Diets that require extreme calorie deficits can lead to a cycle of continually losing and regaining weight, deteriorating health, and undesirable changes in the physical composition of the body. Eating fewer and fewer calories in a futile attempt to lose or maintain weight does not halt the relentlessly increasing numbers on dieter’s scales.
How It Begins
As a weight management consultant and clinical hypnotherapist, I helped clients break the vicious cycle of destructive dieting. Treatment for severely overweight people suffering from or at risk for serious, potentially life-threatening, weight-related illnesses and diseases may include medically supervised very-low-calorie diets. However, habitually using self-imposed low-calorie diets for quick weight loss is dangerous; their effectiveness gradually diminishes, and any weight loss achieved is usually not sustainable.
Nutritionally poor crash diets, fad diets, and low-calorie and very-low calorie diets alter the body’s metabolic and chemical balance. Yo-yo dieting, repeatedly losing and regaining weight, can lead to heart disease and other illnesses and trigger a life-long struggle against excess weight. Dieting often leads to dehydration from insufficient fluid intake. Dehydration causes electrolyte imbalances, damages the heart and kidneys, and plays a role in cellulite formation.
Metabolism, Carbohydrates, and Muscle Tissue
Eating fewer calories than needed to keep the brain, heart, lungs, and other organs and body systems functioning causes the metabolic rate to slow down as the body adapts to a reduction in its fuel supply. The body interprets low-calorie diets as a form of starvation and begins storing calories as fat to fuel its metabolic needs if starvation continues.
Carbohydrates yield glucose, the brain’s main source of fuel and the body’s main source of energy. Because the brain cannot store glucose, a continuous supply is needed. In the body, glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. After a few days of restrictive dieting, carbohydrate stores are diminished, and the body begins to consume protein in muscle tissue for energy. Protein breakdown releases amino acids into the bloodstream to be converted into glucose by the liver.
Muscles and Weight Gain
Everything people do requires the use of muscles, which makes them the most metabolically active tissue in the body. Even at rest, muscle burns more calories than other tissues, for example, one pound of muscle burns about three times more calories per day than one pound of fat tissue. The loss of muscle due to severely restrictive dieting reduces the number of calories burned each day causing weight gain without an increase in calorie intake.
While most people associate calcium with bones and teeth, this vital mineral plays an important role in muscle contractions, including the contractions that keep the heart beating. Low-calorie diets usually do not provide enough calcium. Without a sufficient dietary source of this mineral, the body leeches it from bones, thereby increasing the dieter’s risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
Undo the damage. Consult a doctor or dietitian for a weight loss plan best suited to your health status and daily caloric requirements. Begin a regular exercise regimen to increase lean muscle tissue for sustainable weight loss.
Fat Thin People
People who continue the cycle of losing and regaining weight risk normal-weight obesity. Their body weight is normal, but they have a high body-fat content, which places them at risk for weight-related illnesses.
“Cellulite – Overview,” University of Maryland Medical Center
“Endocrine Regulation of Glucose Metabolism ,” Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
“Can You Be Considered Obese if You Have a Normal Body Weight?” Mayo Clinic