Robin Vitetta-Miller, contributing editor at Health magazine, says there is a sliver of truth to all diets, but it's the extremes that people take them to that causes problems. Diets that restrict fats or carbohydrates, or a vegetarian diet, open up the door to nutrient deficiencies or uncontrollable cravings that lead to bingeing. These two pitfalls can lead to bigger health problems down the road.
The challenge for diet fanatics is to lose weight safely, since many diets don't just cut calories but can also limit foods that contain important nutrients essential for good health. Recommended dietary practices generally include the selection of foods from a variety of food groups, particularly the grain, fruit and vegetable groups. Even a diet fanatic must eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
Vitetta-Miller explains that, when it comes to a low-fat diet, the dieter can fall into the trap of eating things like bagels, pasta, bread and fat-free foods, and avoid the good fats in foods like olive oil and nuts.
Another problem with a low-fat diet is you're never really satisfied. If you're always hungry, then you'll always be eating and, most likely, consuming more calories than you need. One solution is to add protein and fiber, incorporating low-fat protein like chicken. Protein and fiber keep you feeling full because they take longer to digest, so you'll feel satisfied longer and won't feel the need to snack.
Low carbohydrate dieters tend to exist on things like steaks and bacon, avoiding fruits and vegetables and other carbs that contain fiber. The problem here is that, at best, you're going to have cravings and bingeing on carbs, and at worst, you may run a risk of developing heart disease and kidney problems because the kidneys can only handle so much.
Nutritional deficiencies are also a risk, because without fruits and vegetables, the dieter gets no antioxidants and no fiber for digestion. Quick weight loss can be costly over the long haul. There are ways to keep the diet nutritional by including smaller amounts of fruits and vegetables without massive intake of carbohydrates, Vitetta-Miller says.
Vegetarians are usually either the pasta and pizza types or they use vegetarianism as an excuse to avoid almost everything. So the vegetarian sometimes doesn't even get enough vegetables! The problem then becomes nutritional deficiencies when it comes to antioxidants and protein for muscle strength and energy. The solution, Vitetta-Miller says, would be to try to make sure that the diet includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
When it comes to fanatical food avoidance, the all-or-nothing mentality can also lead to binge eating. Skipping meals can lead to out-of-control hunger, often resulting in overeating. Vitetta-Miller says to eat regular meals. Starving yourself can lead to binge eating. When you're very hungry, it's easy to forget about good nutrition. Snacking between meals can help curb hunger, but you may end up eating even more than you would have with a regular meal if you snack too often.
If you're not sure how to navigate the pitfalls of dieting, a registered dietitian (R.D.) can help devise a personal plan, says Vitetta-Miller.