Have you ever looked at a diet plan which promised an astonishing rate of weight loss – perhaps 10lbs in 2 weeks? Chances are, it relied on you drinking specially formulated drinks, or eating from a very restricted range of foods. “Very low calorie” diets are defined as diets which involve fewer than 800 calories per day, and are often liquid-only.
In the 21st century, we’ve become accustomed to very quick results. We have mobile phones, fast broadband, overnight shipping, instant downloads and so on. When it comes to dieting, though, technology hasn’t made a difference. Our bodies still work in just the same way that they worked thousands of years ago.
And that means that very low calorie diets are a really bad idea. In fact, any diet where you’re eating below 1,000 calories per day (and most people shouldn’t even drop that low) is dangerous.
We need calories in order to function. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you get too hungry, you find it hard to concentrate. You might feel tired and washed out, and if you go too long without eating, you’ll get dizzy and perhaps even faint.
Going on a very low calorie diet can be extremely detrimental to the rest of your life. It’ll make it hard (and dangerous) to exercise, and hard to focus at work. You’ll find that you’re more irritable than usual, and more tired.
Losing Muscle, Not Fat
Although weight loss generally is rapid on a very low calorie diet, this is because you’re losing muscle, not fat. After a week or two, your body will start adjusting to your super-low food intake, clinging on to fat stores. Why? Because it thinks you’re going through a famine.
Almost any diet runs the risk of losing muscle – but with normal, moderate dieting, you can carry on exercising to make sure you maintain those muscles. If you’re eating very little, you won’t have the energy that you need in order to get through a workout.
Very Low Calorie Diets Aren’t Sustainable
If you’ve tried a really strict diet in the past, you’ll probably know that they’re really hard to stick to. Perhaps you struggled through a few days – even a few weeks – before giving up. But then you went straight back to your old patterns of eating, and you decided that dieting was just too hard.
In psychological terms, a very low calorie diet is likely to leave you feeling bored and fed up with your limited daily food. If you’re only drinking diet shakes, you’ll start craving “real” food again. And in physical terms, your poor body will be crying out for nourishment. It’s not a lack of will power that’s causing your diet to fail – it’s the fact that the diet itself is a bad idea.
Your Weight Will Yo-Yo
Finally, very low calorie diets simply do not work in the long term. Yes, you might manage to drop a dress size in a month before your vacation. But as soon as you start eating normally again (even if you’re eating a healthy amount and not overeating), your body will start to stack on the fat.
From your body’s perspective, you’ve come out of the famine period – but there might be another famine just around the corner. The fat stores are designed to protect you. And because your metabolic rate slowed down on the diet, and you lost fat-burning muscle, it’s become much easier for you to gain weight.
So what can you do instead of a very low calorie diet? Well, you can use the Weight Loss Estimator to work out a safe goal date, and the Calorie Calculator to figure out how much you should be eating each day. You can focus on eating healthy, tasty meals which satisfy your taste buds and your stomach – and which you would happily eat whether or not you were on a diet. You can get active and burn extra calories through exercise.
Yes, it doesn’t have the glamorous lure of instant results. But you can lose a safe 1-2lbs per week … and you’ll be much more likely to keep the weight off in the long term.