Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has created the human body as an intelligent system that adapts to changes. Crash diet it is a sudden, harsh change that brings about its harmful effects.
I was living a nightmare when I weighed a behemoth 191 pounds (87 kilograms) at the age of fourteen. The seriousness of the situation kicked in when I was fifteen and the social circle and peer groups began to ridicule and cast me away into a corner. I was on the honor roll for acing academics, but was labeled a ‘cornerstone’ when it came to social events and talent shows. The consequent depression lured me into starting a crash diet where I deprived myself of the usual food portions I was eating. I began eating only one-fourth of the usual food and within fifteen days I lost 35 pounds (15.87 kilogram). In another couple of months I was down to 149.9 pounds (68 kilogram). My sixteen-year-old self felt more confident, more beautiful, and I looked beautiful too. I kept the food portions really small, for over a year. At eighteen years of age I weighed a wonderful 143.3 pounds (65 kilograms). It all came at a cost though. My hair began falling too much and in a year’s time they had grown thinner. My hairdresser cut off the hip-length hair to shoulder-length in order to save the volume. Apparently, my body had lost a lot of protein in the process of shedding off weight.
Crash diets are great for quick weight loss within a short time span. They are an overweight person’s last resort. But they have a flip side if not done right and with the right nutrient-rich foods.
Depletion of nutrients, deficiencies, and diseases
Crash diets are about depriving the body of calories and going into a starvation, or semi-starvation mode. Whichever mode you select, you are depleting the body of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. This contributes to deficiency disorders associated with their deficiencies. For instance, vitamin D deficiency leads to weak bones, vitamin A deficiency leads to weak eyes, and the depletion of vitamin E contributes to unhealthy skin, hair, and nails, and a weak reproductive system. Additionally, the body’s defense mechanism against diseases is also weakened because there is not enough protein to make antibodies which are responsible for fighting diseases.
The worst crash diet is a single food diet, for example, consuming only cabbage soup for long periods of time. Excess of a single type of nutrient causes harmful effects. For example, going on juices could increase blood sugar levels because juices trigger insulin, the fat-storing hormone. Diabetes may also be set about.
Over a period of time, a crash diet puts the body in a starvation mode so it learns that food is scarce and whatever little portion is consumed should be stored. When I turned 25, my body began storing whatever little I consumed as fat and I gained a couple of pounds back. The metabolism rate, that is the rate of breaking down fats and proteins, also declines in order to store them and burning fat down becomes very, very difficult.
Lack of energy, mood swings, and restrictive lifestyle
A body in deprivation mode is a disturbed system that is marked by harsh physical and psychological changes. In the absence of the right carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins, a person’s energy reserves remain exhausted, or are easily exhausted. The energetic drive to work deters immensely. And then, of course, when you cannot have dessert when someone is having dessert, cannot enjoy a slice of pizza with friends, or chips with siblings, you tend to become cranky, agitated, and irritated. A restrictive lifestyle is like keeping yourself away from the blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
If you observe the people who take to crash diets, they become obsessed with criticizing food simply because they themselves cannot enjoy those. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet salAllahu aleyhi wasallam never criticized any food (he was invited to) but he used to eat if he liked the food, and leave it if he disliked it. (Sahih Al-Bukhari 5409)
Diet Plan of Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam
The life of Prophet sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam and his teachings are a complete instruction manual for us. There are narrations of his ways to eating food, the meals he preferred, and sharing with others. He ate in moderation and had his favorites like gourd, dates, and honey. So we know that our dear Prophet sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam had a sweet tooth! He fasted a lot, but ate nutritious breads, meat, dates, and milk to enjoy the blessings of Allah. The only times we learn that the Prophet sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam starved, or ate the most minimal meals were during food shortages during battles. For instance, during the battle of Ahzab the Prophet went on digging the trench on an empty stomach along with his companions. His perfect diet plan was a simple calculation as narrated by Abu Huraira that Allah’s Messenger said, “The food for two persons is sufficient for three, and the food of three persons is sufficient for four persons.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 5392). He also prescribed for us that “A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food), and a kafir (unbeliever) eats in seven intestines (eats much food).” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 5393).
Our lives should be lived in an attempt to match that of Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam. That being said, a crash diet goes completely out of the question. The idea is to eat nutritious, simple foods at due times and thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala after meals for having blessed us. If you take a good look at famine-struck regions of world and feel the pain of their trials and tribulations, you would understand that you are disregarding the blessings Allah has entitled you with.
- Sahih Al-Bukhari 5409 http://sunnah.com/bukhari/70/37
- Sahih Al-Bukhari 5392 http://sunnah.com/bukhari/70/20
- Sahih Al-Bukhari 5393 http://sunnah.com/bukhari/70/21