Nearly everyone thinks that dieting would be a good idea. For many, it is. A recent study showed that the average American now consumes about 22% more calories than those of only a generation ago. With that, it isn’t hard to see why obesity could be a problem.
But dieting is not without risks, especially in an age when so many fad diets clamor for attention. The desire to lose weight rapidly can lead to health problems that outweigh the benefits of dieting. Rapid weight-loss dieting in particular can lead to a ‘rebound’, defeating the purpose in the first place.
* First, what do we mean by ‘diet’ in this context?
No matter what specific weight loss plan one chooses, the basic equation of weight loss can not be eliminated: more calories consumed than burned equals weight gain as the body stores the excess in fat. Conversely, more calories used than taken in leads to weight loss, over the long run.
In a resting state, we burn about 70 calories per hour. In a vigorous hour-long hike we burn about 440 calories. A brisk walk for an hour will use up about 240 calories, jogging nearly 600. But balance that against the average 2,000 calorie per day diet. That shows it can be very difficult to lose weight solely by exercise.
On the other hand, reducing caloric intake means reducing the amount of certain foods and drinks. It may mean an apple rather than a candy bar. It might mean fruit juice instead of that high-calorie cappuccino. The cravings that typically accompany dieting can be hard to quell.
* Second, dieting has to be done right to be beneficial. It requires the right weight loss plan.
Too-rapid weight loss from drastic diets leads to a ‘rebound’ effect. All too many dieters know the frustration of seeing hard-to-shed pounds return a few months or a year later. It tends to encourage subsequent overeating as the dieter is motivated to just give up.
Dieting by foregoing needed nutrients presents even more of a health risk. We need a certain amount of unsaturated fats daily to have proper nerve function and hormone balance. Carbohydrates are the body’s basic energy source, which is used to power everything we do from simple movements to life-preserving cellular reactions. Sodium and potassium are vital to proper heart and nerve function.
But there are definite health advantages for an individual who commits to a healthy diet and weight loss plan.
Obesity is a factor in the development of diabetes. It increases the odds of coronary heart disease. It increases stress on bones. It often plays a role in depression. All these are serious health issues and dieting is one of the best ways to combat obesity.
It isn’t mere vanity to want an attractive body, either. An attractive body is one that is fit. That leads to ample energy to carry out whatever goals one wants to pursue. Lack of energy makes it much harder to motivate oneself to complete challenging tasks.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting an attractive form for psychological or social purposes either. Humans are social. It’s appropriate to take pride in having achieved a certain body type, within the limits of what is possible to each of us. It presents an image of self-regard and that psychological self-assessment is a significant factor in basic health.
Done well, taken up as a long-term lifestyle strategy and not as a quick fix, dieting is healthy.