For Your Protection: Crash Diets

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 14, 2013
and last updated 2014-06-18 11:53:02-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- According to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's Bariatric Center, more than one-third of American adults are obese. In the battle to lose weight, many people turn to all sorts of diets. But, do they work? And, do some diets actually harm your health?

At 62 years of age, Ken Schilling says his decision to get back on a bike saved his life.

"Every day is a decision. Every day I have to decide what I'm going to do," Schilling says reflecting on a photo of himself nearly 17 months ago. A photo of Schilling, snapped on January 14, 2012, shows Schilling at the time weighing nearly 400 pounds.

"I don't know why, and I don't know how, but something did click," Schilling said.

It was the mark of a new journey.

"I had made up my mind because I had done what many people had done, gain and lost a tremendous amount of weight," Schilling said. He admits "it wasn't easy at all."

Before he turned to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's Bariatic Center for help to lose weight he says he tried a number of different diets to try to shed the pounds. He's one of millions of people each year who try all sorts of diets.

Some people go even further taking part in what doctors call "crash diets.".

"Crash diets in general are things that people use to lose rapid weight quickly," said Dr. Angelina Cain with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's Bariatric Center.

Dr. Cain says crash diets often involved taking in fewer than 1,200 calories a day. Some you eat nothing but grapefruit. There is the excessive exercise crash diet. One of the more common types is a master cleanse where you drink nothing but a mixture of water, lemon juice and cayenne pepper for several days.

Dr. Cain says crash diets do not work for "real" or long term weight loss.

"When people think about weight loss they don't realize you can lose weight and not lose fat," Dr. Cain said. "Those people are losing weight, but they are not losing fat. You're not going to lose fat that rapidly. You're going to lose water weight or muscle weight and as soon as you eat and drink it'll all come right back."

Doctors caution that crash dieting could also be harming your health. Long term use of crash diets, doctors say, can deprive your body of essential nutrients which can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of dehydration, heart palpitations and cardiac stress.

So, what's the best way to lose weight long term?


"It's really the basics," Dr. Cain said. "People want to get a quick fix and they forget about the basics."

That means watching what you eat, getting eight hours of sleep each night, and exercise.

Angela Glenn at Premiere Health and Fitness says changing your routine and changing your lifestyle are also key.

"You want to make sure what you're doing is consistent," said Angela Glenn, Fitness Coordinator at Premiere Health & Fitness Center. "Regular training over the course of a lifetime. Because this is a lifetime change. It needs to be habitual that you're exercising on a regular basis."

For Ken Schilling that exercise comes on a bicycle, riding three to four days a week.

"This whole thing about weight loss and weight change, there are four words: Eat less, move more. That's it. That's all there is to it," Schilling said.

Schilling says the decision he made some 17 months ago is one of the best decisions of his life. Though he admits it's a process that is never over. That's important to note, Dr. Cain says, is that losing weight and keep it off is about decisions you make every day.

Every day decisions, Dr. Cain says, can lead to long term weight loss.