By John Hand —
Americans are diet-obsessed, but never more so than in the summer when the weather warms and it seems like everyone wants to shed pounds so they can slide neatly into a bathing suit, take a vacation to a sunny climate or maybe head to a wedding.
In fact, at any time of the year, upwards of 45 million Americans are on a diet, most with the aim of shedding pounds through low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diets as opposed to low-fat, low-cholesterol programs.
The draw to a low-calorie diet is obvious, but that doesn’t mean it is always the best and safest approach. Certainly, an extreme diet focused on 800-1,500 calories a day can result in a weekly weight loss of three to five pounds, according to WebMD.com. Admittedly, those numbers are attractive. Unfortunately, the risks of an extremely low-calorie diet far outweigh its benefits.
Severely depriving a body of food (think calories) pushes it into survival mode, Health & Wellness reports. When this happens, the body looks for an alternative to calories for its energy source and winds up turning to lean muscle. Making matters worse is that the reduction of lean muscle adversely impacts a person’s metabolism.
The dangers don’t stop there. Extremely low-calorie diets can lead to eating disorders, heart issues, higher metabolism, lower testosterone levels in men and disrupted menstrual cycles in women, LiveStrong.com warns. What’s worse is that the ultimate downer to extreme diets is that they really don’t work, especially if the goal is to lose weight and keep it off.
“These extreme diets are either very low in carbohydrates or very low in fat. Such extreme diets not only make the diet unbalanced but also have safety issues. Moreover, these are not sustainable in the long run. The weight that is lost is regained within a short period of time when people go off these extreme diets,” reported researcher Shilpa Joshi in the Indian Journal of Medical Research.
This string of adverse consequences is why doctors rarely condone extremely low-calorie diets. Only when a person is severely obese will a medical professional green light an extreme diet that’s limited to soups and drinking juices. In these cases, supervision by a doctor or nutritionist is essential.
Of course, this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t look to trim pounds if needed or just generally eat a healthy, balanced diet. The USDA recommends that the average female should have a diet that includes 1,800-2,400 calories daily, while men should consume 2,400-3,000 calories daily.
Those looking to lose weight should trim calories from added sugars and saturated fats. They should also reduce sodium intake, according to the USDA. What does this look like on the plate? More fruits, vegetables, oils and grains and a whole lot less pizza and burgers.
It shouldn’t be surprising then that one study reported that the Mediterranean Diet which consists largely of grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world.
So yes, that summer body may be tempting, but not at the cost of an extremely low-calorie diet that puts a person’s health in danger and isn’t likely to lead to long-term weight loss anyway.