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Fast Weight Loss and Crash Diets That Work Plus a Few That Don't

The Trouble is Crash Diets Work

We all know(some of us from bitter experience) that crash diets produce fast weight loss and work in the short run, but that beyond about two weeks they are hell to stick with and in the long run, good health is best achieved by a well balanced diet and lots of daily activity.

We all have been told numerous times that there is no short cut to good health, but we still keep looking for a magic bullet-- high carb, low carb, liquid, grapefruit, whatever the gimmick du jour is, we want to try it because we have an odd notion that two weeks on the latest fad diet will result in permanent loss even though it never happens. We also know that weight that comes off quickly is apt to be put back on just as quickly and years of " yo yo dieting" can lead to very bad things including loss of muscle mass and a lowered metabolism which in turn makes us fatter. But that doesn't stop us.

A Tour of Dietville

That said, people still continue to try losing weight via specific diets so here is a realistic look at some of the better known weight loss regimes out there. Each has its own philosophy or " gimmick" and each can produce results, at least in the short term. A few offer the potential for permanent lifestyle and eating habit changes. Others can be downright dangerous. Here's the skinny on them ( to coin a phrase)

The Atkins Diet, Grandaddy of Low Carb-High Fat Diets

The Atkins Diet a low carbohydrate diet invented by Dr. Robert Atkins in the '70's is the grandaddy of low carb dieting. Based on a research paper Dr. Atkins read and adapted, the diet tricks the body into using stored energy (i.e. fat) instead of burning glucose produced by carbohydrates. By severely restricting carbohydrate intake, the Atkins diet induces a state called ketosis which is what makes the pounds come off. the jury is still out on whether or not this is harmful in the long run. You don't count calories on this diet and you can eat many high fat foods forbidden on other plans, but you must count carbs very carefully and success depends on strict adherence to the diet through three phases. Even with shrimp, steak and butter being on the menu, it can be hard in the long run to live without bread, cereals and fruits and I've heard of people binging on them when they have been on Atkins too long.

There has been considerable debate in the medical community about the safety of inducing ketosis and its long term effects on various organs,but the diet has worked for a number of people. Men, particularly, seem to be attracted to it ( all that red meat dontchaknow), Atkins has become an international multi-billion dollar business with its own lines of food and supplements as well as books and equipment and endorsements. While Atkins is the most famous, there are other low carb diets that rely on the same principles, The Zone Diet, The Drinking Man's Diet, The Stillman Diet, and The South Beach Diet to name just a few. Today's version is the popular Paleo Diet . The gimmick here is that if a caveman didn't eat it, you shouldn't either. Like everything else, it works in the short term, but is pretty hard to stick to as a forever food planl.

Liquid Diets

These were all the rage in the '80's and often administered by hospitals under a Doctor's supervision. The best known of these was Opti-Fast, a program which still exists and operates clinics where the program is overseen by physicians and services truly morbidly obese individuals who have tried everything else and are making a last ditch effort. They also offer bariatric surgery.

Slim-fast is quite a different animal. Sold in pharmacies and grocery stores, it is a liquid "shake:" which you substitute for two meals a day, eating normally for your third meal AND it is designed for short term dieting when you want to get into a certain outfit or lose a few pounds for a special occasion. It does not promise long term weight loss and it won't deliver it either, but it's not a bad deal for a Saturday night date.

There are a number of other liquid diets on the market, but since it became clear in the lte '80's that there were problems with them and long term success rates were dismal, they have become less popular and with good reason. Liquid diets can be dangerous and none is suitable as a long term food plan as lack of fiber and essential nutrients will kick in after a couple of weeks and can produce unpleasant side effects including, constipation,fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, gallstones, cold intolerance, electrolyte imbalance, and heart damage. In addition, too many people could not successfully make the transition from liquid diet to normal food and regained all their weight plus more. Not a good solution for obesity.

The Grapefruit Diet

This one has been around since the 1930s and is also known as the Hollywood diet and is designed as a two week crash diet when you want to lose ten pounds. The idea behind the diet is that you eat a half grapefruit a half hour before every meal and that magical fat burning enzymes in grapefruit will burn up fat. The science on this one is a bit shaky, but the diet itself can be found online and it probably can't hurt you so if you want to lose some water weight for a specific occasion and gain it back a few days later, knock yourself out. Here's the diet.

NutriSystem and Jenny Craig

Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are the top dogs in the turnkey food plan diet industry and they both do a very good job. Neither one can really be called a crash diet, but what both have in common with crash diet plans is the promise of a magic short cut to slimness. All the thinking is done for you as with both plans you eat only the food prepared by them for you and as long as you don't cheat, you don't have to count anything and you can reliably lose one to two pounds a week. Both programs use a similar approach, but each has its own menu, its own cuisine and it's own level of online or in person support.. The problem with both is making the transition from their prepared meals to real world eating. This is where they have a certain similarity to crash diets and this is where most people who use them stumble. It is quite hard to make the transition even though both programs help with counseling and tips but if you live alone and want to have somebody else prepare your meals for the next umpty ump years, and you don't get tired of the food, you are in good shape with either one of these programs. Both provide adequate balanced nutrition and will result in weight loss.

The Real Math Behind Weight Loss and Why Losing Weight is a Marathon Not a Sprint

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 11, 2012:

Totally agree, moderation portion control, water and daily exercise are indeed the key to healthy eating-- always easier said than done, though :-)

mackyi on March 09, 2012:

Thanks for sharing this very informative hub on dieting. Today, there are so many different approaches to dieting and weight loss, that I can hardly keep up with them. However, the point is, I just cannot say which is the best, because personally I have never tried any of them. What I do observe, is that each person seems to have his/her own opinion,or preference based on what really worked for him/her.

The bottom line is,there is no quick way to weight loss, like you have said. Based on the healthy weight loss guideline, 1-2 lbs in weight loss per wk. is considered medically safe. Overall, I think eating in moderation,portion control, drinking lots or water,and daily exercise are the main keys to good health. Whichever diet focuses on this approach,this is the one I think is the best.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 08, 2012:

Hi Marci-- I know--What ever happened to Allan Sherman anyway? I guess most of his material is terribly outdated, but he is still funny

Scroll to Continue

Mardi-- they say the Mediterranean diet is the best long term food plan for good health and long life-- so sounds like you are on the right track.

Thank you both for stopping by and taking the time to leave such great, positive comments

Mardi Winder-Adams from Western Canada and Texas on March 07, 2012:

This is a great hub! As a former Atkins dieter I am now staying with the Mediterranean diet, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, limited whole grains ( I don't do the bread), small amounts of lean protein, yogurt and cheese. Oh yeah, and a glass of red wine !!!!

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 07, 2012:

Interesting hub - and gosh, is that Allan Sherman clip a blast from the past! I lost some weight through WW years ago, and then another time I had success by eating a lot of cooked cabbage. It wasn't the soup diet - I just made it because it's easy, I like it, it will keep for a while before you use it, and it makes a big batch you can eat for days.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 07, 2012:

Hi Bob-- funny how they keep changing their minds, isn't it? One doughnut never made anybody fat IMHO I still think moderation in all things-- hey, didn't diogenes say something like that????

diogenes from UK and Mexico on March 07, 2012:

High protein are supposed to be best now (they say). The worst, high carb and high grains.

Chicken, fish - very little red meat - salad, fruit and veg works best for me. But I can't stick at it. I can't resit a donut or something sweet. I live alone now and get sooo bored with diets and think, f--k it!


Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 07, 2012:

@ Sally's Trove Better a master cleanser than a master..... oh never mind:-)

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on March 07, 2012:

@Steph, that was a popular cleansing diet, one to use instead of a full colon cleansing in order to detoxify the body. A business associate of mine a few years ago asked me to join her on this one. Ugh and yuk! (I have better things to do.) I think it was called Master Cleanse.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on March 07, 2012:

This is a great overview of the fast, crash diet plans that - as you correctly note - produce quick, but not usually lasting results. I recall hearing something about a diet that Beyonce tried which involved lemon juice, water, syrup and cayenne pepper. UGH!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 07, 2012:

Hi Jaye-- I think you are talking about the Stillman diet or maybe the Scarsdale diet ( remember Dr. Tarnauer who got himself murdered by his mistress who was the also the headmistress of the Foxcroft school?) The Scarsdale diet was his and was another low carb diet. There was a " Drinking Man's Diet" which was also low carb I think and popular at the time.

The cabbage soup or Mayo clinic diet was a kissing cousin to the grapefruit diet-- maybe even the same thing except with cabbage soup instead of grapefruit--anyway it is the same vintage I think -- thanks for the trip down memory land LOL

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on March 07, 2012:

I seem to recall a diet similar to the Atkins Diet from the early '60s detailed in a book that referred to eating steak and drinking martinis. I can't recall the title, though I don't think it was called "The Drinking Man's Diet", but seems it might have been an off-shoot. I tried quite a few of the fad diets in my youth, but back then almost any of them would make me lose quickly. It was the keeping it off that was a challenge! I think my favorite was that crazy cabbage soup diet (which I, by the way, loved), purported to be the "Mayo Clinic Diet", but disavowed by the Mayo Clinic. In addition to a lot of the soup, it seems there was one day during the week when you ate nothing else but boiled eggs, another when you only ate bananas, etc. I can't recall the rationale behind this regimen (if there actually was one), but all of my friends and I duly tried it!

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 07, 2012:

Oh my goodness, Jaye Wisdom-- we must have cross posted. Sorry about that. Didn't know I had missed your comment, but it is an interesting one. We'll never know about your friend, but it has been my personal observation as I said before that ATkins works better for men than women. Don't really know why.

I think there are many different diets that will result in weight loss, but for my money, the best long term eating plan is a balanced combo of whole, un processed foods of all kinds, grown locally and eaten as fresh as possible. One can be vegetarian or a meat eater, it doesn't matter. What matters in moderation and enough exercise so you burn up what you eat. In the end weight loss is, after all, a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out. The devil is in the details:-) thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Roberta Kyle (author) from Central New Jersey on March 07, 2012:

Thanks for all the comments everybody--wow-- so many to reply to! This is great:-)

CR--I had to include that Alan Sherman video as I am not only old enough to remember Alan Sherman, but also the " Drinking Man's Diet" which was a real diet popular in the '60's

ST-- I don't remember the Ski Team Diet. I do remember some other doozies though-- thee was one that was black strap molasses and yogourt ( yech)

Sunshine-- yes indeed I remember AYDS-- Their rather unfortunate name was their downfall when AIDS hit the world in the '70's, but when I was a kid, they were advertised all over the place. The theory was you would eat one before meals to kill your appetite ( Good luck with that one!!!)

RetailRich-- thanks for sharing your personal experience with Atkins. A lot of men seem to really do well on it-- I was never good with it, nor did I do well with it's opposite, the Dean Ornish thing. I remember when Atkins died and you are right. He slipped and fell on the ice. I seem to remember the was in New York Hospital. We were all surprised when he actually died.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on March 07, 2012:

The Atkins Diet is a moot point for me, since I don't eat meat; however, I'm afraid some people who try it eat a dangerous level of animal fats.

A friend of mine (in her mid-60s at the time) lost a lot of weight on Atkins over a period of months, nearly a year. Naturally, she was thrilled with the weight loss. She got kind of "hooked" on the diet since she loves steak and bacon, so she kept going back on it for a month or two per time. After about two years of her on-off Atkins regimen, she required surgery on both her carotid arteries because they were almost completely clogged with plaque.

Did all that steak, bacon, butter, etc. cause my friend's clogged arteries? There is some concern in the medical community that Atkins, especially when used long term, is not a cardiovascular-healthy diet. I've also read on a medical website that one can have dangerous levels of arterial plaque without having a high cholesterol count. (By the way, my friend now eats a more balanced diet and has only gained back a couple of pounds.)

RetailRich on March 07, 2012:

Dr. Atkins did not die of high cholesterol or a heart attack as was reported. After his death in 2003, a rumor was spread that Dr. Robert Atkins "died of his own diet". This was spread by the media and the vegan group the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, not to mention a few other groups.

On April 8, 2003, at age 72, Dr. Atkins slipped on some ice while walking to work. He hit is head causing bleeding around his brain. On the way to the hospital, he lost consciousness and then spent two weeks in intensive care. He deteriorated rapidly and suffered massive organ failure. Because of this, his body retained an enormous amount of fluid, and his weight swelled from about 200 pounds to 258 pounds. His death certificate states that he died from "blunt impact injury" to his head with epidural hematoma".

RetailRich on March 07, 2012:

This was all very interesting and I also found it to be very true. I actually never felt better in my life than when I was on the Atkins diet. I had plenty of energy, never felt hungry, and I lost weight very easily! I was told by other so called experts that my cholesterol would go up drastically, but the fact is, I was having my blood tested every three months and my good cholesterol went up and my bad cholesterol went down. My only trouble with the diet, is that eventually you get tired of it.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 07, 2012:

Fast weight loss and crash diets are to fast and easy to work. They are good for a short period of time, but the weight will come back. Oprah's liquid diet taught us all that. Wasn't it Adtkins who after he died the media informed us that his cholesterol wasn't at a healthy level. The fat came on slowly and has to leave slowly. I did enjoy your hub, it's very informative! Do you remember the AYDS Diet? Small pieces of chocolate flavored something that was supposed to suppress your appetite? I do. Haha.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on March 07, 2012:

There was another low-carb quick loss diet I remember from the late 60s called the US Ski Team Diet. My mother and I stuck to it rigorously for the first week, lost 5 pounds, and then couldn't stand even looking at an egg or a grapefruit. Continuing into the second week was out of the question. I don't remember how long it took to gain the 5 pounds back, but I'm sure it wasn't long. Nice overview, robie2, confirming the worth of sticking to my ETL plan. :)

Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on March 07, 2012:

Allan Sherman! lol! I haven't thought about that guy since I was a kid. He was soooo funny. Great hub, thanks!

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