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The Vicious Cycle Of Restrictive Diets

Nowadays, there is much information about miracle diets and fast weight loss in blogs, magazines, social networks, and television.

However, much of this information presents foods as “villains” of weight loss, classifying them as good and bad foods. Therefore, many people are afraid or ashamed to eat these so-called “bad foods,” completely removing them from their diet. 

This relationship of discomfort with food can generate a disordered eating behavior that can turn into orthorexia, binge eating, bulimia, or anorexia.

Thoughts like: “I can’t eat a lot,” “I wanted to eat sweets,” and “I don’t eat carbs” are common for those who start a food restriction and also signal that the relationship with food is unhealthy.

Any food restriction generates frustration, and as “everything that is forbidden is better,” the desire for these foods always increases. Thus, if the person “falls into temptation,” he overeats the forbidden food and can reach food compulsion. After this exaggeration comes the guilt and shame of having failed the diet and the promise that you will start again and this time you will make it! Thus, the cycle of restrictive diets begins again.

It is not easy to get out of this vicious circle because, at the beginning of the diet, the person loses weight due to nutritional restrictions, and the tendency is to go back to dieting whenever it fails as if the problem was the person and not the diet itself.   

It is worth mentioning that the weight loss achieved through these diets is not healthy; in addition, these diets without medical supervision generate the dreaded accordion effect.  

Restrictive diets can also bring sadness and isolation, as people often give up get-togethers, parties, and dinners with friends and family to avoid “breaking the diet.”

A healthy diet should be light, pleasurable, and uncomplicated. A professional Nutritionist can help you improve your relationship with food.

Why Can Restrictive Diets Lead To Health Compromises?

Many diets promise easy weight loss, egg diet, fruit diet, miracle soup, and detox, among others. The problem is that this rapid weight loss occurs at the expense of unhealthy and unsustainable long-term metabolic processes. Healthy weight loss is a complex process. See the dangers of restrictive diets for your health:

– Weakness, indisposition, and tiredness – happen due to insufficient intake of nutrients. In addition, it can also cause hair loss and weak nails.

– Nutritional Deficiencies – usually, carbohydrates are excluded or restricted, and, as a result, the body does not receive energy and micronutrients from these foods, especially the B vitamins.

– Loss of muscle mass – heavy calorie restriction results in muscle loss.

– The accordion effect – happens when food restriction is interrupted. As the body has a slower metabolism, it adapts to a new energy reserve. This makes the person regain all the weight loss or even gain more weight than before the diet.

– Eating Disorders – There is evidence that resorting to restrictive diets increases the risk of eating disorders such as orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Food restriction can cause constipation, insulin spikes, and even high cholesterol.

How Does The Diet Cycle Work?

In addition to the accordion effect, the diet cycle causes physical, metabolic, emotional, and even psychic imbalances. 

This cycle usually starts with the desire to lose weight or achieve the “perfect body.” The excess of information about food and nutrition, often from unreliable sources, combined with social pressure to be thin, confuses people about what is or is not healthy. 

Among others, low-carb diets, detox diets, gluten-free diets, and lactose-free diets became known as “healthy diets.” And many people started to restrict gluten and lactose without intolerance or allergy to these foods and, worse, without medical follow-up.   

Check out below the steps of this vicious cycle and why it is harmful to your health:

– Restriction and Deprivation: first, the person removes from the diet all foods considered “bad,” often going hungry and avoiding social contact. Or, start eating only salads, soups, or specific foods on a restrictive diet.

– Desire for forbidden food: this restriction leads to an increased desire for “forbidden” foods such as sweets, cookies, snacks, and chocolates, among others. 

– Exaggeration and Binge Eating: it is impossible to control the desire for forbidden foods for a long time, and the tendency is to exaggerate the amount when they are finally ingested; this leads to binge eating.

– Guilt: the feeling of failure for not being able to follow the diet causes damage to the body and mind.

– Weight Gain: the exaggerations made the person regain all the lost weight or even gain more weight than before the diet. 

– Body dissatisfaction: after going through all the stages, the person is still dissatisfied with their weight. This causes her to start the whole cycle again, putting another “miracle diet” into practice.

How To Lose Weight Without Diet?

Dieting or “shutting up” has been pointed out by many as the only weight loss “formula,” but it’s not quite like that. Recent studies prove that drastic reduction in food or long breaks during meals (intermittent fasting ) can worsen obesity, leading to obesity or eating disorders. 

Experts in eating behavior argue that you must have a good relationship with food and your body. The foods you consume are linked to your tastes, affective memories, and socialization. And the act of eating should be a pleasurable moment and not one of anguish and deprivation.

Behavioral Nutrition deals with this issue; because of that, it does not prescribe diets but diet adjustments. Thus, the patient can improve his relationship with food without that feeling of frustration and failure. 

Some tools used are:

– Intuitive eating: this technique helps to identify the body’s perception of food, such as hunger, appetite, and satiety.

– Mindful Eating: eating mindfully, being really “present” and conscious during eating.

– Motivational Interview 

– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Together with the patient, the Behavioral Nutritionist will outline viable food strategies to improve their health and quality of life.


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