If dieting is wearing you out, chances are you’re experiencing some common diet side effects. In this post, discover 5 side effects and 3 solutions to help you walk away from the diet madness.
It all began so innocently. As I studied the photocopied pages covered in more highlighter than not, I was filled with optimism. The excitement of a new plan and the promise of change felt like a warming ray of sunshine on a frigid day. I sat there hopeful, motivated, and incredibly naive.
That day I started dieting, I had no clue what I was signing up for.
No one told me my attempt to eat “healthy” would ruin the very thing I was trying to improve or that the desire to “look good” by losing weight would have me jumping through hoops of fire like a circus dog on show day.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you began your first diet with a simple goal in mind– You wanted to be a good example for your children, take care of the body God has given you, and get dressed and out the door without any drama.
Then, weeks, months, or years later, you find yourself stuck between dieting and waving a white flag on unwanted body weight.
You’re sick of the dieting cycle but you don’t know what else do to.
I gave up on diets.
After discovering these 5 crazy diet side effects, I detoxed. I found a healthy, happy, sane way to treat my body well and with these 3 steps– you can too!
Should Diets Come With a Warning Label?
I sat melted into the couch as my favorite show, Shark Tank, left me hanging on yet another cliffhanger before a commercial break. Then, my dreams of entrepreneurship were abruptly met with the promise of a better life through a pretty little pill.
So cute, how could it cause any real harm?
Then came the laundry list of side effects that sounded like they belong on late night television. It went on and on.
How desperate for change one must be to risk their health to save it.
But, diets don’t come with warning labels.
We’re not educated about the potential side effects of our ventures. No one rattles off, even quickly or quietly, what may happen if we aggressively restrict our food intake…
Because, just like restricting oxygen by holding our breath, we cannot aggressively “under eat” for long without some gasping for food.
Do You Have These 5 Diet Side Effects?
Maybe you think you’re weak for struggling, that you have no control, or that you’re just plain crazy. I’m here to tell you that your sometimes irrational behavior in response to a restrictive diet is far more common than you think.
Here are 5 of the most common diet side effects you may have seen lurking in your kitchen.
Diet Side Effect #1: Last Supper Eating
If I were to tell you that tomorrow you’re starting a juice cleanse, what would the rest of your eating look like today? Chances are you’ll eat as much of those soon-to-be forbidden foods possible. The threat of not having access to a food you enjoy would create a “last supper” frenzy to “get it while you can.”
This practice has an unexpected side effect too– Engaging in last supper eating can actually help the start of a diet feel somewhat easy.
- If we eat sickening quantities of foods (“I never want to see that food again!”), it’s easy to bypass cravings for them… for a little while.
- If we consume a large amount of food, the heavy hit of calories makes it easy to sustain on a lower calorie intake for a day or so until… our appetite returns.
Diet Side Effect #2: Preoccupation With Food
Several years ago I experienced some very troublesome digestive issues. In an effort to reduce my discomfort naturally, I removed a laundry list of foods from my diet that may have been problematic. Foods like onions, garlic, and cabbage were included in that list. I never thought that it was possible to crave cabbage. It is.
When we restrict food, any foods, it can create an intense focus on getting those very foods. It’s human nature.
In addition to wanting what we “can’t” have, counting, weighing, and measuring food can feel like a part-time job.
While creating new habits does require time and attention, the end goal is to use tools that will eventually become obsolete.
A purposeful focus is good. A life-dominating preoccupation–– not so good.
Diet Side Effect #3: You’re Disconnected From Your Body’s Signals
When adherence to a diet plan replaces eating only when hungry and stopping when satisfied, our body’s signals become fuzzy and difficult to distinguish.
If the diet you are on tells you to eat 6 times a day and you tend to feel hunger for 3 meals and a mid-afternoon snack, you are stepping outside of what works best for you for the sake of following along.
Yes, having a loose plan and daily schedule in place can be a game-changer for eating well. However, this gentle structure is never meant to override what your body needs.
Because your hunger and fullness signals are being overridden, your experience of them may be more extreme.
You don’t feel like you’re hungry until you’re so ravenous you’ve lost every sense of good choice. You take a near nosedive into anything you can get your hands on. But then don’t feel content and satisfied until your stomach walls are bursting at the seams.
No wonder it’s common to gain weight in response to dieting.
Diet Side Effect #4: You’re Disconnected From Your True Wants
Much like disconnecting from our body’s signals of hunger and fullness, diets can cause foods to seem super-appealing or super-redundant. If you love broccoli but end up eating it steamed meal after meal, you’ll start to despise those little green trees.
On the contrary, you may have a take it or leave it attitude about a certain treat. But, after feeling deprived of it for weeks on end, you’ll devour it at our church potluck.
There comes a point in dieting that the plan begins to skew our true likes and dislikes.
“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.Colossians 2:21-23 (NLT)
Diet Side Effect #5: You Feel Like A Failure
I have had clients from all walks of life in my coaching practice. Surgeons, lawyers, CEOs and moms of many. Women, like you, who are doing awesome things every single day of their lives and yet- they felt like complete and total failures when it came to food.
Diets have a way of doing that.
Diets take well-intentioned individuals with hopes and dreams and hand them a program that offers a dismal 95% failure rate.
Then, those amazing people take their lack of success as a sign of their own personal weakness. They believe that surely, they failed the diet when it was the other way around – the “diet failure” was not about them.
How You Can Bounce Back From Diet Side Effects
If you identify with these dieting side effects, you are not alone.
No one signs up for their first diet with the expectation of adopting these burdensome ways of thinking and acting. Truly, it’s cause and effect.
But, there is great hope. You can begin to detoxify from diets by following these 3 simple steps.
Diet Detox #1: Make a Decision to Listen to Your Body
Even if you decide to stick with an out-of-the-box diet, make a determination to start listening to your body today.
Notice your hunger and fullness signals. Pay attention to the times, types, amounts of food that make you feel your best. There are signals being sent your way but you have to tune into their station to receive them.
How to listen to your body.
- What do my hunger sensations feel like? How often do I experience true body hunger?
- How do I feel as I eat a meal when I am truly hungry? When I’m not truly hungry?
- What does my body feel like at different stages of a meal? How do I know when I am full?
- What types of food leave me feeling my best? Are there any foods that leave me feeling bad?
By simply noticing the answers to these questions, you are on your way to reconnecting with your body’s cues.
Diet Detox #2: Question Your Food Labels
Food labels. I am not talking about the nutrition facts label on the side of your cereal box, but the labels we place on foods. Naming foods as being good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
Yes, some foods are better for our health than others, but more important than type is quantity and frequency… but really, there is no bad food.
I think you’ll probably agree that a cupcake at a birthday party or an occasional Friday night butter burger is not a big deal. However, eating those foods on a daily basis would be awful for our well-being.
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
How to start questioning your food labels:
- Notice how frequently you call foods good or bad. Then, pay attention to how that label affects your desire for them. How unfortunate it is to crave a “bad” food simply because it’s labeled as such and not because you’re incredibly fond of it.
- Mentally (or verbally if you’re up for it) correct the label. Remind yourself that you physically CAN eat any food that you want (we have money and transportation). But, you may not want to eat every single food that comes your way.
- Give yourself full permission to have a “bad” food in an enjoyable setting. Go out for ice cream with your family, have a dessert date with your spouse, or make yourself a scrumptious plate at a potluck. Choose only your favorite eats, relax, and mindfully enjoy them. You may be surprised how much more satisfying a piece of pie is when it’s swimming in ice cream rather than negative self-talk and guilt.
- If this idea scares you, start small. Grab a kiddie cone at a local ice cream joint or get a single-size serving at the corner gas station. Anything counts. It is all worth your effort.
Diet Detox #3: Practice, Practice, Practice
Repeat exercises 1 and 2 and you will feel those diet side effects begin to lift. This process may happen quickly for some. But, if you’ve been dieting for a while, it may take several months to get the residual out of your system.
As you move forward, give yourself plenty of grace. The diet detoxification process takes time. Be sure to extend patience and self-kindness to yourself as you embrace a life without obnoxious diet rules.
This Is Your Process
As you can see, dieting side effects are real.
As you read through the list above, I pray that seeing yourself in the topics was a relief for you– you are not a failure or an anomaly. Quite the opposite- you are just normal.
It is completely normal to rebound after a period of deprivation. Being hyper-focused on what you can or can’t eat will cause most to see food through a diet haze.
This is all expected. But, thankfully, you are NOT stuck there.
By tuning into your body’s signals and becoming a kind observer of what those cues are speaking to you, you will start to unpack that which is buried.
By allowing yourself to enjoy ALL types of foods whilst winning the arm wrestling match against food guilt, you will find that the pedestal beneath certain foods slowly diminishes.
There may be days where your efforts feel unnoticed but then… you feel a link in that diet chain BREAK and it’s worth it.
You can stop jumping through those dieting hoops of fire and finally breathe a sigh of relief around food.
Don’t forget to download your Hunger & Fullness Tracking Sheet below so that you can gain some clarity about what your body really wants and needs.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, Amazon #1 Best Selling Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.