How Fad Diets can Result in an Eating Disorder
For decades now, fad diets have tempted otherwise intelligent people into the most asinine eating routines in the hopes of shedding some unwanted weight. You name it, we’ve witnessed the craziest food trends—from the ubiquitous grapefruit diet, to zany fad diets like the Hollywood cookie diet, the cotton ball diet, and, yes, even the tapeworm diet (I kid you not).
Even some of the saner fad diets, such as the Raw Food Diet, the Paleo Diet, and the South Beach Diet, which at least emphasize consuming healthy foods, fall short when it comes to long-term results. They simply are not sustainable.
While troubling that people can place such blind faith in the constant parade of new fad diets with the dubious weight loss claims, it is alarming that fad diets can actually fuel a nascent eating disorder. Food obsession has become a systemic symptom of the disordered thinking that commonly leads to disordered eating.
The emotions of guilt, shame, frustration, and failure that accompany efforts to lose weight are potent. These feelings can eat away at a person’s self esteem, gnawing away incrementally each time one caves into an extra cookie or blows off the salmon in favor of a greasy hamburger. For someone obsessed with weight loss and who has latched onto the fad diet du jour, failing to comply with its restrictions becomes yet another sign, in their minds, of their own imperfections. The unhealthy belief that one should be able to adhere with 100% commitment and deep reservoirs of discipline to eating as cavemen ate (i.e., the Paleo Diet), or noshing on baby food all day (i.e., the Baby Food Diet) is simply absurd.
The Connection between Fad Diets and Eating Disorders
People mistakenly assume there are only two types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Obsessive eating that causes nutritional or psychological distress can span a spectrum of behaviors with one common outcome—disordered eating habits.
Trendy diets promise a thin, svelte physique by demanding full compliance to rigid or nutritionally unbalanced diets that have ‘failure’ written all over them. Why failure? Because people are human, with daily—even hourly—shifts in mood, willpower, stressors, or desires that can quickly sabotage even the most devoted dieter, leaving them with feelings of self-disgust and failure. Emotions are the drivers of eating disorders; the oft-repeated scenario starting with the initial determination to strictly adhere to a given fad diet, only to submit yet again to food temptations sets up a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Those reinforced negative emotions become embedded into the simple act of feeding oneself, culminating in an eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder can result from repeated attempts to lose weight by following a fad diet, only to find their weight loss plateau and desired outcomes dashed. This can trigger binge eating or binge/purge behaviors, with pent up food deprivations and a sense of failure as fuel.
Why Fad Diets Fail
No matter how intent on success an individual is when they launch into a new fad diet, it is nearly impossible to avoid the basic human weaknesses that ultimately undermine the dieter’s efforts. Here are some common reasons why fad dieters give up:
• Boredom. Many fad diets concentrate on over-emphasizing a specific type of food (i.e., the Kale Shake Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, the Lemonade Diet) and the lack of variety becomes stifling, leading to boredom and abandonment of the diet.
• Preparation time. Some fad diets require a lot of time and effort for planning and executing, causing a high drop out rate. Juicing, for instance, is expensive, messy, and time consuming on an ongoing basis.
• Deprivation. Food has always been associated with comfort and reward, so to attempt to restrict food intake to a short list of options for a prolonged period only leads to a sense of deprivation and throwing in the towel on the diet.
• Fatigue. Attempting to lose weight rapidly can result in a loss of energy and vitality. Often a lack of essential nutrients that accompanies a fad diet contributes to a sense of weakness and fatigue, in addition to a sour mood.
Casa Serena can Help
No matter which fad diet one has attempted, the ultimate results are iffy at best and can even lead to weight gain and ill health, including an eating disorder. We understand how negative emotions associated with eating behaviors can have devastating consequences. Our eating disorder experts at Casa Serena can help you by creating an individualized plan geared to healthy eating habits and regular exercise, vastly improving your chances of successfully achieving physical and emotional health. Contact us today at (925) 682-8252.
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