Weight Loss Support - Crash diets, phased diets, and compliance

08-15-2011, 08:11 AM
I should start by saying that this is in no way meant to be judgemental. I have noticed that there seem to be three main types of diets out there:

1) Crash diets - short-term, more extreme, sometimes meant to be used for minor weight loss or detox. I'd guess that many if not most forum members here have tried these, but most are on one of the other two options.

2) Phased diets - Atkins, 17 Day Diet, anything which involves different stages.

3) Long-term steady diets - anything where you keep on doing roughly the same thing long-term.

I'm talking about weight loss here, not maintenance, which obviously is a different matter. If the diet involves a major change apart from mere quantity in the maintenance phase (e.g. entire food groups being moved on or off the list of allowed foods), then it's probably a phased diet.

Our culture has a very strange attitude towards both weight and weight loss, and as well as promoting unrealistic ideals of beauty, also promotes unrealistic ways of dieting. People are encouraged to think that there is a quick fix, and then if this doesn't work for them - and it rarely works for anyone in the long term - they often end up blaming themselves and may get twisted up into guilt patterns.

I suspect that when one of the first two types of diet don't work, it's because there are no quick fixes, but people hope that there are, and will try to form an uneasy compromise between the quick fix ideal and the realities of long-term weight loss. So they start a crash diet because it promises instant results, and then think why not keep going if it's worked so well so far, and of course it's not sustainable long-term and this is where yo-yo dieting comes from.

With phased diets, I have known countless people prolong one of the earlier phases because that's when the more rapid weight loss occurs. I don't know how far weight loss is more rapid in "induction" phases because it's a more extreme diet at that point, and how far it's because most people lose weight faster to begin with anyway. I do know that it's where a phased diet is vulnerable to going wrong, which can create difficulty with compliance, an unbalanced diet and perhaps health problems. People cutting out carbohydrates long-term on Atkins instead of gradually adding a certain amount back, for instance, and definitely a lack of vegetables! Of course, phased diets work beautifully for many people, and I'm sure there can be advantages to tackling weight loss in stages, but this is a particular problem which they are open to.

As far as I know, the general pattern with phased diets is that they are more restrictive to begin with, sometimes to crash/detox diet levels, and then gradually become less restrictive. There is also the approach to dieting where the diet starts off gently and becomes gradually less restrictive, and I think this is more commonly an informal approach, where someone makes it up as they go along. For example, starting off by switching soft drinks to diet versions, then eliminating those, then stopping certain types of junk foods, then introducing wholegrains, that sort of pattern. I'm not thinking of that as a formal phased diet, it's the externally-imposed structures I'm thinking of here, but if I'm wrong, please let me know.

I've occasionally glanced thoughtfully at detox regimes, but never felt I was strong enough to handle them, and ended up on plain calorie counting, so I don't have personal experience here. I'm very interested to know what other people have found.

08-15-2011, 08:16 AM
Just because people don't work the system given to them doesn't make it the failure of an entire diet. Why is it the program's fault if someone chooses not to follow that program, and regains the weight?

Do you consider a plan with a maintenance phase a "phased" diet? I would, because under your criteria individuals would have to change the rules by which they eat when they get close to goal. How is this bad?

Everyone can agree crash diets aren't sustainable (even the name states this). But I take issue with you calling anything that isn't day-in, day-out the same likely to fail, based on experiences with a group of individuals you know. Weight loss is HARD and people suck at maintaining, no matter what the program.

To basically be telling people they are setting themselves up for failure because of the plan they chose, even if they are seeing success with it now and enjoy it, is not a positive, supporting thing to be doing.

08-15-2011, 08:40 AM
Dear lord, when did I say any of that? All diets are hard, and all are problematic. I think that there is a particular tendency for people to change the terms of phased/short-term diets, and I'm curious to know how well that works for them, whether it causes problems or whether it actually makes the diet work better. Compliance is generally a big problem with dieting, no matter what the type of diet, although the harder it is to follow in any way, the more difficult compliance will be. I'm interested in how this works in more elaborately structured diets.

As for maintenance, I knew there was something I'd forgotten in the original post. Give me a few minutes and I'll edit it to clarify. I'm talking about while you are losing weight.

With regard to blaming the diet if people don't follow it, yes, I do blame the diet to a certain extent. If it's designed in such a way that it will be extremely difficult to follow and/or unhealthy, that's the diet's fault. If someone tries to follow a 500 calorie diet for general weight loss (I'm not talking about medically supervised VLCDs related to surgery), and unsurprisingly finds it impossible to stick to, then telling them that they're a failure for having no willpower is unhelpful, because it's not reasonable to expect someone to follow that sort of diet without problems. On the other hand, saying that it's a bad diet to follow is a lot more useful, and it's the standard position on this forum.

Now, if a diet were to say "you will lose 5lb a week in the induction phase, during which you are only allowed to eat orange vegetables, and then you will lose 1/2lb a week in the long-term phase, during which you can eat almost anything", then I also think that's a poor diet which is going to mislead people (who cares if my skin turns orange and my toes drop off, I'll be losing 5lb a week, I can suffer a while longer for that!) and possibly even cause eating disorders.

Of course, phased diets are rarely that extreme, though there are probably a few out there which aren't far off. I was using a more extreme example to illustrate my point. One problem with following a more elaborately structured diet, whether it's phased or not, is that people are more likely to feel like they're doing something wrong if they go off-plan, even if they are going off-plan in a way that is actually healthy for them. And as we all know, guilt is murderous for losing weight. At the least, they will feel as if they are less supported by their diet because they're not following its rules properly. If you're meant to spend one weeks in the first phase, three weeks in the second, and stay on the third long-term, yet several months on you're still in the first phase, then yes, you are likely to have problems of some sort, because in phased diets the first phase is not usually designed to be something that it's healthy to subsist on long-term. As far as I know, the current popular myth that all carbohydrates are purest evil has grown out of exactly this situation, in this case people staying on the earlier stages of Atkins.

I've also read in Thin for Life that successful dieters are more likely to personalise weight loss plans, whether they come up with the whole thing themselves or take a structured plan and then tinker with it. So there are no doubt people who follow the phases of a phased diet, then go back to an earlier phase periodically, or mix components of the different phases, or other variations, and find something that they can settle down with long-term.

08-15-2011, 09:16 AM
I didn't mean to come off as harsh or anything in my first post :p I hadn't had my coffee yet. I just don't think I agree entirely with what you're saying.

Well let's see. The thing about any diet is if you're starting it from being off plan for a while, you're probably going to have a big loss in your first week. I don't think this is some ploy by diet marketing officials - it happens. And if you are the kind of person to expect Week 1 results in Weeks 13, 15, 34... Well... that's not the diet failing you, that's your expectations being unreasonable. So no matter what kind of diet you follow, phased or otherwise, I don't think that's a point that works in this context.

I do agree that we all have to make our plans livable. 100%. I'm not on any named plan because my brain rebelled against the named plans I was following. But I don't blame the diets for this! I don't blame me either, because that's just being mean to myself. It's like trying on a pair of running shoes. Do you blame your feet for being too big to fit into the 8, or do you just go back to the shelf and find a 9? I just go back to the shelf til I find a pair that fits! :) Some people have huge success on the plans that haven't worked for me. It's all so individual. There is so much variety. I don't place blame ANYWHERE in that equation. We're all just perpetually shoe-shopping.

As for feeling guilty about going off-plan... Well... I think a lot of people ended up here with their all-or-nothing thinking (I know I did). Oops, one bite of a doughnut, might as well eat a pizza tonight. Again, I can't ascribe that to a particular diet plan. What diet plan endorses doughnuts? Even a calorie counter would feel inclined to believe they ate off-plan after having a doughnut, despite the inherent flexibility of CC.

I'm not trying to be argumentative so I hope you don't take it that way. Just having a friendly discussion. :yes:

April Snow
08-15-2011, 09:27 AM
I am doing a phased diet, one which I would consider pretty extreme. I eat a 2 tbs of oat bran a day, but no other grains or starches at all. I can eat lean proteins, no/low fat dairy and vegetables. That's it. Sounds a little crazy, even to me.

But the funny thing is that this is the easiest diet to stick with that I have EVER tried. I've been on it for 12 weeks now and have been on plan this entire time. The thing about this one is that while the types of foods are limited (there is a list of 100 allowed foods), the quantities are not. So I never have to be hungry, I can eat at any time as long as it's plan food.

My weight loss has been phenomenal for me - I am typically a fairly slow loser. A couple of years ago, I lost about 42 lbs using calorie counting, and it took 6 months. This time, I'm down over 33 lbs and it's not even 3 full months yet.

While I am not saying that everyone would have as easy a time sticking with it, or the kind of success (absolute or relative), I am convinced that this is the perfect diet for me, and I look forward to continuing on through the phases of it.

To Esofia, I do think your post was dismissive of phased diets, I know countless people, including myself, who fail on calorie counting/"long term steady" diets too. The bottom line is that ALL diets are tough and involve ongoing deprivation of one form or another. The key is for each person to find the one that fits them best and that they are able to successfully follow and STAY ON. For me, that is Dukan and not calorie counting.

08-15-2011, 01:32 PM
I do best on long-term unchanging diets, specifically ones that allow me to eat limited quantities of anything I like. I know from experience that calorie counting is the best approach for me, particularly since I bake as a hobby and would like to be able to sample a slice of whatever I'm making. I don't mind being limited to small portions as long as I'm able to eat the things I love.

I've tried a few phased diets, namely South Beach, and always wound up going off early because I wanted some baked goods, but I think that's more a fault with the limited food selection than with the phasing itself. I know a number of people who have done very well on South Beach and other phased diets - it's just a matter of personal preference.

As for crash diets, I have very little respect for them and think that most people who follow them are misguided. My grandmother used to try every crash diet that came down the block - followed them for a week, lost ten pounds, went back to eating normally and regained fifteen. I feel like most people who do crash diets fail to think about the long-term aspect of weightloss. Note that I do say MOST people - I recognize that these diets do have uses when used responsibly by knowledgeable people. I just think that mostly they're used recklessly by people who don't know what they're doing.

08-15-2011, 02:19 PM
I do best when I follow directions! What a shocking concept! ;)

I tried a "quick loss" diet once, and noticed that every pound I lost came back on as soon as it was over. I won't consider any crash diets now.

I like long-term, unchanging programs so that I can get into a groove and keep on going. I am doing Medifast at the moment, and it has the rules to follow, the foods to consume (meal delivery program), and enough flexibility to allow going out to restaurants. All of these work for me.

I'm also looking into how this program does maintenance, because I lost all my weight once only to regain it a few years later. I suggest everyone consider ahead of time what happens after you've reached your goal. You may be able to spare yourself a lot of unhappiness.


April Snow
08-15-2011, 02:41 PM
I suggest everyone consider ahead of time what happens after you've reached your goal. You may be able to spare yourself a lot of unhappiness.

I agree with this, which for me, is one of the reasons I picked the specific (phased) diet I am doing.

The Dukan diet has a ~1 week beginning phase, like most low carb plans, which I think works mostly for psychological reasons. It's the strictest part right at the beginning, when motivation is the highest, and you generally see a dramatic result on the scale which continues the motivation. But after that, you add back in some foods that were off limits during that beginning phase, so that plays an important psychological part, because otherwise, most people don't get that excited about veggies! lol!

However, for me, the biggest difference is the addition of a phase in between actively losing weight and maintenance, where you begin the process of converting to maintenance, but following a fairly limited plan with specific guidelines on how and when to add back in foods that were not permitted before. I think that for me, this is going to be what FINALLY makes the difference between losing weight but gaining it back and losing weight and being able to maintain a loss.

And the other thing about it is that even once you are in the final phase, you have one very low carb day per week. Is it a gimmick? I don't know but I can tell you that I won't care, if it works! lol! But I won't know that for a couple of years - because that middle phase of transitioning from active loss to maintenance lasts 5 days for every lb you've lost. So I'm looking at well over a year of that phase before I can consider myself to be officially maintaining (at least per Dukan, but for 3FC and the real world, I would put myself into the maintenance category at that point)

Anyway, I think that while these kinds of discussions are interesting, there is no such thing as the "right" way to diet - it's all about what works and is sustainable for each individual.

08-15-2011, 03:36 PM
I do best with calorie counting because I tend to like variety and spontaneity, and I can get more of that with calorie counting.

To Esofia, I do not believe your post is disrespectful at all to any diet. You phrased your points objectively and with sensitivity.

08-15-2011, 04:47 PM
I do best LONGTERM on a plan with more flexibility, however I START best with a phased type plan to quash cravings and dive right in.

I just find it much easier to be super strict for a few weeks and then ease up and make adjustments than I do to "ease" down.

So in that sense I do best with a phased diet with an induction (defined by me) followed by a loss phase (defined by me) interspersed occasionally with a maintenance break

What I suck at is maintenance so I have been working on ways to manage my issues with maintenance. i.e. I have a calorie counting system which rough approximates rather than nitpicks every calorie so I can eat anything anywhere and any recipe and not stress.

08-15-2011, 05:10 PM
I find that calorie counting has worked for me. I'm not very strict about it (I don't measure, I use approximates) but it has worked so far. I've never attempted weight loss before so other than this attempt (which I'm hoping is my only attempt!) I don't know what else could work for me.

I think a lot of problem with our society when it comes to weight loss is that "dieting" is seen as temporary. We're encouraged to drop the weight and then continue with our lives. It feels like someone says "Do this and then great! You're done! Go live your life now!" when that isn't reality. You're never done.

The problem is that we're bombarded with all of these quick fix diets but very little on maintaining weight is thrust out to the populace.

I really wish that instead of stressing weight loss, that our society would stress getting healthy: i.e. getting exercise, eating right and eating correct portions, choosing the right food, etc. This will all eventually lead to weight loss for most people, but most importantly it will lead to maintaining that loss.