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Wellness Wednesday: The Dangers of Extreme Diets

For more than 40 years, the low-fat, high carbohydrate diet was the way to health, the way to lose weight. However, as we know, we have only grown heavier and we’re more unhealthy than ever before. Why? Is it because the low fat diet is wrong? Or, is it because it’s a form of extreme dieting… also called a crash diet or fad diet?

What do you think of when you hear the terms “extreme diets”? For me, juicing, the cabbage soup diet or the master cleanse all come to mind. (among many others) And, indeed, these are all forms of extreme dieting, but there are 2 other diets most people don’t consider extreme… low-fat/high carb and high-fat/low-carb… In my opinion, they are more dangerous than the others.

Why? While juicing, the cabbage soup and the master cleanse or quite extreme, and can be dangerous, they are specifically meant to be done for short amounts of time…days or weeks at the most, after which, you return to a “normal” diet. However, low-fat and low-carb diets are extreme forms of eating that people assume are healthy to do over extended periods of time. They lure people into a false sense of security, into thinking they are living a healthy lifestyle, when quite the opposite is true.

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What are extreme diets? (fad diets or crash diets)

An extreme/fad/crash diet is any diet used with the sole purpose of losing large amounts of weight quickly. While there are a vast variety of extreme eating plans, all extreme diets have a few things in common:

  • Caloric restriction
  • Eliminate (or severely restrict) an entire food group
  • Lack a variety of foods
  • Do not teach life style skills
  • Not healthy or practical over the long term

What are the dangers of extreme diets?

  • Slows the metabolism – Metabolism is a key factor when trying to lose weight. However, extreme dieting KILLS the metabolism. When you restrict calories and nutrients, your body severely slows the metabolism. This is a form of “self-preservation”. To keep itself alive, your body begins to store fat and burn muscle for energy.
  • Digestive problems – This often happens for a couple reasons:
    • In low-carb diets- people don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables and fiber. Like the metabolism, your digestion slows to a crawl when it doesn’t get the proper nutrients. You become bloated and constipated
    • In low-fat diets – cholesterol is severely restricted, your gallbladder becomes impaired and you run the risk of forming gallstones.
  • Malnutrition– The human body was meant to use all 3 macronutrients. Protein builds up our body, Fat makes up every cell in our body, and Carbs are our our body’s main, and preferred, source of energy. When you severely restrict ANY macronutrient, you’ll probably see weight loss on the scale, but over the long run.  this can lead to:
    • skin problems
    • heart problems
    • fertility issues
    • MANY MANY other nutrient deficiency diseases…too numerous to name
  • Fatigue – A proper and healthy diet will give you energy and make you feel good from the beginning. Extreme dieting, which includes calorie restriction, means stress and lack of energy.
  • Constant hunger – Once again, this goes to properly feeding your body. With a healthy diet, filled with all of the nutrients your body needs, you would not be hungry. You could be eating constantly, all day, and your body would still be hungry. The hunger pains aren’t necessarily a cry for calories, but nutrients, or even water.
  • Rebound weight gain – Extreme diets are so popular because they are good at helping people lose weight. There is one HUGE catch however…they only work while you’re on the diet. Once you go off, your body’s built in “self-preservation” system kicks in and stores every calorie you eat as fat, for the next time it is “starved”. This constant yo-yo effect damages:
    • blood vessels
    • digestive system
    • skin
  • Dehydration – During calorie restriction, including low-carb dieting, your body’s first source of fuel is glycogen stores in the liver, which is attached to water. Anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows you lose a ton of weight during the first 3 days…that’s the glycogen burning off, and the excess water leaving the body, which often results in dehydration. This leads to:
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue
    • Dizziness
  • Blood sugar issues – If you’re not giving your body the needed supply of macronutrients and fiber, your blood sugar and insulin levels will not remain steady. Yo-Yo dieting can also result in insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Brain problems – Guess what? Your brain needs both FAT and CARBS to function properly. Glucose is the preferred fuel for the brain. The brain relies almost exclusively on steady supplies of glucose for fuel, since it can’t store glucose itself. If ketones are providing fuel for the brain, this means the body is in starvation mode, and most likely functioning below normal standards. (4) Also, the brain is 60% fat, so, in order to work properly, they need fat as well. (3) Without either macronutrient, brain problems can occur, including, but not limited to:
    • Brain fog
    • Memory problems
    • decreased brain growth
    • depression

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Closing thoughts…

While the above list is by no means all inclusive, it gives you an idea as to what happens when you go on extreme diet, or at the very least, restrict one of the macronutrients. You’ve seen it before from me and I’ll say it again…whole foods, mainly plants…that’s the key. This is what my plate looks like at every meal:

Diabetes-Plate-Method.jpg

You didn’t gain weight overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight. I’m with you on wanting to be healthy and lose weight. It’s a constant struggle for me as well, but I’ve come to understand that it’s a way of life. I’ve come to understand that it’s a process, of healing, of renewing the body, of feeding it properly. This process takes time… In time, the body will respond…in time health will come…all what is required is a little patience and accepting who I am at this moment. If I can’t accept who I am right now, how will I ever accept who I am later?

Sources:

  1. http://www.mydiet.com/10-worst-side-effects-of-extreme-diets/
  2. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/06/19/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-go-on-an-extreme-diet
  3. https://greatist.com/eat/healthy-fats-best-foods-for-brain-health
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22436/

Let us stop for a moment to pray and meditate.

About Tamara Hoerner (724 Articles)
I am a student at Hawthorn University working toward a MS degree in Holistic Nutrition. For me, the name Purple Almond symbolizes “Good, nutritious, whole food bringing light and life to the body, awakening the inherent healing mechanisms within.”

17 Comments on Wellness Wednesday: The Dangers of Extreme Diets

  1. Yes!!! Fantastic post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nice article, but the idea of food groups was developed out of poor research and funding from industries that had a lot to gain from this idea. I haven’t eaten grains and added-sugar in two years and the list of health problems that have vanished (literally) is too big to list here. I eat foods that have the requisite nutrients that includes fat and carbs, but I limit the sources of the nutrients to those that are not inflammatory or contain anti-nutrients in abundance (like grains). Our bodies are all different and while some can eat grains without negative effects, I’m not one of those. I don’t have Celiac disease, but I swell and get bloated anytime I eat grains. Just something to consider.

    Liked by 2 people

    • While I did use the term “food group” once in the article, in general I did refer to them as Macronutrients. That said, I think the general population understands the concept of food groups vs macronutrients. I’m glad you discovered what works for you. That’s great. However that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. I actually don’t push grains at all in this article, so I’m a bit confused by your comment. I simply say that low carb diets aren’t necessarily healthy. I am a student of nutrition and well aware of the effects of grains on some people, and I’m actually among those that can’t eat them.
      Again, I’m happy you found what works for you. Most ppl aren’t that fortunate. Thanks for your comment. 🙏😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply you were advocating grains. I was using it as an example of things people say are okay but doesn’t work for me. I always say for people to go with what works best for them. I have a blog post coming out in a week that reiterates this (although I’ve said it time and time again over the past two years). I do love your blog! Keep up the excellent writing!

        Like

      • Sorry, I misunderstood. My mistake! 😊 no worries. Let me know when ur post comes out, I’d love to read it. 👍

        Like

      • Thanks for your kind words!

        Like

  3. I’ve lost about 23 pounds in the last 3 years. I think mainly because I wasn’t trying! I’m exercising more, eating less, and eating better. That’s really all there is to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a nutritional counselor specializing on the entire mental, physical and spiritual aspect of nutrition, for over 25 years, I was so grateful for this truth you presented. Excellent article! When someone knows why and how the body’s physiology works , a patient understands the value of eating well. Give the body a chance and will do everything it can to heal itself. Well done and I’ll definitely be back. Keep spreading truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tamera, love what you are saying here about moderation and not doing any extreme. That’s why I love my way of eating, which is very similar to yours. I love the plate photo explaining what you eat. I eat slow carbs, protein and tons of non starchy and some starchy veg. Good stuff. Have you heard of the Always Hungry Solution by Dr. David Ludwig? Very sane and reasonable approach, like you are talking about here. Anyway, was just popping by to say thanks for following my blog! ❤ I’d love to be featured on your Thursday edition if you would like!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words Keri. I’ll check out Dr. Ludwig, as I haven’t read it. I’ve just looked at your site, and will be posting my Thursday article, featuring your site, later today. Thanks again!

      Like

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