Why are we still crash dieting for special events?

Here’s a little visual of young me, headed to Homecoming in 2006.

I remember the mentality of ‘getting skinny before X event’ taking over as early as middle school.

Every school dance and party invite made me look at my body like it was a project I needed to complete in order to have a good time. My to-do list for vacation prep usually looked something like “lose weight, shop, pack.” I would literally write that down.

I would even go as far as trying on the same size clothes as my bestie during pre-event shopping trips, even though I knew our bodies weren’t the same. If I wasn’t happy with my body that day, I would feel… embarrassed? If I managed to squeeze into the smaller size, I would consider that success.

I vividly recall “getting ready” for spring break with the Special K challenge (I can still taste the freeze-dried strawberries). I’d steal my mom’s Snackwells, rent workout DVDs, and run on our rickety treadmill that I hated.

Did I ever have a real plan? No. And in reality whatever “diet” I tried probably only lasted a day or two before I gave up. But why was I programmed to think dieting was just a normal part of getting beach, dance, or party ready? Diet culture.

avocado wrapped in measuring tape on a pink background crash dietingDiet culture is still around, it just looks different

A lot has changed since I was in high school, both in the way I view and take care of my body personally, and how society is embracing body positivity.

But diet culture hasn’t gone away. Crash dieting for special events is still a thing. Especially now that wedding and beach season is in full swing, I feel like I’m surrounded with tips and tricks to slim down for whatever’s coming up on the calendar. I’ve had friends ask me for advice to lose weight and/or tone up for their weddings and OF COURSE we all saw how Kim K blew up the internet with her diet to force herself into the Marilyn Monroe dress at the Met Gala.

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I’m not judging anyone who’s been there.


I get it. I get why it seems like a restrictive diet is worth it to wear that bikini with confidence, smooth out your body in a prom dress, or slim your arms down for your wedding dress (I’m guilty of this too). I know how it feels to spiral when a special event comes up and you’re not comfortable in your own body. A lot of us feel this, even if we never admit it. Diet culture is powerful like that.

In a perfect world, we’d just stop with this mentality, right? Professionally, I’ve seen how damaging it is mentally and physically. But this isn’t a perfect world and we have to be realistic. And realistically, we all want to feel our best in those memorable moments, in the pictures, in the outfit. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way, but crash dieting is not the solution.

hungry dog crash dietingHow much is too much?

Where do we draw the line between making sure we wear that dress with confidence and going too far? To be clear, bragging about losing 16 pounds in 3 weeks by wearing a sauna suit twice a day, running on a treadmill, and cutting out carbs and sugar to only eat the “cleanest veggies” (what does that even mean?) and protein is TOO FAR. As is forcing your body into a dress that is definitely too small. 

Of course, that’s an extreme situation and a topic that’s been more than covered. But as much as I love Kim, situations like this only add to the confusion of what’s okay and what’s not. My middle school self wouldn’t see this screaming “crash diet.”

She’d see it as willpower = hot body.

If it feels like a crash diet, it probably is.

If you’re restricting calories and/or certain foods with hopes to lose weight in a short amount of time, you’re on a crash diet.

The term ‘crash diet’ is ewww these days, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The people promoting them just came up with new names to convince us they’re “not diets.” How nice!

They’re marketed as “lifestyle changes,” and often describe themselves as: 

    • Clean eating
    • A cleanse
    • Detox
    • Fat melting
    • A shred
    • Metabolism boosting


This is what happens to your body on a crash diet

What’s NOT happening during a crash diet is sustainable weight loss. Instead, your world starts to revolve around food. You start thinking a lot about when you can eat and what you can eat. You’re hungry and you start to notice strong cravings. At some point this gets in the way of your social life, because it’s just easier to avoid being around the foods you “can’t have.” And let’s be real, it’s tough to have fun when you’re hangry anyways.

You’ll also experience:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Slow metabolism
  • Loss of hunger/fullness cues
  • Muscle loss
  • Weight regain (often plus more)


Most of these things happen after a day or two, as your body’s response to the fact that you’re restricting food. I mean, it has to get energy to function somewhere, right?!

Over time,  things happen that are more difficult to simply undo by eating normally again. For example, hunger and fullness cues. When you’re on a crash diet, you’re ignoring signs that you’re hungry and constantly trying to trick your body into feeling full. The consequence? Feeling out of control around food, bingeing, more cravings, more emotional eating, and struggling with portions.

Cassey Ho special event dress

How to look and feel your best SAFELY

Can we agree that crash diets aren’t it?

I’m not here to shame anyone for wanting to look like a 10 on their big day or vacation. I’ll always support you wanting to make your body healthier and stronger. What I’m NOT here for is drastic, restrictive changes and being unkind to yourself.

Here’s what you can do to feel amazing for your next special event without a crash diet:

  • Get plenty of sleep – Ideally at least 7 hours per night
  • Stay hydrated  – Try the 8 cup rule the week of your event
  • Avoid foods that make you bloated, while keeping in mind that weight fluctuation is NORMAL – Obviously everyone is different but salty foods, high fiber foods, and carbonated beverages are common culprits.
  • Buy clothes that fit your body, not the other way around


And finally, CONFIDENCE makes all the difference when it comes to how you wear that outfit.

Rarely does dieting into a dress or squeezing into something smaller ACTUALLY make you feel more confident. Actually, it just leaves you feeling pretty cranky, tired, and uncomfortable.

Do you think Kim really felt her most confident in Marilyn’s dress, especially when she still had to cover the back with a fur stole because it wouldn’t zip even after losing so much weight in so little time to squeeze into it? I doubt it. 

Choose the dress that fits YOU and I promise you’ll be radiant on your big day, vacation, or whatever you’re planning for. And you’ll actually enjoy yourself because you won’t be suffering the consequences of a crash diet. Win-win!

breanna woods ms rd dietitian signature

Source link: https://www.blogilates.com/blog/why-are-we-still-crash-dieting-for-special-events/ by Breanna Woods MS, RD at www.blogilates.com