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Why is gradual weight loss better than a crash diet?

Crash diets (where someone tries to quickly lose weight by cutting down on the amount of calories they eat) don't work for long-term weight loss, and most aren't healthy. 

It’s best to lose weight gradually, in the following way:

  • at a rate of 230g-0.9kg (0.5-2lb) a week
  • by eating a healthy, balanced diet, combined with regular physical activity

By losing weight at a rate of 230g-0.9kg (0.5-2lb) a week, you’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight long term. For the best results, you need to combine a healthy diet with regular physical activity. For more information, see How do I choose a healthy weight loss plan?

Crash diets

Many diets:

  • radically restrict your daily calorie intake 
  • miss out entire food groups

Diet plans like this are not recommended for weight loss and can make you feel unwell.

“Because they are nutritionally unbalanced, crash diets can lead to long-term poor health,” says dietitian Ursula Arens.

Depending on the type of diet, it may:

  • slow down your metabolism 
  • prevent you from getting important nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to work properly
  • reduce your intake of carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread and rice), which are an essential source of energy
  • increase your intake of protein and fat; too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke

Read the NHS Choices diet review for 2015.

Fast weight loss

When you decrease the amount you eat, your body uses up energy stored in the liver and muscles. However, most of this initial weight loss will be water and muscle.

Your body's response to dieting in this manner is to reduce the speed it burns off calories. This means you're actually slowing down your ability to lose weight.

Weight gain

People who crash diet by missing out food or greatly cutting down on their daily calories tend to put weight back on quicker than those who follow a healthy, long-term diet plan.

Healthy balanced diet

Most diets are not healthy, and crash dieting for a long time can be harmful. Some are so restrictive that you may not have the willpower to stick to them.

See our lose weight section for information on:

Read the answers to more questions about food and diet.

Further information:

 

Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 03/02/2015

Next review due: 28/02/2017