A peak Australian health body has issued a dire warning about the slippery slope some may be led down if they decide to lose weight.
A peak Australian health body has issued a dire warning about the slippery slope some may be led down if they decide to lose weight.

Why dieting can be the worst thing for your health

Never go on a diet as it could be the first steps on the slippery slope to an eating disorder.

The stark warning from the Butterfly Foundation comes as Australians are bombarded with January fad diet offers and weight loss guarantees.

Extreme fasting, eliminating food groups, excessive calorie restriction, skipping meals can all lead to disordered eating which is the single most important indicator of the onset of an eating disorder.

"Eat three nutritious meals each day and a couple of healthy snacks, get moving and look after your well being, that is what I advise. Diets can end in disappointment, bingeing and ironically, weight gain. Look for the joys in life as being slim never made anyone more worthwhile," Dr June Alexander, eating disorder researcher and spokeswoman for the Butterfly Foundation said.

Disordered eating can result in significant mental, physical and social impairment and is associated not only with eating disorders but also health concerns such as depression, anxiety, nutritional and metabolic problems and weight gain.

"In January we are often bombarded with new year messaging related to weight, food, appearance and dieting. While moderate changes in diet and exercise coupled with balanced, varied and flexible behaviours around food and a positive relationship with food have been shown to be safe, significant mental and physical consequences may occur with extreme or unbalanced dieting practices. It is important to recognise that dieting is one of the leading risk factors in the development of an eating disorder," Amelia Trinick, a clinician and helpline team leader at Butterfly said.

Research shows that fad diets are also unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss and clinical guidelines from The National Health and Medical Research Council state that the majority of people who lose weight will regain all weight lost within two to five years due to physiological changes that occur in response to weight loss.

"Those most at risk of ending up with disordered eating and ultimately an eating disorder are those who have low self-esteem and want to fit in. I've also seen athletes and people who play sport and need to be a certain weight, taking dieting to the extreme and their eating becomes disordered," Dr Alexander said.

Teenagers can also get caught up in the body image messaging of the new year and research shows the act of starting any diet increases the risk of eating disorders in adolescent girls and boys.

Originally published as Why dieting can be the worst thing you can do for your health


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