Published in: May 4, 2021

The Five Dangers of Restrictive Weight-Loss Diets

Constant tiredness and loss of muscle mass are some of them. Experts examine what risks people who adhere to radical regimes are exposed to.

Overweight and obesity are clearly associated with the main chronic diseases of today, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed that people with extra pounds or those with these conditions are the most susceptible to severe coronavirus infection.

For these and other reasons, losing weight is in the sights of a good part of the population. The problem is the means that people take to reach that end. Knowing that the weight loss process depends on eating habits, there are many Brazilians who go to restrictive diets for this purpose.

Professionals are well aware of the multitude of diets proposed to lose weight quickly and easily. There is the soup diet, that of the dots, that of Dr. Atkins, that of Dr. Dukan, the paleolithic, etc. All of them preach, in common, the restriction of calories and some food groups. They may even lead to weight loss, but this occurs at the expense of unhealthy and unsustainable metabolic processes in the long run.

To better understand the subject, we must keep in mind that losing weight is different from losing weight. Losing weight is reducing the numbers that the scale marks: you can get rid of fat, but also (or even more) of muscle and water. Weight loss itself is the reduction of body fat, something that is proven to be good for your health.

Weight loss depends on several factors: type of diet, physical activity, quality of sleep … Even the combination of stress with a few hours of rest influences this story.

The process of losing body fat tends to be longer and the maintenance of new weight depends on the adoption of a healthy lifestyle for life. It is a very different concept from the one presented by the radical regimes, with a fixed period to start and end.

But, if restrictive diets even make you lose weight, why shouldn’t we follow them? It is because there are some pranks and some health hazards. We are going to unravel the five main risks below.

1. Weakness, hair loss, headache, and other stresses

It is not uncommon to hear people who, on adhering to very restrictive diets, report indisposition, tiredness, weakness, headaches, hair loss, and weak nails. This happens due to insufficient intake of calories and nutrients – less than necessary for our body.

In this condition, the brain directs the body’s resources for vital operations, such as the functioning of the heart, lungs, and liver. Hence, energy and nutrients are lacking for other areas and tissues, such as nails and hair. In this situation, the body starts to emit warning signs, such as the sensation of fatigue.

2. Nutritional deficiencies

Radical diets often promote the exclusion or restriction of food groups. Carbohydrates are the main target. It turns out that when a person removes cereals, pasta, potatoes, cassava, corn, and company from the routine, he loses energy and micronutrients contained in these foods – among minerals and vitamins, especially those of the B complex.

Not by chance, it is common for carbohydrate exclusion to be associated with the symptoms mentioned above. And nutritional deficits are accentuated when fruits and vegetables are also scarred, as defended by certain diets.

Another example of important embezzlement comes from the elimination (total or partial) of milk and dairy products. This can result in a lack of calcium, essential for maintaining bone strength. In this context, it is worth mentioning that there are several sources of the same nutrient for the body and the support of a nutritionist helps to choose alternatives (or supplements) in case you have to restrict a food group.

3. Loss of muscle mass

We’ve already seen that losing weight is completely different from losing weight. But most radical diets provide rapid weight loss, which, with severe calorie restriction, also results in muscle loss and, in some cases, dehydration.

Our muscle mass is essential for carrying out daily activities and consumes more energy than fat tissue. When we are young, losing muscle may not compromise the quality of life, but as we get older, not having a good muscle reserve has serious consequences. The loss of muscle reduces autonomy, increases the risk of falls, and is related to longer hospital stays.

That is why, in addition to not restricting the daily caloric intake too much, we should keep an eye on the consumption of protein sources and associate it with the practice of physical exercises.

4. Concertina effect

One of the main complaints of dieters is regaining weight. It usually appears when food intake returns to the pre-diet level. The accordion effect is the greatest proof that regimes don’t work. If there is no permanent habit change, the results are not sustained.

Those who advocate radical diets usually focus on rapid weight loss. But he hides that this is unlikely to be definitive. By physiological adaptation, the body understands the restriction of calories and nutrients as aggression and triggers the saver mode.

When the person breaks the food restriction, he has a slower metabolism, and the body adapts to build a greater reserve of energy as if preparing to face a new phase of restriction in the future. There, it is common to see that, after the regimen, the regimen overcomes the weight loss previously achieved.

As long as the results take time to appear, a healthy lifestyle is an inescapable recipe for wiping away body fat and staying that way. This is not just about the diet, it also involves abandoning a sedentary lifestyle.

5. Eating disorders

There is evidence that using restrictive diets increases the risk of developing disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. In a group of students, researchers observed that those who used apps to count food calories showed higher levels of concern about dietary restriction and weight control, which are quite common situations at the beginning of eating disorders.

Given this, it is clear that the use and abuse of restrictive regimes do not match health, physical and mental. In the long run, the only way to lose weight well is to follow a balanced dietary pattern, with personalized caloric adjustments. And add to this habit the practice of physical activity, stress management, good night’s sleep, and medical monitoring.