Kim Kardashian's crash diet could have long-term health consequences

Some '90s dieting trends may be back, but modern science shows us that rapid weight loss has long-term effects on hormones, microbiome, heart and mental health.

Emma Jones 4 minute read May 6, 2022
Kim Kardashian Met Gala arrivals in New York City

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson arrive at the In America: An Anthology of Fashion themed Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Kim Kardashian’s crash diet efforts to lose 16 lbs in three weeks at the Met Gala on Monday has raised alarm.

Kardashian borrowed Marilyn Monroe’s iconic 1962 gown for the gala, originally worn by Monroe to sing Happy Birthday to then-President John F. Kennedy. Kardashian reportedly only spent a few minutes in the dress, changing into it just before stepping out onto the red carpet and then changing into a replica dress as soon as she entered the building.

While on the carpet, Kardashian told Vogue Livestream host LaLa Anthony the extreme lengths she went to make those few minutes happen.

“I tried it on and it didn’t fit me. I had three weeks and I had to lose 16 pounds,” Kardashian said. “I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein. I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.”

Kardashian’s comments comes on the heels of a growing concern that the return of the ’90s heroin chic and Y2K Tumblr esthetics will usher in a renewed interest in rapid weight loss. Crash diets, however, don’t just mean a few crummy weeks — negative side-effects can stick with us in the months and years following the diet.

“While a crash diet may help you lose those extra pounds in time for that week on the Costa Del Sol, the results are generally short-lived and can ultimately have a negative impact on your body and mind,” Julianne Barry, a medical doctor at London Doctors Clinic, told Cosmopolitan U.K.. (Barry wasn’t commenting on Kardashian.)

Severely restrictive diets lead to more weight gain

The body is designed to weather any storm, including times of famine. Thus, when we severely restrict our diets, whether it be slashing all food intake or cutting out specific food groups, the body responds in kind to protect its precious energy stores.

Research has shown that while many of these diets can be successful in the short term, a significant portion of them fail in the long term — meaning that following a period of quick weight loss, it simply bounces back, and then some.

There are many reasons for this, including a natural response by the body to reduce energy expenditure. This includes lowering thermogenesis — which is why dieters may feel cold — and fatigue resulting in the dieter moving less throughout the day. Rapid fat loss can also lead to a change in hormones that make dieters hungrier and discourages the body from burning fat.

Yo-yo dieting can alter the microbiome in your gut

When our body responds to a crash diet by putting the pounds back on as soon as it can, some dieters begin to cycle, altering between extreme diets to lose the weight than soon after putting all the weight (and then some) back on, leading to another crash diet. This pattern, known as yo-yo dieting, can lead to a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and decreasing general life satisfaction.

Research also shows that yo-yo dieting can impact the microbiome in our gut. In a study published in Nature, researchers exposed mice to either a consistent “normal chow” diet, a high-fat diet, or cycled between the two to mimic the effects of yo-yo dieting. The mice on the yo-yo diet gained weight at a faster pace than the mice who stayed consistently on a high-fat diet, with their second “cycle” putting them at a higher weight than before. Both groups ended up with similar max weights, lending credibility to the idea that the body had adjusted to this new weight set point and was enforcing protective measures to return the body to that set point.

When researchers looked at the microbiome of the mice, they found the mice on the yo-yo diet had less microbe diversity than the mice who consistently stayed on the normal chow. Specifically, the dieting mice had reduced levels of polyphenols (flavonoids) in their microbiome. When researchers transplanted the microbiome from the yo-yo dieting mice to the mice on the normal chow, they also began to put on weight.

While researchers explored methods of repopulating the flavonoid content of the mice by fecal transplants and a serious course of antibiotics, however, other writers and dietitians have pointed out that the best way to protect — or heal — your microbiome is to eat a varied diet rich in fibre, healthy fats, protein and fruits and veggies. A restrictive diet just won’t cut it.

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Instagram and Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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