Have you ever scrolled through social media and come across comments like “I wish I had their body” or instantly felt self-doubt and the need to compare yourself? It’s been normalized over the decades for people to compare themselves with the bodies of models or influencers on social media. Over the past 100 years, the ideal body type has kept changing. In the 2000s the type was known as “the buff beauty” which meant having washboard abs/visible abs. Since 2010, the type is known as “the booty babe” which means that the ideal body type was to have a big butt. Since COVID-19 isolation began, people have been trying to achieve having an hourglass figure, thin waist, or a lean body. This body standard prioritizes skinniness and it has nothing to do with health and well-being. People have found that the easiest way to achieve that body type is through dieting, which can sometimes be to the extent of undereating to cutting out certain food groups. Although the ideal body type that social media considers “perfect” is extravagant, people are still trying to achieve it with the “easy” way which is extreme dieting, otherwise known as a crash diet, and I believe that dieting has more negative impacts than it does positive.
Dieting to lose weight means that you eat fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. Eating too few calories can result in your metabolism slowing down because of the lack of energy and the efforts to conserve the energy you have left. When your metabolism slows down, your body isn’t burning as many calories naturally as before.
When I scroll through TikTok, I always see posts about losing weight and calorie counting. Some videos that I have been seeing recently have had people eating as low as 900 calories. Eating 900 calories a day is less than or equivalent to the intake of a toddler. This low caloric intake takes a negative turn in the future because 95% of the people who diet end up regaining their weight in the span of 1 to 5 years. Diets are short-term remedies, not long-term solutions.
Another side effect of dieting is that you may not be getting the proper nutrients that your body needs, which in turn can make you suffer from health issues including calcium deficiencies, cardiac stress, dehydration, gallbladder disease, seizures, weakening of muscles, and so many more. For example, people who eat an extreme diet may not be getting enough calcium which can lead to the weakening of bones and stress fractures. The bones won’t be able to recover from injuries or rebuild from wear quickly or even not at all.
Dieting restricts calories, which in turn restricts energy and brainpower. It can lead to more stress and depression when it comes to food along with lower self-esteem. In a study related to moods and weight loss, 52% of the participants were more likely to be in a depressed mood, because of weight loss, than the 5% who maintained their original weight.
Extreme dieters end up thinking about food all the time because they don’t allow themselves to eat the quantities they need or the food that they want. Since they have less energy when dieting, they will also have a lower attention span. They won’t be able to focus or do anything with a full amount of energy and they’ll feel exhausted all the time. 41.5% of the female athletes who participated in aesthetic sports, which include; dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, swimming, and figure skating, reported an eating disorder and they were eight times more likely to get an injury than the athletes without an eating disorder.
Extreme dieters end up having many fear foods, which are foods that they are scared of eating because of potential “weight gain.” They end up craving their fear foods and when they finally eat them, they may end up binging.
Crash diets can cause eating disorders, which are associated with anxiety from eating certain food groups, weight, or body shape. If a person experiences an eating disorder, it means they restrictively eat, avoid certain food groups, binge eat, or force themselves with excessive exercise. 35% of people who sometimes diet later progress into disordered eating and 25% swerve into total eating disorders.
Although dieting may lead to faster changes and is considered the easy way out, it is one of the most unhealthy ways to lose weight or change your body shape. Yes, it may be the quickest way, but diets can leave you with several mental and physical issues such as hair thinning, loss of muscle or endurance, decreased oxygen utilization, dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, weight fluctuation, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and slowed heart rate.
Dieting results in so many negative impacts that affect your physical and mental well-being. Extreme diets can lead to consequences that can be detrimental to your health and can cause more harm than good. In a study of college athletes, as the result of dieting, 25% of them had an eating disorder, 26% had a menstrual dysfunction, 10% had a low bone mineral composition, and 2.6% had all three of those.
An alternative or healthy way to lose weight or achieve your body goals is to maintain physical activity. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment, so it should be done in whatever shape or form best appeals to you, whether that’s sports, walking, strength training, biking, running, or yoga.
Another way is to eat cleaner. Eat the same portions and fuel your body, but eat less processed food and more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and home-cooked meals. Incorporate lots of protein and make sure you’re taking in every food group. A good rule to follow is the 80-20 rule. Eat 80% clean and 20% whatever you’re craving. It’s always good to eat in moderation.
The ideal body is not a diet body, it’s a well-nourished body. Dieting causes many negative side effects. There may be some light diets that work for some people, like the 80-20 diet, but it’s important not to go into any extreme diets where your not getting enough nutrients or eating a significantly low amount of calories because it will later result in both physical and mental health issues.