The desperate search for a perfect body or lose weight at all costs leads some people to follow “miracle” diets whose long-term effectiveness is not proven and that can have dire consequences for health.
How to recognize a “miracle” diet?
This concept can be defined as “that diet that promises surprising effects on health, and particularly on weight loss” (Basulto, 2012). Also, these diets:
- They promise weight loss results in a short time and without sacrifice.
- They are based on eliminating the intake of a food group or a specific nutrient, be it fat, protein or carbohydrates.
- They include lists of allowed foods and prohibited foods in their guides.
- They may consist of the consumption of expensive meal replacement products.
- They tend to contradict the opinions of doctors and nutritionists as they are based on unproven scientific principles.
The person who lives on a diet goes through different cyclical stages, causing his body to lose metabolic efficiency for each diet change that he proposes to undergo.
- The first diet is usually carried out to lose weight and is usually a restrictive hypocaloric diet low in fat and sugar. The person experiences a significant weight loss with some ease. After a while, it is abandoned, running the risk of regaining the lost weight and something else, with a specific rebound effect.
- The second diet is stricter than the first, very low in carbohydrates, so a more significant restriction is added to the initial one. Again, a weight loss is experienced, not as effective as the initial one, but quite marked. In this case, stagnation comes faster, and weight regains as well. One goes into cycles of increasingly prohibitive restrictive diets with less favorable results. In the end, the person experiences a feeling that everything makes them fat and has a solid resistance to weight loss.
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Consequences of “miracle” diets
- Rebound effect: this effect is a consequence of our body’s metabolic adaptations to repeated caloric restriction. At lower caloric intake, mechanisms are activated to counteract this restriction by altering body thermoregulation and reducing basal metabolic output. Consequently, by abandoning these diets, the body tends to regain the lost weight very quickly.
- Constipation problems: fat, together with fiber, is a component of the diet that has a direct effect on our intestinal transit since fats such as olive oil act as an intestinal lubricant, favoring transit. Therefore, it is widespread to experience periods of constipation due to the limitation of olive oil in many of these diets.
- Hormonal changes (amenorrhea), especially in low-fat diets: This deficit of essential fatty acids also produces a decrease in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E) that has adverse effects on bone mineralization (osteoporosis and risk of fractures)
- Hypothyroidism is derived from the alteration of the endocrine system that can produce the fact of carrying out different types of weight-loss diets repeatedly, periodically, and without control.
- Loss of muscle mass and visceral proteins (heart, kidneys, etc.) due to low protein diets. In addition, these diets can cause arterial hypotension and arrhythmias.
- Low intellectual and physical performance due to calorie restriction and possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These deficits also lead to nail weakness, hair loss, and suppression of the immune system.
- Other effects, more characteristic of diets rich in protein and high in fat, are loss of bone mass, kidney damage, alteration of blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), and hypoglycemia.
- Bad relationship with food: the fear of consuming according to what foods and the imposition of these diets can lead to certain eating behavior disorders
- Demotivation and apathy: these types of diets are monotonous due to the limitation of certain foods to be easily hated and abandoned.
- Social isolation: carrying any pattern that implies strict limitations of food groups can be a difficulty when it comes to relating in a playful environment since many activities and cultural celebrations are carried out around a gastronomic context.
- Feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety: when carrying out this type of diet, there is a repeated cycle of weight loss followed by a subsequent rebound effect, which can become addictive and frustrating at the same time.
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How to approach weight loss?
Given this scenario, it is essential to change the approach given at the level of nutrition to the concept of current diet and the behavior that many have about it. It is vital that a food professional can work on the following aspects in a very individualized way so that the person gradually recovers the lost energy and regains greater metabolic functionality.
- De-diet the person’s brain. Food must be re-educated on a new concept that focuses on food and not products. Also, work on the fear they have of certain foods and meals and, especially, that they will enjoy eating again.
- Eat more gradually and depending on the case so that the body adapts again to more energy availability and relax the adaptations that have arisen due to the restriction. It should be taken into account that a diet of less than 1,200 kcal is insufficient on a nutritional level.
- Introduce and recommend adapted and individualized physical exercise, especially to build muscles. Give specific strength training recommendations to enhance weakened tissue.
- Lighten the focus towards weight as the sole primary goal of treatment. Give importance to other health benefits: more excellent sensation of energy, improvement of intestinal transit, the better quality of hair, skin, and nails, menstrual regularity and improvement of reproductive function, increase in lividity, and psychological improvements when we stop being slaves of feeding.
The concept of a hypocaloric-restrictive diet should be modified as an effective treatment for weight loss by restricting food and cutting calories. The healthy thing would be to alter and improve habits and lifestyles that allow maintaining a long-term weight without hindering the vital energy and motivation of the person.
What you should know…
- The person who lives on a diet goes through different cyclical stages, causing his body to lose metabolic efficiency for each diet change that he proposes to undergo.
- The result of following constant restrictive diets involves resistance to weight loss and lack of energy, constipation, hormonal disorders …
- We must aim to reinforce the idea of changing healthy habits and lifestyles that allow us to maintain ourselves in the long term without hindering vital energy and motivation.
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