dieting

The Unspoken Effects of Dieting

It seems that dieting has almost become a ‘normal’ activity amongst individuals in the UK.  Every magazine we open shares diet details, every celebrity seems to endorse a different one, and it seems almost a rarity amongst certain groups not to discuss dieting.  Of course, dieting can be done in a healthy way when it involves a balance of food groups, regular healthy eating and combined exercise to achieve weight loss goals.  However many of the ‘fad’ diets that we read about do not seem to work on these principles.  Very few women who diet realize that dieting itself causes severe psychological and physical changes. Dieting, even in women without eating disorders, often causes depression and irritability. When you diet, your metabolism slows down in order to conserve the small amount of food available. This is an intelligent move on your body’s part, and probably has helped people to survive in times of famine. The problem is that when you stop dieting, since your metabolism has slowed down, it becomes easier than ever to gain weight and you put weight on faster and more easily. Each time you go through another diet, this cycle continues. The only way to speed up your metabolism again is to eat.

Your body is like a wood-burning stove. It needs fuel to keep warm. The fuel intake needs to be regular through the day. The fire inside the stove is like your metabolic rate. It will burn the hottest when it has plenty of fuel.  When we limit the amount of energy or ‘fuel’ we are giving our body, we will undoubtedly experience a number of physical consequences:

Problems related to dieting and severe weight loss

  • intense hunger (this is likely to lead to overeating or bingeing in about 25% of dieters)
  • low energy
  • tiredness
  • poor sleep/insomnia
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • visual problems including slightly blurred vision
  • edema (swelling due to excess body fluid)
  • gastrointestinal problems (tummy aches or cramps)
  • lowered body temperature leading to feeling cold
  • overall lowering of body’s metabolic rate
  • lowered heart rate
  • irregular menstruation or loss of periods (usually only seen in extreme dieting)
  • dry, pasty skin
  • muscle loss
  • moodiness
  • irritability
  • difficulty making decisions
  • difficulty concentrating

In women who are dieting healthily these effects may be mild and short-lived. When dieting is extreme however, as in anorexia nervosa, a state of chronic starvation is evoked meaning that these effects are likely to be ongoing, potentially causing serious longer term consequences.

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