Why extreme dieting doesn’t work

By Angela Freed, MS, CN

The word ‘diet’ in today’s society often implies calorie restriction, calorie counting and deprivation, all of which will not support weight loss efforts. An increasing number of people are choosing extreme, calorie restrictive diets because they’ve reached a point of desperation and will do anything to lose weight. In addition, when it comes to losing weight most people want a quick fix that provides the most results in the least amount of time. While this would be great if it could be done in a healthy way, it just isn’t possible.

When it comes to weight loss efforts, extreme calorie restriction is exactly what you want to avoid. Extreme dieting can have very negative health effects that include increased stress, malnutrition, muscle wasting, lowered metabolism, hormonal changes and weight gain. And while many people still believe that all you need to do is burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, it turns out there is much more to the story. In fact, it is food quality that matters, not necessarily quantity.

When you deprive the body of calories you are also limiting essential nutrients that the body needs to perform its day-to-day functions. Adequate intake of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are all extremely essential in different ways, which explains why we are healthiest when we consume a diet high in a variety of different foods.

When calories aren’t being consumed in adequate amounts the body goes into starvation mode, clinging on to all the fat is has available. The body will begin to break down and burn stored sugar (glycogen) and muscle before it spares fat, which may lower the number on the scale, but as a result may severely compromise healthy body composition.

Finally, not only does extreme dieting cause negative physiological effects, it takes the joy and pleasure out of food, which we all need a little bit more of.



Angela Freed is a certified nutritionist at Pinnacle Medical Wellness.


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