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4 Dangerous Side Effects of Having a Restrictive Diet

There truly are no benefits.

A restrictive diet includes anything that is a fad diet; it's a diet that lures you into unhealthy habits in hopes it results in rapid weight loss. Although it seems like a quick way to lose weight, it actually provides more harm than benefit. Starving yourself, eating less, and not consuming the correct amount of calories could result in more negative side effects that you didn't know about.

When it comes to restricting your diet, it's important to understand exactly what can happen when you limit yourself. We spoke with Laura Burak MS, RD, founder of GetNaked® Nutrition and author of Slimdown with Smoothies, to explain the damage of detoxes, fads, and other restricted diets. After this, be sure to check out 20 Health Issues That Are A Sign of A Bad Diet.

It plays with your mind.

woman dealing with severe headache or migraine at home

"Simply put, chronic restrictive dieting harms your overall health, both in mind and body," says Burak.

Burak suggests that consuming too few calories slows down your metabolism and causes you to lose muscle mass. This is a combination that, at first, may make your weight on a scale quickly go down, but then your body holds on to every calorie that you eat to protect you.

"Once you can't maintain this unrealistic diet and start eating more again, or usually binging on all the things you weren't allowed to eat, you typically gain weight and more than when you started, which makes you feel even worse," she explains.

You become nutrient-deprived.

phytonutrient supplements

Aside from the fact that you're eating less overall, you're no longer eating all the nutrients and vitamins that can come in healthy foods.

"Calories are energy from food, aka they keep you alive, so consuming an inadequate amount of calories and nutrients deprives your body and mind of essential nourishment and can put a strain on vital organs like your heart," says Burak.

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Your social life may take a toll.

woman using phone in bed, side effects of not sleeping

If you're continuously watching what you eat in terms of how much you eat, chances are you're not going to actively go out and eat at restaurants, or even attend dinner parties because you're so focused on limiting your food intake.

"Restricting tends to affect your social life and is very isolating," says Burak. "You are unable to eat in a flexible fun manner with friends and may even avoid social situations."

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You may struggle with self-confidence.

Woman looking in mirror

"Restricting digs a deeper hole into what may already be a deep dieting and self-confidence struggle," Burak shares. "'But…I need to lose weight quickly so maybe this diet will finally work.' It won't."

According to Burak, your body is way too smart and it's protecting you when you are too restrictive, which is why you gain back the weight even quicker.

"Your mind and body will do everything in its power to entice you to protect you," she states. "This is not a lack of willpower like you may believe, rather it's just your body doing its job. 'Emergency! Sue is starving, we need her to find food ASAP!'"

Furthermore, Burak says restrictive dieting is simply slapping a Band-Aid over the same issues, whether it be a lack of nutrition education and/or a history of disordered eating and diet mentality.

What can be done instead of a restrictive diet?

portioned plate with fish, grains, veggies, fruit, and a water glass

"Here's the secret: it's actually all about adding and enhancing your diet and your life to create this balance so you may feel satisfied for the first time in your life," shares Burak. "I know that sounds crazy to some of you that think the only way to lose weight is to cut out and restrict but that's just not true."

She continues to share that you have to look at your life as a whole and honor the amazing, complex strong body that you were given.

"There's a happy medium everywhere, and I do believe that there is such a thing as healthy weight loss," she says. "There's nothing wrong with you wanting to get healthier and feel better."

Her encouraging words further say that no matter who you are, keep working on yourself to evolve into a healthier person. To do so, slowly adjust habits while still nourishing yourself adequately. This way, you can realistically sustain a healthy weight for your body.

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more about Kayla