What Happens to Your Body
A temporary solution to what should be a lifelong goal, a fad diet can have many short- and long-term effects on your body and your health. You may experience:
Increased risk of diseases and chronic conditions: Eliminating entire food groups causes you to miss out on essential vitamins and nutrients. Dr. Bosshardt explains, “When diets eliminate fruits, vegetables, dairy, or grains for lengthy periods of time, the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and chronic diseases involving your heart and bones increases.”
Increased risk of dehydration: When you shed weight too rapidly, it’s often mostly water weight, not body fat.
Increased fatigue: Extreme fad diets deprive your body of the calories it converts to energy, which can lead to extreme fatigue and lack of concentration.
Decreased metabolism: Because fad diets are temporary, your body’s metabolism is unable to maintain a consistent level. This fluctuation can cause weight gain and affect hunger cues.
Decreased mood: When your diet suffers, so does your mood, causing you to feel irritable and exhausted.
Decreased lean muscle mass: During extreme low-calorie diets, your body goes into starvation mode. It tries to conserve fat and instead attacks lean body mass in attempts to generate energy.
Kari Intemann, a registered dietitian with Hamilton Health Care System, explains, “The body’s response is different for each type of fad diet. For instance, with very low-carbohydrate diets, the body uses fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. This may sound appealing, but using fat for energy is not the body’s preferred method, and the bi-products of fat metabolism can cause the blood to become acidic,” (which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, and confusion).
The Rebound Effect
Because fad diets are impossible to maintain, they often result in a rebound, meaning you can not only put back on the weight you lost, but also sometimes even more. That’s because changes in your eating habits can affect your metabolism.
“Metabolism is the process of converting the food we eat into the energy needed to keep the heart pumping, lungs breathing, and body moving,” explains Intemann. “If we do not give our bodies enough fuel, the metabolism slows down to preserve energy. What a slower metabolism actually means is that the food we eat is harder to ‘burn.’ This slowing of the metabolism can happen when you go long periods of time without enough fuel, which can occur with frequently skipping meals or not consuming enough calories.”
While adhering to rigid diets may yield temporary results, failure to make lifestyle changes often prevents weight loss from becoming permanent. Making even minor adjustments in your daily habits can help change your attitude toward food and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Remember: You should always consult your doctor for guidance before beginning a weight-loss endeavor.