Extreme diets that don't work

Extreme Diet #1 – Crash dieting and fasting

Reducing the amount we eat dramatically will only cause us to crave food more. Strict dieting can result in low blood sugar levels. This will trigger feelings of hunger, and lead to lightheadedness and loss of concentration. Sometimes it can lead to an unhealthy cycle of bingeing and starving to make up for overindulgences. 

Besides this, our bodies naturally readjust to low intakes, and reduce the rate at which we use energy – exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve! 

Bottom line - the longer and harder we diet, the more our body fights against further loss and the harder it becomes to lose the weight. Eat regularly, especially breakfast to avoid uncontrollable hunger pangs and inevitable binges.

Extreme diet #2 – Liquid diets

The lure of well marketed milkshakes and juice products that promise instant results can be very appealing. Liquid diets may seem to produce gratifying results in the short term, because they bring about water losses and fluid shifts that occur naturally in the first few days. The truth is the products are not designed to be forever, so when people return to normal eating habits, many find themselves back where they started but significantly out of pocket! 

Bottom line - If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Ignore any hype and fad claims around dieting.  Unfortunately, there are no instant fixes or easy options – eat sensibly and make good healthy lifestyle choices. Move more and eat less.

Extreme Diet #3 – Detox and ‘clean’ eating

Detoxification and clean eating claim to ‘cleanse’ and ‘eliminate’ harmful toxins from the body. Regimens sometimes come with complicated rules ban many foods and sometimes encourage routine fasting to ‘rest’ the organs. Exactly how it works and what toxins are being eliminated is rarely made clear. The truth is, they can’t because detox diets have very little evidence base behind them. It is a good idea to reduce processed foods that carry high levels of fat, sugar and salt and avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol also has proven health benefits too. But extreme approaches can lead to poorly balanced diets that are lacking in important nutrients.   

Bottom line - if you don’t ‘tox’ in the first place, then there should be no need to ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ afterwards. Cut back on processed foods and those drinks and snacks that are high fat and sugar. Limit alcohol and caffeine.

Extreme Diet #4 – Carb free

There is lots of debate about whether it is better to avoid or include carbohydrates in or diets when trying to lose weight. While it is definitely a good idea to cut back on large portions, especially refined types like sugar, white bread and sugary cereals, carbs have some health benefits too. They can be an important source of fibre which is known to reduce some cancer risks, improve digestive health and reduce blood fats. They also can keep us feeling fuller for longer – so avoiding them completely is a mistake if we want to cash in on some of these health benefits. Choose whole grains, wholemeal bread, high bran cereals and oats more often.

Bottom line - Our bodies need a variety of nutrients to keep us well and fit. Eat a sensible variety of foods and do not exclude major food groups.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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