It’s not always clear when you start a diet what the negative effects of dieting can be. The reason you see terms like ‘health at every size’ and ‘anti-diet’ is because of how harmful dieting is for your body and your mind. People are under the misconception that the smaller your body, the healthier it is, and the larger your body, the unhealthier it is. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Negative Effects of Dieting
Yo-yo dieting (gaining, losing, regaining, etc.) can be very dangerous. This way of dieting has shown to have very negative effects on your health. These include the risk of heart disease as well as negative impacts on metabolism. When one diets, it forces your body into starvation mode. The starvation mode tells your body to hang onto what fuel it gets and this can mess with so many things in your body.
Dieting can actually be much more harmful to your body and your overall health than if you stayed at the weight you were before you started these yo-yo diet patterns. Here are some different ways being on diets can be harmful to your health.
What is Dieting
Dieting is a term used by over 45 million Americans each year, in an attempt to lose weight. There are over 100 different diet methods according to WebMD. From the African Mango diet to South Beach, Keto, Mediterranean, and many more. The key factor in most diets is a change in eating that results in weight loss. This is usually a short-term result and one that is not sustainable.
Using a diet to reach a goal or achieve a certain look generally will result in yo-yo dieting. Along with this comes long-term negative effects on one’s mind and body.
The word “diet” actually means “manner of living”, in the Greek language. Makes sense as people change their manner of living when they choose to diet.
You Might End Up Gaining More Weight
Believe it or not, having a history of dieting can actually cause you to gain weight, instead of losing it. Sure, you might lose a few pounds in the short term. Sadly but most diets fail and many people end up putting the weight back on. A lot of those people gain even more weight than when they started, due to the refeeding period after restricting. Your body is going to hold on to all that food in fear of another famine period (starvation), and this can lead to many issues with overeating and not understanding when your body is full.
When a person restricts their intake, be it by restricting calories, fats, carbs, etc., it will have a negative long-term effect. Instead of choosing a diet that will have negative effects, try intuitive eating. Read on to learn why.
Nutrient Deficiencies Are Very Common
People who are on diets will often have nutritional deficiencies, even though they feel like their meals are balanced. The less you eat, the fewer nutrients you are consuming. If you are in a severe caloric deficit or eating as few carbs as possible, you are probably missing out on vitamins and minerals. These nutrients come from meat and fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and so many more different types of foods.
Cutting out important foods because they don’t fit into your “diet” can be bad. Many times people will supplement with vitamins, but the best vitamins come from real foods.
Some scientists believe cutting out certain foods or food groups can mess with a person’s natural gut microbiome and cause more issues than when the food is reintroduced. So instead of taking out foods, learn to use intuitive eating.
Macro and Calorie Counting Lead to Unhealthy Choices
Think about a time when you were dieting, whether you were counting macros or trying to stay in a caloric deficit. Did you always choose the healthiest, most nutritious foods possible? Probably not. You told yourself you could eat whatever you wanted, as long as it fits within your calories. This means you might choose a cookie or processed snack over a smoothie or oatmeal, just because the calories happened to be the same or less. You start forgetting about nutrition and only focus on a number.
With diets like the keto diet, it’s common for people to gain weight as they aren’t counting their carbs correctly. When a person eats too many unhealthy carbs with high fats and protein it can be dangerous. Many times tracking apps aren’t used correctly and it can have a negative effect on the results and a person’s body.
Certain diets are harder on a person’s body than others, and the bottom line is people don’t need a diet to be healthy or make healthy choices. Just another of the negative effects of dieting.
The Stress is Damaging to Your Body and Mental Health
You are putting your body and brain through a lot of undue stress when you go on a diet. There are so many different emotions you go through on this rollercoaster of restricting your food, having guilt or shame overindulging in something that was off-limits. Or over-exercising to burn as many calories as possible. If you find that every time you start a diet, you have a short high, followed by a period of depression or anxiety, guess what? That is not your lack of willpower that is your HUNGER.
Why put your body through the yo-yo cycle when what your body needs is good nutrition, self-love, and mindfulness. Just more examples of the negative effects of dieting.
Unhealthy Habits Replace Healthy Food
Lastly, you might notice that when you are on a diet, you start engaging in unhealthy habits not related to food. For example, you pick up smoking since it helps to stave off cravings, or you start drinking calorie-free energy drinks or diet sodas instead of snacks because it temporarily makes you feel full. Think of how much healthier it would have been just to have a snack?
Turning to nonfood, foods is another thing people do. Like a protein shake that is filled with all sorts of things, a person’s body doesn’t need, instead of a well-rounded healthy meal. Try making a fresh smoothie with fruits, veggies, yogurt, and milk instead.
Many will buy fad diet products like weight loss pills to curb their appetite. When all one needs to do is drink water and eat small snacks throughout the day. Doing this helps you feel satisfied, and you won’t break down and binge later because your appetite suppressant made you crash.
There are ways to learn what your body needs and wants, like learning about your hunger scale.
Learn about Your Hunger Scale
The hunger scale is referred to often in the official Intuitive Eating book, written by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They have a scale between 1 and 10, where you figure out how hungry or full you are, in order to start listening to your body’s cues when it is time to eat, and when you should stop eating.
But this is just a guide you still have to figure out your own body and your own hunger and fullness cues. Here are some tips for understanding and using your own hunger and fullness scale.
The Hunger and Fullness Scale
First of all, there is a hunger and fullness scale that was created by the authors of the Intuitive Eating book. The scale starts at 1 where you are ravenously hungry, and goes to 10 where you are uncomfortably full, to the feeling of being sick. You can use this as a resource to decide if you are a 4 (feel like your stomach is slightly empty, but not starving yet), or an 8 (a little bit too full, starting to feel uncomfortable). Use it as a guide, but add notes so that you understand your own body’s cues.
Assigning Your Own Hunger Feelings to the Scale
Write down a scale from 1-10, remembering that 1 is the hungriest you could be, and 10 is the fullest you could be. Then assign your own feelings to each part of the hunger scale. You can use the scale in Intuitive Eating as a guide, though many people have also put together what their own scale is.
You want to personalize it to what you feel, making notes about where you think you are on the scale when you experience things like fatigue, growling stomach, burning sensation in your stomach, dizziness, or increased salivation.
A growling in your stomach doesn’t mean you are dying. Understanding how your body handles hunger is key.
Learning as You Go About the Negative Effects of Dieting
Don’t forget that this is not a linear process. Be patient with yourself as your body changes, and you start listening to the signals it is giving you. Intuitive eating and learning what your hunger cues are is going to take time and resilience. Don’t get frustrated and just go back to dieting. It’s hard because you have been conditioned to ignore whether you feel hungry or full, and instead go by arbitrary numbers.
Keeping a Food Journal
You do want to be careful with writing down what you eat, but for many people, it can be useful when it comes to how you feel during and after a meal. Do NOT write down any macros or calories, or even portion sizes if you don’t feel it is necessary. What you want to do is write down how hungry you felt before a meal, what you ate, and how you felt after the meal. Did you stop when you were satiated or were you a little too full, and just kept eating? This is something to keep a record of and notice the changes over time.
Final Thoughts on the Negative Effects of Dieting
Nobody likes to be hungry, but nobody likes to be unhealthy either. Hunger can be a positive feeling, once you cue in to what your body needs.