Monday August 11 2014

Are you on a crash diet?

People who are on crash diets tend to eat small

People who are on crash diets tend to eat small amounts of food, hoping it will make them lose weight faster. However, health experts say this could cause other complications. file photo 

By Joseph Kato

It is common to find people engaging in exercise to keep fit or reduce weight. Some do it willingly, while others may be instructed by doctors for medical reasons. Although reducing weight is usually a slow process that requires a lot of patience and dedication, some people opt to starve themselves with the hope of achieving faster results within a short period of time.
As a result, they cut down the amount of food they eat. While in the short run they can achieve their intended goal, it may not be a long-term achievement.

The dangers
Hope Nimurungi, a nutritionist at AAR Health Services, says while a person’s diet can help them lose or maintain a healthy weight, engaging in crash diets to achieve faster results can be counter-productive.

She says crash diets are not recommended for weight loss, since they tend to be nutritionally unbalanced and could lead to long-term health problems. “Crash diet can cause damage to body organs such as the liver, kidney and slows the brain function,” she says.

Nimurungi explains that when a person goes on a crash diet, the vital organs of their body cannot get the energy they need to function as fast as they should be. “The body may begin to burn the tissues of the heart, liver, kidneys and the brain. Cognitive functions such as thinking can also slowdown, as well as performance at work,” she says.

Vital nutrients
In some cases, crash diets can prevent a person from getting important nutrients including vitamins that the body needs to function properly. Dr Charles Namis, a general practitioner at Nsambya hospital, says crash diets can slowdown a person’s metabolism. This is the rate at which the body turns food into energy. “The increased intake of protein and saturated fat can raise a person’s cholesterol and increase their risk of heart disease” he says. According to Dr Namis, crash dieting tends to cause stress to people who engage in it.

“They feel irritable, tired and lethargic because their body is not getting the nutrients needed to make energy. It may also cause food cravings because a person will not be getting the vitamins and minerals that the body needs,” says Dr Namis.
This is likely to lead to conditions such as depression, or a person may, in the long run develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. “Crash diets carry both long and short term health risks. The most common short-term risk is nutritional deficiency, while long-term risks may include developing bone-related disease, ” he says.

Expert advice
•Nimurungi says weight loss should be a gradual process which follows a healthy plan, and should never be rushed.
•Seek guidance from a dietician and set long-term goals to help keep a focus on what you want to achieve as far as losing weight is concerned.
•Keep a journal to manage your diet and weight loss plan.
•Limit intake of sugary foods and drinks such as sodas, cakes and fast foods.
•Engage in jogging and walking.