Guest Post: Top 10 Dangers of Chronic and Crash Dieting

Monday, August 6, 2012

Every New Generation We Get Another Wave of the Same Old Thing
Maybe it's the high fructose corn syrup in today's super-size soda drinks that's making every body fat and needing to go on a diet. But, little girls still play with ultra-thin Barbie Dolls. And that old adage, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” is still being talked around. The old Fen-Phen diet was a killer, literally. The drug made people’s hearts explode. That was pulled from shelves but others may be as dangerous showed up to replace it.

The Tape-Worm Diet
Back in the Sixties of the last century, some people went on a tape-worm diet. People would swallow a slimy worm and supposedly it would suck up all the calories. When you reached a desirable weight, you'd take an antibiotic to kill the worm. The famous ultra-thin model of the time, Twiggy, was supposed to have had one; supposedly the opera singer Maria Callas had one, too. It could be deadly, or at least cause stomach bloating, neither a desirable effect for someone who just wanted to be skinny.

Unachievable and Unrealistic “Ideals”
Nowadays the old stand-bys, crash dieting, chronic dieting, yo-yo dieting – all more or less the same obsession-driven ploys – are being used once again, or as always. And once again the old warnings are being ignored. People are putting their health and their lives on the line because of poor body image, poor self-image, or silly societal or cultural “ideals” that are unrealistic and often unachievable. Obviously, our Western Culture must rethink its definition of what really makes a “Good Woman” or a “Good Man” and attempt to change the “imprinting” effects the old definitions have had on our young people.

All Are Signs of Eating Disorders and Psychological Issues
As mentioned above, extreme dieting can take a number of forms. And they are all eating disorders and are usually the result of psychological issues. Here's a list of the most common types of “dieting” you're apt so see amongst today's population:
        Crash   Dieting
This “diet” requires a severe and sudden restriction of caloric intake. It may indeed cause weight to fall off rapidly, but at with a severe threat to physical health and an almost certainty that the weight will be regained.
        Chronic Dieting
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition calls this a “syndrome” and it is diagnosed when a person             severely limits their caloric intake on a regular basis. The subject usually has an an obsession with body weight and size and goes off and on a “diet program” over the course of months or years, even if weight loss results.
        Yo-Yo Dieting
Also called weight cycling, this “diet” involves the repeated quick loss of weight followed by a period of weight gain. It can have the ultimate effect of leading to obesity, believe it or not; or at least the “dieter” being in much worse shape than when started.
Diets” Offer No Lasting Good Results
The “diets” listed above focus on either dramatically decreasing calorie consumption, or they rely on some “miracle” drug or food that will burn fat for you – dietary aids, supplements, or diuretics. Often, extreme exercise is included in the “weight loss” regimen. Or, no exercise at all is deemed important, that somehow one will lose weight without any exercise program. Well, these regimens won't help one lose weight in a beneficial way, and they can potentially cause great harm and even death. The ten most common maladies suffered:
        ONE:   Organ Damage
Your kidneys, pancreas, and liver, can sustain severe damage, sometimes enough to lead to transplants, dialysis, or even death.
        TWO: Cardiovascular Damage
Cardiac stress sufficient enough to increase the risk of heart attacks and the development of atherosclerosis can occur. Repeated bouts of crash dieting can cause a dramatic change in cholesterol levels and bring on high blood pressure.
        THREE: GI Problems
You may consume so few calories your body may begin burning muscles which means tissues such as the stomach and intestines will start to erode. Muscles that make up other internal organs will also erode to help the brain survive. If your dieting is complicated by bulimia, stomach acids can erode your oesophagus.            
        FOUR: Immune System Damage
Weakens the function of the immune system, which relies on white blood cells and your lymphatic system to function properly, making you susceptible to all kinds of disease.
        FIVE: Bone Conditions
Osteoporosis and rickets are common. These conditions cause your bones to become brittle, which increases your risk of broken and fractured bones. The hips and spine may be affected, making mobility difficult, perhaps causing scoliosis or other deformity.
        SIX: Malnutrition
Vitamin deficiencies can occur, especially of iron, vitamin B12, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Signs of malnutrition include rapid weight loss, fatigue, and dizziness. Crash diets cause the dieter to risk not getting enough of the proper vitamins and minerals needed to be healthy. A dieter is at risk for such problems as iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and potassium and sodium deficiency. With those deficiencies, the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues.      
        SEVEN: Obesity
Restricting caloric intake too much can actually cause your metabolism to slow down, which will hinder weight-loss efforts. As the body tries to conserve energy, it erodes muscle first. When calories increase, they are first stored as fat. Ironically, you could actually get fatter with extreme dieting.
        EIGHT: Mental Health Disorders
Crash dieting can make dieters weak, irritable and much less able to resist inevitable food cravings. When crash dieters give in to these food-related temptations by eating too much or eating foods forbidden by the crash diet, they feel more unhappy with themselves and are more likely to try increasingly outlandish crash diets in an attempt to break the cycle. Mental disorders such as depression, and eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia can set in.  
        NINE: Chronic Diseases
Crash diets put you at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, and those can all lead to premature death.
        TEN: Diet Drugs or Supplements
Experts are predicting that weight loss drugs or supplements may be the next big drug safety issue. Weight loss products are being infused with potentially dangerous ingredients – far      riskier than prescription diet pills because you would be under a           doctor's care. One expert even warned that if a weight loss supplement is working, it's probably due to a stimulant whose safety            is unproven. These are common symptoms:
Increased Heart Rate                                     – Changes in Taste, Metallic Taste
Increased Blood Pressure Levels                    – Dry Mouth
Insomnia                                                        – Numbness of Skin
Nervousness                                                  – Nausea
Headaches                                                     – Abdominal Cramping
Dizziness or Lightheadedness                          – Liver Problems
Weakness                                                      – Diarrhea, other Gastrointestinal Issues

Think About Dieting and the Reason You're Doing It
Are you using dieting, binging or eating to satisfy needs that are not being met? The difference between a crash diet and a healthful weight loss program is that a well-rounded, sustainable weight loss plan focuses on a nutritious, varied diet. Lifestyles changes such as regular exercise and gradual weight loss are the sensible way to go. Consult a physician or dietician for guidance. An at-risk person should understand that they don't have to face alone the yo-yo their life has become. They should reach out to a trusted friend or loved one or scour the Web for venues to rescue themselves from the horribly debilitating – mentally and physically – diet hell.

Krisca Te works with Open Colleges, Australia's leading provider of TAFE courses equivalent and nutrition courses. When not working, she enjoys spending her day with her 2-month old son.

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