Dangers of fad diet - three forks with shadows against teal background

 

The ‘New Year, New You’ message is the soundtrack to January. But this can be a month filled with negative, unhealthy diet advice. Affecting our body confidence and self-esteem. If you fall into an unhealthy fad diet plan, you could also impact your period health!

To kick things off, let’s firstly look at the word ‘diet.’ This is not only related to weight loss and I feel it’s important to address this before we delve a little deeper. Your diet is essentially what food you habitually eat. Many people follow a ‘diet plan’ for medical or health reasons. The danger with the January diet plan is that it’s often got a hidden agenda. The timing alone speaks volumes – Is it to make us feel guilty for indulging over Christmas?

Now, I appreciate for some people January and it’s bag of promise for a new year can feel like a motivating month. If you want to seize the moment to feel more in control of your health and wellbeing, then that’s a positive decision that you’re making for yourself. But dangerous fad diets and extreme weight loss plans circulate like sharks in January. There’s a big difference between these two approaches to diet. The obvious being, the one you choose for yourself is to ‘feel healthier’ whereas the one that haunts you on social media is to play on insecurities and sell you an unhealthy, unrealistic goal.

 

So, what exactly is a fad diet?

A fad diet is the kind of plan where you eat a very restrictive diet with few foods or an unusual combination of foods for a short period of time to lose weight very quickly. It can include extreme detoxing or bizarre eating plans which fail to acknowledge the need to nourish your body.

These types of diets not only serve you up bad advice that can impact your wellbeing. Here’s a brief roundup of how they can impact your wellbeing in other ways:

o The majority of the weight you drop when you lose weight too quickly tends to be water weight, which can lead to rapid dehydration.
o Fad diets involve depriving yourself of calories, however, calories are what translate into the energy your body needs to get through the day, so you might find yourself feeling fatigued for most of the day.
o Losing weight too quickly can lead to severe diarrhoea, to be followed later by constipation.
o Your body may be deprived of its essential nutrients and you’ll become malnourished.

Plus, to top it off fad diets are wrapped in a mix of negative marketing messages. Dictating to you that this is what ‘healthy’ looks like. This becomes even worse when a celebrity puts their name or face to it.

 

Bad for you and bad for your period

To be more specific on how this can affect your wellbeing, fad diets can impact your period health. Generally speaking, what you eat on the build-up to your period can impact how you feel. For example, if you’re diet is high in salty foods it can increase water retention, and this could make you suffer from increased bloating as a result.

But how else can a fad diet impact your period heath? Here are a few more things to consider:

 

Sudden diet change

A sudden change to a restrictive diet acts as a stressor, just as much as illness or extreme increase in exercise does. This can affect the hormone release (mainly oestrogen) that allows you to have regular cycles. Think of it this way – when your body is stressed, it sacrifices non-essential functions (such as the ability to become pregnant) to survive. Low oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, but a long-term health concern is an increased risk of bone loss (osteoporosis).

 

Nutritional deficiencies

Fad diets often restrict food groups, and this can potentially lead to nutritional deficiencies. Some of which can make impact your wellbeing on your period. For example, during your period you lose (on average) ¼ cup of blood or more if you have a heavier flow. Iron travels through the blood, therefore, you can lose iron as a result. If your body is already suffering from low iron levels this can make it worse leaving you feeling fatigued, weak and dizzy. Your body is going through a lot during menstruation, it’s important to feel nourished with good nutrients to feel at your best.

 

Weakened immune system

Did you know that during ovulation your immune system suppresses? As consultant Gynaecologist Anne Henderson explains, “In the luteal phase of the cycle – from ovulation to the start of a period – the high oestrogen levels which peak mid-cycle have an immunosuppressant effect to prepare the body for possible conception and implantation of an embryo.” This leaves you more open to infections and illness! Like that dreaded seasonal cold. A restrictive diet that fails to nourish your body can also impact your immune system. So you could end up in poor health when your period touches down!

 

Irregular or erratic periods

A diet lacking in many beneficial nutrients and vitamins can impact the rhythm of your menstrual cycle. As can sudden weight loss! Some studies show for example that diets low in fibre and high in saturated fat can lead to irregular periods. Whilst there are other underlying causes that can lead irregularities in your menstrual cycle, if you are usually fairly regular you could find your period changes as a result of extreme diet changes.

 

You matter and so does your health!

To summarise, fad diet culture is dangerous. It’s sending negative messages about healthy body image, it’s preying on insecurities and it’s spreading advice that can impact your wellbeing.

So if negative messages are filling up your feed on social media, popping up in a magazine you read or are flying around your WhatsApp groups take a step back. Don’t be afraid to unfollow. You know your body and how to do right by it. Feel empowered.