(CNN) -- New York Fashion Week is one of the fashion industry's biggest events of the year, the culmination of months of planning, organizing, schmoozing ... and dieting?
When it comes to the biannual fashion shows, which kick off Thursday, models aren't the only ones looking to drop a few pounds before hitting the tents. Some publicists, bloggers and fashion editors have been counting calories for weeks in anticipation of the week-long event, where to some, networking and being seen are just as important as the collections debuting on the runways.
Anyone who has tried to get in shape for a wedding or school reunion can relate to the pressure of wanting to look his or her best and reaching to achieve that goal with varying degrees of success.
Nutritionists say that limiting caloric intake in a compressed time frame can lead to nutrient deficiencies, causing decreased immune function, dry skin and loss of muscle or bone density, for starters. But in an industry that's all about image, it's a price many are willing to pay.
"Perception is reality in this industry, and unfortunately, you have to look the look to get the clients," said public relations specialist Keisha McCotry, who began her Fashion Week diet in July. She plans on attending Fashion Week to recruit designers for her firm, Prominence Marketing Group.
Throughout the summer, fashionistas from all corners of the industry have been tweeting with a blend of sarcasm and sincerity about plans to start, defer or defy a #NYFW diet.
"I'm thinking we should start our #NYFW diet tomorrow. What do you think?" tweeted DKNY PR GIRL, the online persona of fashion publicist extraordinaire Aliza Licht, senior vice president of global communications at Donna Karan International, on August 12.
She followed up with "#PRGirlDiet" regulations: "No non-purpose bread (ie bread baskets, pretzels, croutons) or candy/sugar. Basically anything fun. EXCEPT: frozen yogurt is ok."
Tweets about the #NYFW diet continued this week, though some accompanied by images of cupcakes and quesadillas were clearly intended to be tongue-in-cheek. But others made it clear they were still counting calories like it's their job.
"Fashion Week is prime recruiting season, and we all are walking billboards. You have to be on your A-game and look your best," McCotry said. "You want to go to events wearing the designers' clothes, and you can't do that with a flabby belly."
McCotry posted a picture of her #NYFW diet dinner on August 16: a bowl of broccoli.
While tales abound of models going on crash diets and Master Cleanses and publicists surviving on coffee, cigarettes and air kisses, for many like McCotry, it's a balancing act of limiting calorie intake while meeting basic nutritional needs.
McCotry began her Fashion Week diet on July 4. A typical day starts with a protein shake and lemon water for breakfast, followed by a side salad for lunch. For dinner, she prepares a piece of protein, like unseasoned chicken oven-baked without oil, accompanied by a serving of steamed veggies such as broccoli, squash or asparagus. If she gets hungry, she snacks on fruit slices or downs water and takes a daily multivitamin with extra iron.
She hasn't cut out alcohol entirely. But she has switched from dessert white wines, her drink of choice, to reds, setting a limit of one per outing.
No, it hasn't been easy, she said. But it's part of the job, and she loves what she does.
"It's hard, but I know what the end result will be," she said. "No pain, no gain."
Nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis said McCotry's regimen isn't as bad as the horror stories of people chain-smoking to stave off hunger or eking out a meager existence on cayenne-pepper-flavored water. But it's still a little low in calories and fat for optimal health, she said, and could lead to a loss of muscle mass, which is difficult to rebuild.
The process creates a vicious cycle in which each time a person goes on a diet like McCotry's, she'll have to further lower her caloric intake in order to drop weight. Meanwhile, the loss of nutrients could lead to long-term deficiencies and wreak havoc on the body's ability to metabolize, Jampolis said.
"With low-fat diets, we see a lot of skinny fat, where they get lean, but their body fat goes up because they're losing muscle," Jampolis said.
"I wouldn't call this a crash diet. It's too low in calories, and she's certainly missing out on fat, but if she added protein at lunch and healthy snacks like nuts, seeds and avocados, I think she'd look and feel great."
As Fashion Week kicks off, McCotry said, other priorities are consuming her attention, like piecing together outfits that will help her get into shows she hasn't been invited to. She believes she is one step closer to the runways, thanks to her #NYFW diet. After all, she has dropped from 152 to 141 pounds in just two months.
"This process is very grueling, but being able to be at Fashion Week is every woman's dream," she said. "Every woman should get to experience it once, even if you don't go through what we have to go through."