When you want to lose weight, it’s easy to immediately think that going on a diet is the answer. You’ve heard the equation before: less calories = less weight, right?
But dieting for weight loss, in my opinion, can do more harm than good. Physically and mentally, years of dieting can really screw you up. Here’s why I encourage you to avoid all of those weight loss diet plans and learn to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a few tips for making the switch!
How Weight Loss Diet Plans are Dangerous
Following a strict diet typically means restricting calories or certain food groups. When you deprive yourself too much, your body will lose much more than weight. Here are a few things that you potentially lose with dieting:
Following a low-calorie diet for too long slows down your metabolism and muscle mass. That means you’re actually decreasing the number of calories your body burns each day. The slower metabolism persists long after you give up the low-cal diet, which may be a reason why it’s so easy for people to gain weight back after dieting.
You might be trying to eat less to hit your weight-loss goals, but be sure to never go under your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories your body needs for it to function properly. Use this online calculator to determine your BMR.
Eliminating food groups and restricting calories often means you’re not getting essential nutrients, like protein, calcium or magnesium. Without the proper nutrients, it’s much easier to get fatigued.
We need calories and nutrients to fuel our bodies. If you’re wondering why you’re slumping in the afternoon or don’t have the energy to keep up with daily activities, take a look at what you’re eating. Are you eating enough?
Aim to eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients.
Overly restricting calories, as most people do when they’re on weight loss diet plans, can reduce fertility. Hormone levels depend on the number of calories available in a women’s diet. Studies show that women who eat 22–42% fewer calories than are needed to maintain their weight have suppressed reproductive function. If you notice irregular menstrual cycles, check how many calories you’re taking in.
I’ve seen this to be true especially during my marathon-running days a few years ago. I wasn’t taking in enough calories to sustain all of the running I was doing. While I didn’t feel that I was undereating, I know that my intake wasn’t enough for how much I was expending.
My periods became irregular around that time and slowly went away. I had learned that calorie intake might be a factor and began making a conscious effort to eat more around my workouts. That seemed to help things get back on track at the time, but restricting calories for so long definitely threw my hormones for a loop for the next few years.
Bottom line, make sure you’re properly fueling your workouts. If you’re active, you need to eat!
A low-calorie diet along with high physical activity may lead you to get sick more often. Restricting calories can lower your immune defenses, making you more susceptible to infections, colds and disease. We need to eat enough to keep our bodies strong and healthy!
The Mental Effects of Dieting
While restricting calories can screw up our bodies, the mental effects may be even more devastating and tougher to overcome. Committing ourselves to strict weight loss diet plans can bring on the following psychological issues:
Loss of control
When we say, “I can’t eat that, it’s not on my diet,” we’re completely submitting ourselves over to the power of the dieting gods. We’re admitting that we’re controlled by this thing.
The conversation should be, “I can eat that if I want. In fact, I can choose to eat or not eat anything. Today, I choose not to eat that because I don’t think it will help me in my health goals.”
Take the power back. You should be the one who’s in control of your body.
Diets restrict and limit. When you give up foods you love or don’t eat something because it’s not in your calorie budget, this resentment builds up inside you. You get angry and want those things even more.
Eventually, you give in. Breaking the diet creates shame and guilt, this sense that you are bad. You can no longer enjoy eating foods you love.
This then leads to…
A Broken Relationship with Food
Counting calories day in and day out takes you further away from a natural relationship with food. You lose the ability to listen to your body and eat intuitively.
Eating food is not meant to be a robotic thing. Food is meant to be enjoyed, to fuel us in our daily activities, and to bring people together. I hear so many women say they hate food because they can’t control themselves around it or they feel guilty when they eat. It seems that everything they eat makes them feel bad about themselves.
That’s not how eating should be. I LOVE eating. Absolutely love it! But I get it. For so long I didn’t trust myself to eat without counting calories. The longer I clung to dieting, I got farther out of tune with what my body needed.
That’s what happens when we think we need to diet to lose weight or be healthy. Girls start thinking about going on a diet as young as 8 years old! How do you undo years of the diet mentality?
Learning to Trust Yourself
The problem is that dieting seems to be all we know. Messages are shoved down our throats every day about this diet plan or the other. It’s no wonder that dieting is the first thing we turn to.
I have a challenge for you. The next time you think to yourself, “I need to go on a diet,” get out a notebook. Spend some time thinking about where you can make improvements in your eating habits now. Write down a few things you can change, and commit to trying them out for the next week.
Write down where in your day or week you can fit in some extra physical activity. Can you go for a walk at lunch or hit up a Zumba class on your way home from work? Can you simply do 20 jumping jacks first thing in the morning?
I know these don’t sound like big changes that are going to bring you fast and easy weight loss. But honestly, I don’t think that should be the goal. When you turn the goal to becoming a healthier you instead of being a certain size, a natural healthy weight reflects your efforts.
Turn inward and be honest with yourself – you have an idea of how you can be healthier, so make a conscious effort to make those small steps. Each week, try a new healthy habit. Let these new habits stack on top of each other week after week, and you’ll train yourself to live a healthier lifestyle.
For more ideas on habits you can change, check out this post on eating healthy without dieting.
Start today! Where can you make a healthier choice today? Let me know what small habit you’re going to change in the comments or over on the Naturally Ever After Facebook Page!
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