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Down Size Me - The Adverse Effects of Crash Dieting

July 27, 2013

Down Size Me - The Adverse Effects of Crash Dieting

Whether you love or hate fast food, most of you will remember a man named Morgan Spurlock, who in 2004 made the award-winning documentary Super Size Me. The American filmmaker famously ate nothing but McDonald’s for a full 30 days, an experiment that visibly took its toll on his body and probably should never have even been attempted. One week ago I set out to copy Morgan Spurlock. The only difference was that I was going to flip the experiment upside down and study the effects of a diet that was incredibly low in calories, fats and carbohydrates.

Before I Go On… I must clearly state that, although it is known to work in the short-term, crash dieting is not a sensible long-term solution to weight loss. For weight loss to be safe and healthy, it has to be part of a larger commitment to make positive lifestyle changes. I should also make it clear that as a company FORZA does not advocate unsustainable, unsafe diets or bad living in general. Like Morgan, I was acting irresponsibly in order to highlight the dangers associated with an extreme diet and would like to think that no one in their right mind would try to voluntary maintain it for the long-term.  

The Diet The reason behind this diet was the same reason behind millions of other diets - an unhealthy binge that had unsurprisingly led to weight gain. After spending ten days in Canada attending a relative’s wedding, I had gained 13lbs through excessive amounts of eating and drinking. North America is famous for its food and I could not resist many of the novel and exciting culinary delights that were constantly on offer. I decided that if I could gain 13lbs in ten days, then with some hard work I should be able to reverse it in roughly the same amount of time. My biggest aim was to push my body to the limit and then record the stresses and strains for summary. In traditional diet fashion, my challenge began on a Monday morning. However, there was nothing traditional about my method: I set out to consume no more than 800 calories per day for as many days as it took to lose the weight. Breakfast each day consisted of one small banana.

This was followed by nothing but a handful of grapes for lunch and an omelette with salad for dinner. I combined this diet with a mixture of walking (1 mile), running (3 miles) and sit-ups (50 reps) on alternate days. I also forced myself to drink 2 litres of water every day. In order to assist me even further, I also took a new weight loss supplement called Phentra50. As the Managing Director of the company who manufactured the product, I felt obliged to test it out before it had been officially brought to market. In regular circumstances, it should be combined with a healthy eating plan and steady exercise but I knew that I couldn’t afford to miss out on the product’s benefits if I was going to make it through such a high intensity diet with any kind of success. The main advantage that Phentra50 gave me was the additional energy and focus that I would otherwise have desperately lacked as a result of my restricted calorie diet. I also noticed that I had a much greater level of control over my hunger than I had originally expected, which is obviously handy when you are trying to greatly reduce your food intake.  

The Results Unlike Morgan, who managed to consume nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days straight, I could only keep up this diet for five days before the physical strain became too much for me to bear. At 35-years-old, my body did not react very well to a sudden decrease in nutrients and I found it very hard to recover after physical exercise.

As somebody who also occasionally suffers with arthritis, I found that this was severely aggravated as a result of a Vitamin B₃ deficiency. This was obviously being caused by my rather extreme eating habits and the agonising pain ultimately proved to be my reason for terminating the diet. However, after only five days my total weight loss amounted to 13lbs. I had achieved exactly what I had wanted in less time than expected, despite the fact that I was paying the price for it afterwards. The results are incredible and frightening in equal measure.  

What Have I Learnt? In addition to finding out more about the limitations of my own body, this experience has taught me that crash diets should be avoided at all costs when it comes to achieving weight loss. Despite sticking to the diet for less than a week, I lost almost 10% of my body weight during this time. It would not have been too long before my actions started to have a much more serious impact on my health. While being overweight is often associated with being unhealthy, it is just as easy for somebody to be thin and unhealthy.

Despite being 13lbs heavier five days ago, I was certainly more ‘metabolically healthy’ and had absolutely no issues with my cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar levels. It just goes to show that rapid weight loss is not always mirrored by an improvement in general health and fitness. For all of the glaring differences between mine and Morgan’s diets, one thing was certain: In a relatively short space of time we were both well on the way to total failure.