Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dieting is Dangerous?

2010 is in full force, and I have heard a LOT of people talking about wanting to 'get in shape' and start diets. Magazine covers are spilling celebrity diet secrets, and people are doing health cleanses and detox diets to start the year off healthy. (Just for the record, detox diets and cleanses- aside from being dangerous- are kind of silly; the reason that we have a liver is so that our body can naturally process and remove toxins!)

According to this article, dieting is America's most dangerous New Year's resolution. Why are diets dangerous? Well, for one, they can trigger eating disorders in some people. But diets are also ineffective- 95% of diets fail. This likely means that our bodies are not getting what they need- they either receive too little or too much, which has negative health ramifications either way. I wrote a post recently on common diet myths that I want to re-post in light of it being 'diet season'. I think it is important that people have some facts about diets before they embark on one. Below is an excerpt of the post, jumping right in with 7 myths of dieting- if you would like to read the entire post, follow this link.

Myth #1= You will lose weight. This is why most people pursue a diet in the first place, right? It may surprise you, but research shows that in the long run, 98% of dieters actually end up gaining weight. Why? Because the real issues behind food consumption and understanding metabolism are rarely addressed with a diet. And when unhealthy means are used, the weight loss is usually not maintainable.

Myth #2=You will look amazing as a result of your diet. If your goal is to look like someone else, or to look like some of the images that we regularly see on TV, in magazines, etc.. then you are chasing a goal that is not attainable. These images are altered by computers (check out this video for an example- yikes!). What is more is that a diet will not change your facial features, it will not make you taller, it will not make your legs longer, and it will not make your boobs bigger. Sorry:).

Myth #3=Diets are not dangerous. Whenever you restrict or cut out entire food groups (sugar, carbs, fat, dairy, etc..), this is dangerous-- especially for young people. Our bodies require a variety of foods in order to fuel our organs and keep us functioning effectively. Not to mention that studies show that dieting is an indicator of future eating disorders. A girl who diets before she is 14 is eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder. There are many health risks associated with dieting as well, such as weakened bones, dehydration and decreased heart rate.

Myth #4=Certain foods are bad. Often times, when we diet or approach food with a diet mentality, we label food as 'good' or 'bad.' We may even determine what food we consider to be good or bad based upon which particular diet we are on. The fact of the matter is that all foods are created equal and all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle. There are no bad foods, only bad diets.

Myth #5= Diets give you control. Having a defined set of rules, especially when it comes to food, may convince you that you will be in control of what you put in your mouth. However, what often happens when you eat the same foods, or follow similar rituals each day with food, you begin to crave foods you have labelled 'bad' or 'outlawed.' This can lead to overeating and binges, which ultimately take you to a place you were trying to avoid to begin with. Also, diets usually make you cranky, they tend to decrease your energy, and they leave you feeling tired and pretty irritable. When you get to this point, the diet is controlling you, and you have little control.

Myth #6= Diets are safe and healthy. Maybe a little repetitive (myth #3), but if you chronically diet, you risk potentially altering the natural weight of your body. Over time, if your body weight fluctuates from higher to lower, and lower to higher, your body generally settles at a higher weight than it would have needed to be if it was not altered in the first place. Our bodies become confused, because they do not know if they will get what they need nutritionally, or if they will not receive any food at all. Our metabolisms slow down because our bodies think we are starving. The irony in this is that the exact opposite of what is intended is likely to end up happening.

Myth #7= You need to follow a diet. Here are some healthy guidelines to follow (compliments of Remuda Ranch) that are not diet-centric. Eat a variety of foods in moderation. Having variety allows for you to meet your nutritional needs; we cannot get all we need from one single food, or from a small number of foods alone. Listen to your body, and your stomach. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. You don't need to eat food just because it is in front of you. Find out if you are eating because you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry (more on this to come..).

To conclude, Karen R. Koenig wrote a book called The Rules of Normal Eating. It is an extremely helpful book for anyone who has struggled with chronic dieting, overeating, undereating, emotional eating and anything in between. I wrote a post on her book awhile back and provided some suggestions that she outlines in her book as they relate to 'normal eating.'. Follow this link for more information.

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