirit of the whole thing.
OK, I’ll agree that you can save a bunch of empty calories by avoiding the breadbasket and watching the amount of refined sugar you eat. There’s nothing wrong with filling up on lean protein and eating lots of veggies. But be suspicious of any plan that asks you to cut a major food group out of your life entirely. Especially one that says bacon-wrapped steak for breakfast every day is just hunky-dory.
What I’ve noticed about my friends who have done Atkins, for example, is that they do drop a lot of weight very quickly, but they don’t really look healthy. My friend Elizabeth’s* beautiful creamy-cocoa skin turned gray. And their faces get kind of zombie-gaunt. Sure, the walking dead usually have enviously low body fat percentages, but you hardly ever want to sex them up.
And every last one of my friends who went low-carb regained every pound as soon as he or she relaxed and ate a cracker. You’ll either have to skip your own wedding cake or risk bursting out of your dress like the Hulk.
Blah blah New Age blah blah liver cleanse blah blah environmental toxins blah. I’ve heard and read a lot of impressive talk about juice fasts and people’s noble reasons for doing them. And maybe some do actually fast for those reasons. But every last one of my toxin cleansing friends who did it has eventually ‘fessed up to actually doing it because he or she wanted to lose weight.
I don’t know about the toxin cleansing, but I do know that civilization has advanced way more quickly than evolution, which means your body still sort of thinks you’re scrapping it out on the Serengeti plains. When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your body thinks you’re trying to survive a famine. To get you through it, it drops into starvation mode, meaning it holds on to fat as tenaciously as it can. It will be harder to lose weight, both while you’re on the calorie reduction and in the future.
Any plan that involves losing more than two pounds a week
It’s not just that radical plans to lose weight are impossible to stick to in the long run. It really isn’t safe to lose much more than two pounds a week. Your system can’t handle it. Kerry*, who worked in the office cube next to mine was on some “scientific” plan that involved eating tiny amounts of food at strict intervals. I mostly remember her chirping on the phone about how great her diet was and getting excited as the time when she was allowed to eat another nine almonds got near. She did drop a lot of weight very quickly and looked great – right up until she collapsed at her desk and had to spend the next day in the hospital. Other than that, her scientific diet plan was just swell.
Margaret Cho talks about how she was asked to lose weight by a TV network (to play herself!) and had to do it very quickly. Technically everything her trainer told her to do was healthy – she ate steamed vegetables and exercised. It’s just that she ate so little and worked out so much that she damaged her kidneys. Awesome!
No dress or photo is worth it. Your friends and family love you and your kidneys just the way you are. Eat right, work out a little each day, and trust your instincts.
And if someone suggests eating nine almonds every 3.2 hours, get an extra workout in by running far away in the opposite direction.
*Names and details have been changed to protect privacy.