Dieting advice should NEVER be given without full informed consent – that means we have recieved information about any benefits, risks and the expected outcome of a treatment.

Too often healthcare practitioners don’t share the known risks associated with dieting and calorie restriction. The “benefits” of calorie restriction – specifically longevity – are often extrapolated from animal studies and observational studies (The Okinawans). But what are the known side effects of calorie restriction in humans? And is your healthcare practitioner discussing these with you?

Physical Symptoms of Calorie Restriction:

  • hypotension (low blood pressure) – you might feel light headed or faint
  • loss of libido (loss of interest in sex)
  • menstrual irregularities (menstrual periods become erratic or no longer happening)
  • infertility
  • bone thinning and osteoporosis
  • cold sensitivity (find yourself wearing more layers/socks compared to others)
  • loss of strength and stamina
  • slower wound healing

Psychological Effects of Calorie Restriction

A hungry brain is brain working over time to ramp up appetite and drive to eat, it’s busy working to keep our weight within a narrow range.

We talk hormones and hungry brain here.

Calorie restriction and dieting may result in:

  • preoccupation with food, constant hunger
  • Binge eating behaviours (including foraging, hoarding or hiding food, stress-response dysregulated eating/binge episodes – that’s eating to discomfort)
  • Emotional deadening and/or depression
  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal/isolation

Bottom line? Aside from the potential for negative side effects, maintaining long term calorie restriction/dieting is very difficult. Our bodies compensatory mechanisms coupled with the increased attention our brain gives to food prioritises adequate nutrition over remaining engaged with dietary restriction (this is the diet cycle in action!).