If diets worked, why do so many
people try a new one every year?
By: Grace Derocha,
registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
A crash diet, or a restrictive
meal plan focused on fast-turn weight loss, can be dangerous to a person’s
physical and mental health. Regardless of short-term results, a
deprivation-driven meal plan may lead to more serious, long-term health issues
down the road. The word “diet” alone has the connotation of having a beginning
and an end. Eating healthy and incorporating good nutrition into meals should
be an everyday, lifelong habit.
- It Impacts
Body Image and Self-Esteem: The relationship a person shares with food goes
far beyond the need to eat – it’s linked to emotions, memories, events andpeople.Crash dieting, often driven by poor body image, can alter a
person’s perception of food and turn eating into a negative experience.
Research also shows that even moderate dieting is capable of leading
to more serious eating disorders, depression or anxiety.
- It Slows
the Metabolism: Believe it or not, an extreme low-calorie diet can have an
adverse effect on a person’s weight loss goals. When the body is put into “starvation
mode,” it will preserve energy—not burn it. This response often carries on
beyond the diet period. More
than half of those who diet return to their pre-diet weight within
three years, while others can gain even more weight.
- It Puts
Stress on the Heart: One study
found that individuals on a very low-calorie diet suffered deteriorating heart
function. Excessive dieting can also cause cardiac stress, potentially leading
to heart attack. The American
Heart Association recommends individuals consume a nutrient-dense
diet that include vitamins, minerals, protein and whole grains in order to
control weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- It Can
Cause Dehydration: Crash diets, especially those dependent on supplements
from smoothies to teas or pills, may yield fast results; However, they are
short-lived and ultimately ineffective. The primary ingredient is typically a laxative or
diuretic that can cause severe dehydration, muscle cramps and even diarrhea.
Many are marketed as detoxes that flush the body of unwanted calories, but
unfortunately, it’s mostly water weight.
- It Poses
a Risk for Malnutrition: Most crash diets are void of essential vitamins
and nutrients necessary for the body to function. This creates a dietary deficiency
or malnutrition which can cause you to feel tired, cold and irritable. More serious
complications include a weakening of the immune system, trouble
breathing, fertility issues and even premature death.
- It Can
Damage Hair and Skin Health: Research
has found that strict dieting and poor nutrition can lead to excessive hair loss.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, individuals may
develop alopecia three to six months after losing 15 pounds or more.
An unbalanced diet can also cause excessive dryness, breakouts and rash.
- It Can
Lead to Weight Gain: Due to their restrictive nature, crash diets are
difficult to maintain. Drastic deprivation often leads to a pattern of banning
and then binge eating. This roller coaster effect may seem like a good idea for
quick results, but in the long run can be detrimental to the body, spirit and
mind. The safest way to achieve long-term weight loss is to eat a balanced diet
consisting of whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and heart healthy
fats. It’s also important to limit added sugar and sodium, portion properly and
avoid empty calories that could lead to overeating.