The Hidden Cost of Fad Diets

It seems like every month, magazines are touting the next great diet. One month it’s the ketogenic diet, the next everyone’s talking about going paleo, and the next month some doctor is warning against eating white food. A girl could get dizzy trying to keep up, and your bathroom scale dial is probably spinning wildly. Does your weight control plan consist of shifting from one fad diet to the next? Serial fad dieting has serious consequences you should be aware of. Before you jump on the next diet bandwagon, read this.

The Risk of Malnutrition

Fad diets very often restrict one or more food types. Doctors, nutritionists and most physical fitness experts, on the other hand, stress the importance of eating a diversified diet that gives a person the best chances of getting all the necessary nutrients that their body needs to function at its peak.

When you drastically restrict your food intake or completely eliminate one or multiple foods, you run the risk of malnutrition. It may seem unheard of to have malnutrition in an age when so many foods are at our disposal. However, malnutrition is more common than you think, even in first world countries like the United States. A Journal of Nutrition study conducted in 2015 revealed that 85% of Americans don’t receive the FDA’s recommended daily vitamin and mineral intake. Malnutrition can lead to muscle loss (remember, your heart is a muscle, too), fatigue, headaches, and even disease.

Your metabolism is a finely tuned operating system—when you eat right. When you constantly jump from one diet to the other, however, your body doesn’t know what the heck is going on out there. One month it’s enjoying processing that fresh-squeezed orange juice you made, and the next month, all you’re glugging down is some chalky protein powder shake that has no vitamin C at all. Scurvy, anyone?

The healthiest diets don’t exclude entire food groups. If you feel you must diet, choose one that incorporates all whole food groups.

The Risk of Obesity

That’s right. Fad diets can contribute to obesity. Many fad diets have less than optimal calorie counts. If you’re used to plenty of calories at each meal sitting, you could end up feeling deprived the whole time you’re dieting. Even if you see some weight loss on the scale, you might not be able to shake the constant hunger pangs and feelings of deprivation and resentment toward those who seem to be able to eat as much as they like and still stay thin.

You’re human. You don’t like feeling hungry all the time, and really you shouldn’t have to. So, eventually, your brain starts coming up with reasons why you should eat more. It will validate the upcoming binge. Then you cave. As you binge, you savor every delicious bite. You overeat. The next morning, you feel guilty and perhaps ashamed. You decide that it feels better to eat than to starve, and you relax the reins on your dieting. You may even give up altogether. Finally, you weigh yourself again and find that amazingly, you weigh more now than you ever have!

This is how some studies have shown that starving yourself on fad diets can end up making you even fatter than you were before.

Opt for diets that have allowances built in for in-between meals snacking, and the occasional indulgence. This will give you the best chances for sticking to the plan and achieving the weight loss you desire.

Of course, the best diet is no diet at all. Making an eating lifestyle change is better than “going on a diet.” Be present when you shop for food, and when you eat. Note how you feel after each meal and avoid things that make you feel grumpy, bloated or tired. When you start to look at food as nourishment instead of as treats or rewards, you may not be tempted to go on another fad diet ever again.

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