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  • Dr. Nancy

7 Dangers of Restrictive Dieting

Have you ever been tempted to go on a really strict diet to drop some pounds quickly? Sure, you might drop a dress size or two pretty quickly, but this can come at a big cost. Intense diets that significantly restrict your calorie intake may lead to some weight loss, but they can also do a lot of damage to your overall health.

Restrictive diets can be dangerous.

Food is more than calories. Food is information. The nutrients in whole food help to influence your DNA and your expression of health.

Here are 7 reasons why slow and sustainable weight loss wins out over restrictive dieting.

1. You don’t get enough nutrition

The lack of calories typically goes hand in hand with a lack of nutrition. When you’re taking in very few calories, there’s a lot of potential for not getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

This becomes an even bigger problem if you’re following a restrictive diet that cuts out certain food groups completely. For good health, you need to be getting nutrients from a range of proteins, fats, vegetables and fruit.

A low-calorie intake also affects your energy and leaves you feeling exhausted and weak. It may also lead to dizziness and make it difficult to concentrate and remember things.

At its worst, this fatigue can leave you lacking in the energy you need for day-to-day life. Your body needs a certain number of calories to function as it should, and with a restrictive diet, this often times isn’t being met.

Think of it this way: restrictive dieting means that you’re not taking in nearly enough nutrition to keep your body functioning properly and as such you shift into a stress state. You go into survival mode which slows down your metabolism to preserve resources.

2. Your immunity can become compromised

One of the downsides of this lack of nutrition is poor immunity. For most people, this is going to mean that you get sick a lot more often.

Skipping out on an abundance of vegetables and fruit leaves you without the required phytonutrients, antioxidants and minerals required for good health and a robust metabolism.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the activity of your phagocytes (the Pacman-like immune army that eat up bacteria and other debris). Intermittent fasting does not limit your nutrition, only the hours of the day that you eat.

3. You can get dehydrated

A lot of the weight you lose in the early days of a restrictive diet is actually water, not fat, and this can lead to dehydration. Your body needs a certain amount of water to help it to function and chronic dehydration can become dangerous.

Again, this is a situation of your innate survival mechanism being triggered. Dehydration signals to your brain that resources are scarce, and your body shifts into a state of stress.

Aim to drink AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces of water every day. Many medications, medical conditions and other factors may require you to increase your water consumption beyond half your body weight so you may need to do some research to determine how much water is right for you.

4. Losing weight is more difficult

From a weight loss perspective, restrictive diets make it harder to keep losing weight and for it to stay off afterwards. This is why most people find that they put all of the weight back on (and often more on top) once they stop heavy dieting.

Restrictive diets are incredibly difficult to keep up with so it’s inevitable that you’ll revert back to your old eating habits and you can expect to gain back everything that you lost and a bit more.

Establishing a food strategy that works for your unique body and situation is key. There is no one-size-that-fits-all approach when it comes to health. Taking a radical gradualism approach to weight loss will bring about a complete and sustainable transformation. Small steps taken consistently can yield big results.

5. Your heart can suffer

One of the concerning consequences about extreme diet restriction is the fact that it can damage your heart. According to experts, it can damage blood vessels and make you more likely to experience cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, blocked arteries and heart attacks.

The lack of balanced nutrition can mean that you’re deficient in key minerals linked to a healthy heart rhythm such as potassium, sodium and magnesium. Supplementing your diet with dark, leafy greens, bananas, avocado, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate will help to boost these key minerals.

6. Mood problems are common

Given the strict limits of a restrictive diet, most people who follow them spend a lot of time thinking about food. Apart from making you feel miserable, this can also affect your mood, especially with poor nutrition too.

There is a strong link between your gut health and your brain health. The production of hormones and neurotransmitters that are key for a positive outlook and the ability to focus and concentrate are reliant on a healthy gut microbiome.

Your gut health and microbial diversity is reliant on a diverse diet full of vegetables and fruit to provide nutrients and fiber. So, eat the rainbow every day!

7. Your skin can suffer

On a more aesthetic note, restrictive dieters often have pretty bad skin. This is partly due to lack of nutrients but is also linked to the pattern of continuously losing weight, regaining it and losing it again.

This yo-yo effect wreaks havoc with your metabolism and hormone balance. It also can compromise your detoxification pathways.

Some of the problems you might experience include fine lines and saggy skin. Your hair can also be affected, and many people find that they suffer from hair loss on restrictive diets.

What to do instead

Slow and steady weight loss may not have drastic or quick effects, but it’s by far the best option for both your health and sustaining a healthy weight. Identifying the root cause of why you are overweight is a helpful first step in creating a personalized plan.

Weight gain is a symptom of an underlying imbalance. This could be lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, blood sugar regulation, stress, chemical exposure, or even dehydration. When a strong foundation is established, your weight will normalize effortlessly.

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