Hello folks! Let me start off by saying “I have tried it all”. Keto,Paleo, Gluten free, Vegetarian, Vegan, GM, No fat, Raw food, Fasting, 1200 cal, 800 cal ; you name it – I have tried them. To lose weight and “get fit”. Fun Fact:- Nothing worked! I gained all the pounds I lost, if not more.
- It was not sustainable
- It was not enjoyable
- It ruined my mental health.
As a person who has gone through this roller coaster ride; here is my top 5 list on how restrictive diet affects you.
Missing out on macro and micronutrients:
Many restrictive diets ask to avoid a particular food or a food group completely. This can be carb or fat, fruits or vegetables, cooked food or grains, the list goes one. But when you avoid a certain type of food you are forbidding yourself from a variety of micro and macro nutrients these foods provide. The nutrients that are essential for the proper working of our body. In the long run, you may develop vitamin deficiency disorders, your mineral levels can drop, your cholesterol may sky rocket. Inshort, the diet that promises a healthy or a fit life will end up leaving your life in ruins.
Damage your metabolism.
Basically, you are eating fewer calories to lose weight, Right? But what if it makes you gain more weight? That is exactly what a highly calorie restrictive diet does to your body.
Firstly, let us accept the fact that our body is an intelligent machine with a brain of its own. It knows how to save itself during unfavorable circumstances. Like any other machine, the body also needs fuel for its proper functioning. In this case they are calories. Once we deprive the body of those much needed calories and consume less calories than BMR, the body adapts itself and lowers its metabolism. Several studies have shown that these low-calorie diets can reduce your metabolism by upto 23%.
What is more concerning is that the low metabolism can last long after the restrictive diet is stopped. Researchers believe that this is one of the major reasons 80% of people who have lost weight following a calorie restrictive diet regain all of it and more once they are off the diet.
To prevent weight loss from affecting your metabolism, make sure that you never consume calories below your BMR. Including resistance training to your workout regime and upping your protein intake can help you not only to maintain your BMR but also to achieve your long term fitness goals.
Ruin your social life
As a person who has been unsuccessfully ‘dieting’ for the past decade or so, let me tell you something.“Your social life will go down the drain”
Leading a healthy life is often synonymous to eating healthy and being fit. However, these are not the only attributes for longevity. Social connection also plays an irreplaceable part. Millions of years of evolution have wired us deep down to make connections and be a ‘social animal’. These connections are often made over food for millennia. What happens if you deprive yourself from your basic instinct?
Let us take an example; your friends have decided to go out for dinner and invite you to join. However you are following a restrictive diet.
- You will pass on the invitation and stay at home sulking with a major FOMO.
- You will go out with your friends and stick to your diet while they enjoy the food.
- You go out and enjoy the food but deep down you feel guilty about breaking the diet.
Whichever decision you take, they all have the same outcome ‘you end up feeling shitty!’
There is nothing wrong with having nutrition goals. As a matter of fact, you need nutritional goals. However, in the process of achieving those goals, if you are missing out on family time or stressing over dinner with friends, then I would say, those goals are not attributable to your longevity.
Make you feel guilty
Haven’t you felt the urge to do the thing you are asked not to do? At times the urge becomes so strong that you end up doing it. This is exactly what happens with restrictive dieting. When you are asked to stay away from carbs, pizza is the only thing that pops up in your mind. When you follow paleo, you crave for pasta. When you follow intermittent fasting, you think about food all through your fasting window. This has happened to me and I am pretty sure that I am not alone in this. You may be able to control this urge for some days, maybe weeks or even one or two months. But I don’t think anyone’s motivation is so intense that they can control their craving beyond that point.
What if the craving becomes so intense that you bite into that pizza or cheese cake or break your fast? Then the guilt cycle kicks in. You start to regret your decision and condemn yourself. You will eventually end up eating the whole thing there by feeling even more guilty and may result in a ‘binge cycle’. Or you may skip meals to compensate and start your ‘restrict cycle’. All this for what? Wanting to eat a piece of something that you love.
You will start feeling that you have no control over your cravings, no will power and that you have failed your diet. But let me tell you, You didn’t fail your diet; it is the diet that failed you.
Affect your mental health
There was a period not long ago, when I was hangry all the time. I used to crave certain foods and despise what I ate on my diet. Apart from cheating every now and then, I used to go on cheat days when I would immerse myself in food and vomit it out after a short while.
Did I enjoy my diet?
Did I enjoy my cheat day?
Do I crave more food?
Your self worth will be associated with your diet and breaking it means losing your dignity. Restrictive diets pose a threat of developing a destructive relation with food and your mental health. This can often result in stress, anxiety, and even depression. In addition to this, there is a great likelihood of you developing an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating.
At the end, though you have reached your goal weight or beach body, your mind will not be in a state to enjoy your success. You may always fear eating that bowl of ice cream, going out with friends or even having a nice family dinner.
Restrictive diets are not the answer to your fitness queries. They may work for a short time but when it comes to long term fitness goals, they are bound to fail.
Always keep in mind that being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean having a lean body. It means being mentaly healthy, physically active and having a sound relation with food.
PS : This article is not against any type of eating protocols. If your health, wellness and ethical goals allings with any particular type of diet and you are happy doing it, please go ahead. This is my humble effort to shed light into the fact that restricting your eating habits with the goal to “get fit/ lose weight” doesn’t work in the long run.