What are the dangers of obsessive dieting?
Wanting to lose a few pounds is a normal goal for many people - but at what point does dieting become obsessive?
Moreover, what are the dangers associated with these types of behaviors? Whether you're cutting calories, going on crash diets or "cleansing" the pounds away, it's important to be aware of potential risks - some of which may be life-threatening.
In people who are severely restricting food intake or cutting out entire food groups altogether, it's not uncommon for malnourishment to set in.
It's simply impossible for the body to get all the vitamins and nutrients it needs without an adequate amount of calories and a variety of foods.
Malnourishment may cause different problems depending on the individual, but overall it can interfere with hormonal balance, cause fatigue and lethargy, and make you more prone to injuries and illness. For women, it can also lead to difficulty conceiving or changes in menstrual patterns.
Higher body fat percentage
Many people believe that drastically cutting calories is the key to weight loss. However, unless this is done under medical supervision, severe calorie restriction can actually lower your muscle mass and increase your body fat percentage.
So while you may appear to be getting thinner, your health is being compromised - having a high body fat percentage can lead to a lower metabolism, greater risk for metabolic syndrome, and an increased vulnerability for conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Turning to cleansing or detox programs for dieting purposes can cause temporary weight loss, but it's usually only from fluid loss.
These types of approaches can put you at risk for dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, especially if you're not incorporating solid foods into your diet.
Most short-term diets won't cause cardiovascular problems, but obsessive dieting or long-term calorie restriction can increase the risk for heart attacks and heart muscle loss.
The health of your blood vessels may also be compromised with extreme dieting.
If you experience symptoms like heart palpitations or shortness of breath, it's important to stop whatever dieting protocol you're on and seek medical attention immediately.