Written by Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria.
Yes, it is good to shed some weight. Apart from the aesthetics that comes with weight loss, you are, invariably, reducing your risk for killer diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension, which have been associated with obesity.
However, restricting your diet too much wreaks havoc on your health.
For instance, Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Andrew Anisuba, warns that people who eat irregularly in the name of dieting may have problems with their glucose and insulin levels, both of which are key players when it comes to achieving smooth metabolism.
Anisuba says, "Studies have shown that eating irregular meals, like only once a day, impairs your glucose tolerance, so you can't use it as effectively as you should."
Also, many people chuck out carbohydrates from their menu because they have been told that it makes people fat. Anisuba says going off carbohydrates will do more harm than good to the body.
The nutritionist warns that the Atkins diet (or Atkins Nutritional Approach), which focuses on protein intake as against carbohydrates, may predispose one to kidney diseases.
As much as these diets may help you lose weight or not gain weight, they have their ugly side, which could lead to more complications, including kidney disease, cancer and severe damage to internal organs.
According to physicians and nutritionists, not all the effects of dieting are positive. Another nutritionist, Dr. Yomi Agaja, says diets that encourage high protein contents in our meals have the most dangerous effects.
He warns that fad diets such as the Atkins Diet and the vegetarian diets which emphasise high protein content, such that dieters now avoid carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, yam and rice, pose certain risks, including kidney failure.
He states, "It's well known that patients with kidney problems suffer from eating a high protein diet. Such a diet can put a strain on your kidneys.
"Your kidneys are responsible for filtering a number of substances, including protein, from your blood. So, a high protein diet can put a strain on your kidneys. In fact, those with reduced kidney function should avoid such a diet."
If that does not scare you from embarking on that diet, some studies of some dieters of more than four years show that high-protein diets may contribute to the development of some cancers.
The research, which involved over 30,000 participants from various parts of the world, shows that people who eat low-protein diets have been shown to have low blood levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). High protein diets increase blood levels of IGF-1, which some researchers say contribute to certain forms of cancer.
Agaja says that the danger of excluding some class of foods from one's diet – whether carbohydrates, proteins, plant or animal-based food – is that one would be depriving the body of essential and non-essential nutrients that it desperately needs to function.
"It could lead to serious nutritional deficiencies. Your body needs carbohydrates to make energy. When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, it's forced to burn body and dietary fat and protein to make energy instead.
"When your body begins to burn large amounts of body fat, ketones can accumulate in the body. When dangerous levels of ketones accumulate in the body, the dieter could succumb to a diabetic coma, which could be deadly without immediate treatment."
Experts say the challenge with exclusive and extreme dieting is that it usually cannot be sustained in the long term, as people eventually resume eating regular meals, at the end of the day gaining more calories than they are able to shed.
They advise that it is better to adjust one's diet gradually for greater and long-term results.
Agaja adds, "Nobody is saying you should be reckless with what you put in your mouth; but extreme dieting, especially the type where you intentionally abstain from some foods that are supposed to provide essential nutrients and minerals, is very detrimental to health.
"The trick is actually not in what you avoid in your meals; rather, it is in what you are not avoiding when you actually decide to mercifully give your body the food it deserves."
The nutritionist advises that instead of cutting thousands of calories on a daily basis, one should find ways of cutting a few hundred calories each day, in combination with daily exercise.
However, for you to exercise, you need carbohydrates, proteins and all classes of food in reasonable portions for energy and strength. So, don't starve yourself. Instead, a little tweak in your lifestyle choices can do the trick! Here are some...
Skip salty snacks: You can achieve your desired weight if you stop snacking on salty plantain chips and other snacks in the tuck shop in your office. Instead of eating many calories to kill that pang of hunger, nutritionists say you should drink water, as hunger may be a sign of thirst or dehydration.
Don't skip 300-calorie breakfast: Many studies and health experts unanimously agree that breakfast is, indeed, the most important meal of the day; and a good, nutritious, breakfast is the foundation of long, healthy and vibrant life. Those who eat nutritious breakfasts daily generally have lower cholesterol levels, which are associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.