In the UK alone, nearly a quarter of the population are classified as clinically obese and the government has predicted that this figure will increase to 50% of women and 60% of men being obese by 2050 unless something drastically changes.
The definition of obesity is set at a BMI (body mass index) at between 30 and 40. If your bodyweight lies between 25 and 30, you are defined as overweight.
The NHS recommends that a physically active man needs around 2500 calories in order to maintain health. The figure for women is 2000 calories, and any more calories than this will store the excess energy as fat.
Low activity levels and a few extra calories on top of this will result in you becoming overweight. It is an insidious process that creeps up on most people. In some cases, you may only be eating an extra 300 calories or so but over time, this will make a big impact on your body shape and size.
The big problem is that once the weight is on it can be extremely hard to shift. Many of us will look to a diet to lose these extra pounds and get down to a normal healthy weight.
A crash diet that helps you lose your excess weight quickly can be tempting and there are plenty to choose from.
However, crash diets come with associated medical problems and do not work to permanently keep your weight down. You cannot stay on a crash diet and then expect to adapt to a healthy eating plan once you are thin. It does not work like that.
Starvation diets – AKA crash diets or Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD)
Most diet plans are not advertised as starvation diets but essentially this is the only way that they work.
This is not enough to sustain health and strength throughout the duration of the diet and will cause numerous side effects that will not help you keep your weight off long term.
Key to a crash diet is always a miracle ingredient such as lemons, syrup or cabbage that is supposed to deliver health benefits and sustain you through your weight loss but this never works. These ingredients do not provide enough nutrition to sustain you.
Common Side effects of a Very low Calorie Diet
Throughout the duration of your crash diet, you can expect side effects that include the following conditions. These are many of the symptoms of malnutrition.
- Extreme hunger
- Impaired judgement
- Sleepiness in the day
- Sleep disturbances at night
As the diet progresses over a few days, your body will attempt to shut down to conserve your fat reserves. Your metabolism goes into fat storing mode and slows to conserve energy – this is a human survival method that helps us deal with food shortages.
Once you crack and begin to eat normally, again you will find that your weight gain will probably exceed your original weight because of your now slowed metabolism.
Maintaining any drastically controlled calorie diet can lead to serious medical problems that require treatment.
Physical Problems Caused by Extreme Dieting
These are tiny stones that form in the gall bladder and it is a painful condition that is usually seen in older people who are overweight. However, doctors are seeing an increasing number of young women suffering from gallstones caused by crash dieting.
According to the US Dept of Health and Human Services;
As the body metabolizes fat during prolonged fasting and rapid weight loss—such as “crash diets”—the liver secretes extra cholesterol into bile, which can cause gallstones
Bizarre as it seems over 3 million people suffering from malnutrition are seen by the medical profession in the UK each year. As well as the associated problems of feeling fatigued and hungry, malnutrition reduces the body’s immune system to disease. It will stop a woman’s monthly periods and it can lead to future reproductive disorders.
Extreme dieting is only a quick step away from malnutrition. You may still be overweight yet suffer from malnutrition if you do not get adequate nutrition from your diet.
Calorie Counting Can Lead to Obsession
It is not just the crash diets that can cause medical problems. Long term reduced calorie controlled diets and even healthy weight loss programmes such as Weight Watchers can lead to eating disorders and obsession in some people.
Nutritionists believe that obsessive calorie counting can create an unhealthy relationship with food that can lead to bulimia and anorexia. There has been a recent study that an obsession with calorie counting may be linked to Autism in girls and young women.
Source: Anorexic Article on Daily Mail
When High Protein Diets Go Wrong
Calorie counting and crash dieting are not the only ways to lose weight. There are a whole range of High protein diets such as the Adkins diet and the Dukan diet, which require you to avoid carbohydrates and instead eat only protein such as meat and fat. These diets have been popular because it seems to be a way to eat what you want without restriction but can cause numerous effects.
These diets lack fibre and are a poor source of essential vitamins and nutrients. Your energy levels will be low due to the lack of blood sugar fuelled by carbohydrates. The British dietetic association has branded the Dukan diet as one of the worst diets currently available and it has been linked to causing high blood pressure and heart disease.
Stay on this diet and expect to smell. Putting your body into ketosis where you consume your own body fat causes a variety of unpleasant side effects including constipation, bad breath, unpleasant and pungent sweating and low energy levels.
Source: Telegraph article on Dukan Diet
When Fat Binders Go Wrong – Lose Your Excess Food in Waste
Losing weight by taking a fat binder diet pill may seem like a safe option and if you are overweight, your doctor may prescribe medication containing orlistat such as Alli.
Alli is a diet pill that works in the stomach by binding to dietary fats so that a percentage of what you eat is simply passed through the body as waste.
A side effect of orlistat is that it causes unpleasant and oily stools, which according to some users is bright orange in colour. It also causes increased flatulence and the major problem is that in many cases you may pass faeces when you pass wind, which is both embarrassing and horrible. You may feel that your diet has gone very wrong when you do this in public but it is an extremely common side effect of drugs such as Alli.
The upside of fat binders is that they seem safe. But the downside….surely pooing yourself in public is a step too far!
Addicted to Prescription Diet Pills
Diet pills can help you support your weight loss and an herbal over the counter pill may help you lose weight with no problems. Sadly not all diet pills work and worryingly some diet pills work but cause side effects.
Even OTC diet pills often contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulant ingredients and this may increase heart rate, make you feel anxious and jittery and are not sustainable for long-term use.
However, the real danger really lays in prescription diet pills that remain available on sale over the internet. These contain an addictive substance and part of the banned class of drugs. They are dangerous for use and can cause permanent heart damage, which is why they were banned in the UK. Addiction to ephedrine covers a whole range of mental problems and can promote depression and schizophrenia and similar.
An addiction to slimming pills increases anxiety levels and this combined with the appetite suppressant effects easily lead to eating disorders such as anorexia.
Buying prescription slimming pills over the internet is a criminal offence
The Rise of the Diet Industry = the Rise of Obesity
It comes as no surprise that as obesity levels rise, so the diet industry grows ever bigger. Celebrity diets, weight loss programmes, diet pills and books all play a part in this lucrative and growing business. Surely if any of these diets or products actually worked then we would not be as fat as we are?
Most people try going on a diet, slim down and then regain the weight within a short period of time. Most of us are caught in a cycle of weight loss and weight gain and it will not improve until we look at what we eat and our activity levels. We need to change our behaviour and what we eat on a daily basis.
So Do Diets Work At All?
According to medical experts, most diets will work short term, but not many will stand the test of time. The act of establishing some guidelines about what we eat is often enough to bring about some immediate weight loss results for even the wackiest of diets. However according to statistics most people will be back to where they started within a few years, even with a sensible low impact diet plan.
According to the American Psychological Association, Yo yo dieting is not good for health;
Evidence suggests that repeatedly losing and gaining weight is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function
It seems that diets do not work as well as we would like.
Forget about the Diet and Just Get Healthy!
Easier said than done but this does work. The real key to successful weight loss is to change your lifestyle and adapt your ordinary eating habits to something more healthy. Don’t binge or fast but instead try to eat moderately and include healthy ingredients in your diet by following guidelines in keeping to your five a day.
Exercise is also important. Studies consistently find that people who report the most exercise also have the most weight loss. Exercise boosts your metabolism and makes you feel fitter as well.
When you are overweight and are faced with an uphill struggle of a lot of weight to shift, it is easy to get disheartened but if you follow the NHS guidelines and aim at losing no more than 2lbs a week, it can be done.
We cannot expect overnight results but if we manage to lose weight gradually, there is a much better chance of keeping it off. Even more importantly, we will not damage your health and wellbeing along the way.