Why diets don’t work – Their harmful impact on your body

Why diets don't work - Their harmful impact on your body

My life used to be dominated by diets. They always seemed the perfect answer to quickly shed a few kilos. Each new meal plan promised to be the solution and raised my hopes of finally fitting into my favourite pants again, but they never worked. In this article, I’ll look at why crash diets are so tempting, how they can harm your body, the psychology behind them, and how you can break the endless diet cycle for good. 

Crash diets don’t work. They are popular but rarely deliver the results you’re looking for. It can be tempting to squeeze in a quick fix before you take off for a beach holiday. You might think, “I can do it. I can eat salad for two weeks, ditch sugar and carbs, and all is good.”

The problem is, it isn’t and here is why.

Short-term dieting can have long-term impacts. Not only does it rarely work, but it can damage your body in the long run. 

Short-term dieting can harm your body

Thyroid problems, nutrient deficiencies, hindered brain power, hormonal imbalances, high stress, poor sleep, and slower metabolism are only a few potential consequences of forcing yourself through a few days of “clean eating”. 

You might even risk more severe health issues like heart and cardiovascular complications, osteoporosis, kidney damage and an increased risk of cancer (Source). But, again, those are only a handful of possible outcomes.

Open a women’s magazine; chances are high that it includes a new diet trend. They’re often portrayed as the latest, most successful method for weight loss. Suddenly everyone raves about them, celebrities promote them, and soon after, the diet gang hops onto the next trend.  

Let me give you an example. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘The Weekend Juice Cleanse’ or ‘2-day Detox’.

In recent years, this diet type has been over-sensationalised, convincing many this is their solution to weight loss. By depriving your body of solid food and drastically cutting the calories you consume whilst crashing it at the gym, these diets are marketed as a quick way to lose a kilo or two in a few days (Source).

Another popular approach is completely removing carbohydrates. This macronutrient has been portrayed as the enemy of weight loss, with plenty of influencers recommending to cut it out from your diet entirely. 

While carbs are not an essential nutrient, they play an important role in overall energy, which can ultimately help burn fat. A 2019 study by the Westchester Medical Centre in New York tested the effect of a no-carb diet and prolonged fasting. The conclusion was that even though it might result in short-term success, it can also have dangerous side effects. (Source)

Deprivation can be harmful and is not the answer to sustainable weight loss. Cutting out vital food groups can deprive your body of the nutrients it requires to function. 

Short-term dieting can also spiral into a negative cycle where you’re unlikely to ever reach your weight loss goals. 

Excessive and sudden restriction can lead to feelings of deprivation, overwhelming food cravings and an overall decline in your physical and mental health. As most crash diets are far too restrictive, you risk breaking the regime and start binging. This is usually followed by feeling guilty and ashamed before you embark on yet another program, and the cycle restarts.

I’ve helped many women trapped in a vicious cycle of starving and binging who had almost given up hope that they’ll ever develop a healthy relationship with food. The irony is that their weight slowly but steadily increased through years of yoyo-dieting.

But how do you lose weight the right way? 

Cycle of dieting

Smaller steps towards a healthy and balanced lifestyle are a lot more effective.

It’s all about baby steps and sustainable changes. I know this doesn’t fit the ‘all or nothing’ attitude towards weight loss. However, when you fail to think about the long-term, you’ll likely get stuck in a never-ending dieting cycle. 

Let’s talk about the psychology behind this.

Human nature makes us look for a quick and easy solution to our problems. This is why so many people are drawn to promises like “Lose 5 kilos in 2 weeks”. You want to see results and get gratification from your efforts ASAP. You’re usually highly motivated at the start but quickly lose steam. Sadly, even with the initial motivation, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to maintain the restrictions and withstand temptation.

Less extreme, more gradual changes are a much better approach.

From my experience, one to two tweaks each week feel less overwhelming and bring you closer to your goals than any quick fix ever can. 

Here are 4 examples of small changes you can easily implement to assist with weight loss:

1. Have an extra portion of vegetables during lunch and dinner

Vegetables keep you fuller for longer and provide your body with plenty of nutrients and fibre. Also, the more plant foods you incorporate into your diet, the more diverse your gut microbiome, which can reduce cravings significantly.

2. Go to bed 30 mins earlier

Getting enough sleep is the cheapest, most effective weight loss help you can get. It increases your energy, lowers stress, and strengthens your immune system. But did you know that sleep deprivation causes abnormally high levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin while simultaneously lowering your satiety hormone leptin? This imbalance makes your body more likely to store fat instead of burning through that extra muffin you need to get through the morning.

3. Go on a 30 min walk during lunch

Walking is a great way to stay active. It can help you burn extra calories throughout the day, improve your cardiovascular fitness and strengthen your muscles – all of which help with weight loss. Also, a short walk in the middle of the day can improve your mood, boost your energy and trigger endorphins.

 4. Drink an extra litre of water every day

Keeping hydrated makes you feel better and is very important for weight loss. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, prevents constipation and regulates body temperature. It also plays a crucial role in detoxification, giving you a beautiful glow.

Can you see that although small, these changes can significantly impact your weight and wellbeing? Gradually implementing them into your day-to-day can be a powerful step towards a healthier life. 

Conclusion

Weight loss should be thought of as long-term. Unfortunately, there is no quick hack for slimming down. Continuing your search for a non-existent solution can be detrimental to your health and happiness.

Diets don’t work and can harm your physical and mental health, leading to a vicious diet cycle of unhealthy eating patterns that often result in weight gain instead.

Start thinking about sustainable adjustments that feel like a manageable stretch.  

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6883983/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14672862/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29983105/

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