LN – What are the dangers of extreme diets?

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On the Internet, on social networks, through “word of mouth” or through WhatsApp, diets of all kinds that promise to lose “those extra pounds” in record time circulate more frequently. But what happens to our body and mind when we go on very restrictive diets? What are the risks?

  • Humor changes. Experts explain that these “express diets” can also cause irritability, insomnia, headaches and recurrent cold in the hands and feet, since the body decreases its temperature to conserve the little energy available.
  • Rebound effect. Eating plans that are so restrictive are difficult to maintain in the long term and end up driving us out of control. For this reason, it is important to know that low-calorie diets are often the gateway to an eating disorder and are contraindicated in adolescents.
  • Quick but unsustainable results. “This type of diet has a very high failure rate, “says Alejandra Freire, nutritionist at the Bariatric Surgery Service of the Hospital de Clínicas and coordinator of the nutrition area of ​​La Casita. It is not possible to sustain them in the long term, since there are too many restrictions This creates irritability and isolation, since they tend to avoid certain places in order to be able to follow the indications of the “miracle” diet, so they also end up restricting their social life.
  • Becoming a chronic dieter. After doing so much diet, the basal metabolic output decreases, that is, the amount of energy that the body consumes throughout the day to fulfill its basic vital functions such as sleeping, breathing or digestion. This means that in adulthood, lifelong dieters have difficulty losing weight because their body’s energy expenditure has decreased. As time goes by, for this reason, they need to follow more strict diets to see results.

The health hazard

When a person falls into an eating disorder, the damage to their health is manifold. Some of the physical ones (in addition, there are many others on an emotional and psychological level) are the following:

  • Heart damage: one of the effects of extreme food restriction is the loss of muscle mass in general, which in the case of someone with anorexia can include the thinning of the heart muscle.
  • Hypotension: low blood pressure is associated with poor diet.
  • Anemia: due to a low level of iron in the blood.
  • Cavities: vomiting causes problems in the teeth due to the hydrochloric acid in the stomach that wears down the enamel, promoting the appearance of cavities and esophagitis.
  • Gastric problems: the high frequency of vomiting can cause gastroesophageal reflux. In addition, the way in which vomit is introduced causes lesions in the throat, the palate, the gums and the esophagus.
  • Potassium level: very low potassium levels are found in people who vomit to purge their intake, seriously compromising cardiac function.
  • Deterioration of the structure and strength of the bones.
  • Hair and skin breakdown It becomes rough and dry from lack of hydration and nutrients.

What should a healthy eating plan look like?

  • Between the most frequent mistakes that lead to the failure of diets are highlighted salter meals, reduce portions to a minimum amount of calories, remove variety (for example, eat all fruits or vegetables) and do not include rich things. “All that later will lead us to lack of control, because the way to reincorporate prohibited foods is compulsive and can trigger an eating disorder,” says Juana Pouálisis, Juana Pouálisis, psychiatrist and felllow from the Academy of Eating Disorders .
  • The recommendation is to avoid diets that have a beginning and an end since there are no magic solutions, but there must be a change of habits that we can sustain over time. “The food plan has to be in accordance with the type of life that the patient has, his caloric expenditure, his habits and his tastes so that they can be sustained over time. Therefore, they have to be individualized”, emphasizes Freire.
  • A healthy eating plan must include a wide variety of foods with macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), it has to be harmonious, varied, appropriate to the age and type of activity carried out by the person. “Ideally, 50% of your calories are carbohydrates, 20% proteins and 30% good quality fats. Then, with each patient, you have to personalize them so that they become adequate and sustainable plans to the reality of each one “, Freire details.
  • There should be no “allowed” or “prohibited”, but contain them all in a balanced and healthy way. Pouisis points out that foods that are also “objects of desire” should be included, which are those that belong to the group of those historically prohibited. That is the key to avoiding future food miscontrols.

In this sense, Pouálisis provides other recommendations:

  • Makes four to six meals a day and eat slowly, taking time to complete each meal.
  • At lunchtime, don’t focus all your attention on food. Live the moment of the table with family or friends, take it as an opportunity to talk and share, in a relaxed and safe environment. For this, it is key to disconnect from the screens.
  • Listen e identify the feeling of hunger and satiety.
  • Do not punish yourself for not achieving goals proposed nutritionals. It is not always possible to eat the way you want.
  • Do not abuse the ritual of weighing yourself.
  • Incorporate physical activity as a normal routine on the weekly plan without feeling guilty if you can’t sustain it. Remember that extreme situations of little food and a lot of physical activity are incompatible in the long term.

Where to go for help with an eating disorder

  • Durand Hospital: Tel .: (011) 4982-5555 / 5655
  • Piñero Hospital: Tel .: (011) 4631-8100 / 0526
  • Borda Hospital: Tel .: (011) 4305-6666 / 6485
  • Pirovano Hospital: Tel .: 011 4546-4300
  • Argerich Hospital: Tel .: 011 4121-0700
  • Garrahan Hospital: Tel .: 011 4122-6000
  • Gutiérrez Hospital: Tel .: 011 4962-9247
  • La Casita: is a care and prevention center for adolescents and young people and their families. To address the problem that may arise, it works emphasizing the resources of the person and their family system, relying mainly on the peer group. Tel .: 011 4787-5432
  • CITPAD: is a medical institution specialized in anorexia, bulimia and depressive disorders. It has a day hospital. Tel .: 011 4863-7640


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