Strict diets are appealing, there’s no denying that. They can give the illusion of a large amount of weight loss in a very short amount of time which motivates people to continue with them and try and try again in the future. This draws more people in than a steady weight loss of half a kilo to a kilo loss each week by making healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes. Many people would prefer to go extreme for a short amount of time and then return to a “regular” diet, hoping to maintain the lost weight. Unfortunately, this does not work at all and many of the popular diets can be quite harmful to general health and counter-productive to weight loss.
1. Large losses in a short amount of time are unrealistic and unsustainable
Any diet that results in big losses quickly is unlikely to actually affect body fat. For example, extremely low carbohydrate diets may lead to a weight loss of 5kg in just one week but the vast majority of this will not be from fat. Hence the weight will return when a normal diet is resumed.
The losses are due to fluid and muscle loss – not things that you want to lose. When restricting oral intake, the body turns to muscle for energy, breaking it down to obtain kilojoules to fuel the body’s functions. This is actually an easier process than the breakdown of fat for energy.
When this alternate energy source is required (muscle) extra water is needed and therefore lost, making it look like you have dropped a lot of weight. This process also slows the metabolism which makes it even easier to regain fat when stopping the diet.
People can therefore gain even more weight than they lost initially.
2. They are a short term solution, not a long term solution
Fad diets are a short term fix. They do not teach people how to follow a healthy lifestyle that will maintain a healthy weight and healthy eating behaviors. They often neglect physical activity and nutritional needs.
3. They are exhausting and will decrease productivity
The many people I see who have tried very strict diets always report how tired they felt all the time. This makes sense because your body isn’t receiving adequate supplies of nutrients or energy. Your brain isn’t receiving enough glucose which means it won’t function nearly as well. This makes it difficult to perform well academically, physically and at work.
4. They breed unhealthy attitudes toward food
Being on a strict diet creates unhealthy behaviors and attitudes towards food. Fad diets often expose people to a lot of incorrect information about food. Individuals then become very hesitant to eat certain foods or at certain times of the day etc. This can lead to an unbalanced diet and a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety surrounding food that can be difficult to combat.
5. If a fad diet worked successfully, we would know about it
If any strict diet was actually effective, this is something we would all know about and there would not be the obesity epidemic there is today.
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This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!