Crash diets don’t have a formal definition but they are often perceived as an attempt to quickly lose weight by drastically cutting down on the amount of calories consumed for a short period of time.
“A crash diet is not defined by a specific number (e.g. 1200 calories), rather by the length of time it is followed, perception of it being a ‘quick fix,’ and requirement of making drastic changes to the diet all at once,” Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian, Medifast, says.
Don’t confuse it for detoxing. The purpose is generally to lose a good amount of weight in a short period of time. A detox, however, is typically for cleansing the body, Miller says. “The main difference is that detoxing is often done to cleanse, revitalize, and rejuvenate a person. Weight loss may or may not be a factor.”
For best results, you want to cultivate healthy habits that are sustainable for long-term health and wellbeing. This means finding a nutritionally balanced meal plan that fits with your individualized dietary preferences and needs as well as your overall lifestyle, Miller says.
To safely and effectively lose weight, you need to reduce your caloric intake while ensuring adequate protein intake (to help prevent loss of lean muscle mass), fiber (to support optimal digestion and blood sugar stabilization), and vitamins and minerals (to support a healthy body, which includes a healthy immune, skeletal, and metabolic system).
Any diet that has a “miracle” food or ingredient or one that focuses on very few foods or food groups, such as the grapefruit or cabbage soup diet, is often a red flag,” Miller says. People have to eat a variety of foods to acquire the nutrients they need. “There is no magic pill or potion; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”