(Spring) Breaking the Crash Diet Cycle

Lauren Popeck, Registered Dietician

UCF Students Counting Down and Counting Calories

As plans for spring break are quickly approaching, the pressure is on to look your best wherever your plans may take you. Many students will be hitting the beach or taking a cruise to a tropical location. That means shedding the cold weather clothes and for some, the desire to shed a few pounds.

Some students turn to rapid weight loss plans to prepare for spring break. Also known as crash dieting, this method typically involves a low-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

One health professional says this is not a healthy way to try to get in shape.

"Some of these really low-calorie plans can be deficient in a lot of important nutrients. They can be lacking whole food groups altogether and they can be deficient in vitamins and minerals," said Lauren Popeck, Registered Dietician.

If you plan to spend more time in the gym, Popeck says it is important to eat more foods that give your body nutrients and keep your energy levels up. Instead of simply cutting calories, she actually suggests eating more, paying attention to when your body says you are hungry.

"You can lose a lot of muscle, lean body mass as well as a lot of water that gets flushed out when you cut your calories so much that you lose weight quickly," said Popeck.

Heather Holman, a student at UCF says she's working towards getting in shape and eating better before she sets for a cruise to Mexico during spring break. Recently, she says it is hard to stay on track with the gym so crowded every day.

"Sometimes it's really frustrating if you want to just run in and run out. If you have a busy schedule and there's a lot of people there that you can't really get your workout done and then you have to wait for equipment," said Holman.

Popeck says the key to a successful, healthy lifestyle is to be sure your plans are something that you can sustain for life. Instead of creating a certain point in time as a goal, work towards being a healthier person every day.

She suggests exercising regularly and eating a lot of fiber to achieve this. Above all, she says it is important to change your behavior to reflect wanting to be healthy and stay in shape.

Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains are examples of healthy foods that are high in fiber. Popeck says people should aim for 25-35 grams of fiber per day to satisfy their body.

Story and photos by Melissa Murray.

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