Fad diets are sold as quick fixes to achieve weight loss, but they often do more harm than good. The National Institute of Health warns that excessively restrictive diets can lead to pronounced depression, emotional distress, and irritability. Surprisingly, researchers found that dieting is an ineffective method of weight control and could even contribute to weight gain by altering how the body responds to hunger signals.

Restrictive diets all have the same underlying principle—a temporary and often unscientific solution to a chronic problem. While they promise dramatic results by severely restricting calories or macronutrients, they can also lead to negative consequences for the body. Today, we’ll discuss the possible effects of restrictive diets and what you can do instead to lose weight safely and sustainably.

The dangers of restrictive diets

1. They can cause physical health problems

Crash diets, also known as very low-calorie diets, can indeed help people lose weight quickly. Because these diets have a very low-calorie content of 600 to 800 calories per day, they can positively impact fat distribution around the body. However, scientists warn that crash diets can also slow the metabolism, weaken the immune system, and increase the chances of dehydration and irregular heartbeat.

2. They can harm your mental health

Restrictive diets are common triggers for binge eating, which is associated with depression, anxiety, and weight cycling. This cycle of binging and restricting is often tough to break away from and can be an extremely exhausting process. Being starved for long periods makes prioritizing other activities such as socialization hard and can lead to food anxiety and social isolation.

3. They are too expensive

Fad diets are often accompanied by expensive supplements that cost hundreds of dollars. This is because restrictive diets fail to provide the necessary nutrients the body needs, which can be furnished solely by a balanced diet consisting of various foods. In fact, the FDA does not ensure the safety of dietary supplements before they go to the market. These supplements are also most likely accompanied by a warning label that they do not come with approved therapeutic claims.

How you can make your weight loss sustainable

  • Focus on nutritional value instead of calories

Science shows that food tracking is still the best way to achieve an effective weight loss plan. A sustainable weight loss strategy emphasizes making healthier choices and eating more nutritious foods, and this can be done by tracking the food you intake and analyzing its nutritional value. Although calorie counting is a great tool to track the food you consume and help you lose weight, it does not capture the quality of your nutrition. Thus, an individually-tailored fitness program could help map out a daily meal strategy that allows you to eat better, improves your food choices, and minimizes cravings.

  • Stay hydrated

Getting enough water every day can be beneficial for weight loss. Because water has no calories, it can help manage body weight and reduce calorie intake when substituted for sugar-laden drinks such as sweet tea, processed fruit juices, and soda. Try to consume water from various beverages and foods with higher water content, like fruits and vegetables.

  • Make exercise a daily habit

Exercise is a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone can benefit from physical activity, whether it’s gentle walking or heavy lifting or even running physically-demanding errands at home. Daily physical activity should be a top priority if you want to maintain a healthy weight. In our blog, we emphasize the importance of having a wide range of exercise routines to keep this aspect of weight loss exciting.

Rigid diet plans do little to support sustainable weight loss and long-term healthy living, and can even pose real dangers to one’s body. By focusing on consistent daily choices, you can make your fitness journey sustainable and even pleasurable.