Mental Health Bites

New Year, new diet? Think again.

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most common of these resolutions is to start a diet.   If you genuinely need to lose weight and you are going to go about it in a healthy and safe way, then of course this can be a good thing.  However, a large number of people seem to opt for one of the latest fad diets – of which you will find numerous adverts appearing this week.

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Fad diets tend to have one thing in common, in that they include heavily restricting food intake – by either limiting the types of food that you can eat or by decreasing the number of calories that you can consume.

Before you embark on such a diet I want to talk to you about food restriction, and about how damaging this can be to your body, but more importantly to your brain.

Suggesting that food restriction is bad is not a modern concept.  It is not an idea that I, as an Eating Disorder Counsellor, have conjured up to support the work I do.  It is a researched reality that was proven well over 50 years ago.   If you’ve ever studied psychology you might recall The Minnesota Starvation Experiment; a study carried out in 1944-45 to look at the effects of starvation and safe rehabilitation for those effected.

If you are interested you will find plenty online about this study, but let me summarise by telling you that healthy male volunteers were taken and placed on a 12 week semi-starvation diet. These men quickly began to lose weight and developed many symptoms we might associate with Eating Disorders; increased anxiety, obsessive thoughts about food, reduced mood and apathy.  The men developed a distorted perception of their bodies, thinking that they looked fat.  One man threatened to kill himself and one even began to dream of cannibalism – and this was after just a few weeks on the provided diet.

Now you might be thinking “but this is an extreme example, and I wouldn’t go that far”.  Which might be a valid point…. but now, let me tell you that this semi-starvation diet provided the men with 1560 calories a day!

Almost ALL diets today enforce reducing calories to below this point.  When you choose to partake in a diet you are choosing to put yourself at risk of all the above mentioned side effects.

And what was the only thing that prevented or reversed these symptoms? FOOD ! ! !  No supplement or medication was found to be helpful.

So, before you put your body – and your brain – through this trauma really think about what you’re doing.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016!

2 thoughts on “New Year, new diet? Think again.

  1. Mark

    This is why I’m ringing in the new year with pizza! Then back to being sensible as tomorrow is another normal day.

    I wonder, where do you consider the line with fad diets. Everyone I know is talking about the 5-2 one, which I consider a fad, but people keep going “Oh it’s meant to really give longevity and better health”.

    Personally any diet that has a name sounds like a fad to me!

    Have a happy new year Kel!

    1. Kel Post author

      Mark – yes i’m with you “any diet with a name sounds like a fad” to me too. It’s all about balance – in all areas of life. While we use the term ‘diet’ to mean restricting food then we are likely to be looking at how we eat with an unhealthy view.

      Enjoy your pizza – and Happy New Year to you!

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