Diet & Weight Loss

This Is Why You Should Never, Ever Go on a Crash Diet

Yet another reason why denying yourself on impossible-to-maintain diets is a terrible idea.

By Maria Azua

If you’ve ever gone on a crash diet to lose a few pounds before a vacation or high school reunion, you’ve probably experienced some not-so-pleasant symptoms. Crash diets are known for headaches, nausea, and ultimately throwing your immune system and metabolism out of whack. And don’t forget that you’ll be dropping most of your comfort foods—no wonder you feel so terrible. Now researchers from the University of Carolina have proved what you may’ve suspected: The results of a crash diets can leave one feeling like they’re going through a drug withdrawal.

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In a medical study published by Science Daily, Steve Fordahl, PhD, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Sara Jones, PhD, at Wake Forest School of Medicine found that mice who were fed a high-fat diet and then abruptly switched to a low-fat diet experienced a reduction of dopamine, a neurotransmitter closely linked to mood. The reason dopamine plummeted seemed to be connected to stress, the researchers reported. They also discovered that when the mice returned to a high-fat diet, they binged, eating more food than they would have before following the low-fat diet. Sound familiar?

“Our findings suggest that stress caused by food restriction, commonly observed with crash dieting, can prime the dopamine system in a way that promotes over-indulgence of palatable or ‘comfort’ foods, when the opportunity arises,” explains Dr. Fordahl. This may help explain why people nearly always regain weight after a fad diet.

Losing unwanted pounds is always a challenge, but this is more evidence that a sensible, long-term approach makes the most sense. Check out these weight loss tips that actually work; and take care to avoid one food experts recommend you avoid at all costs if you do want to lose weight.

More: Diet & Weight Loss Living Well

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