Low Calorie Diets Can Be Dangerous

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Last week’s post on my 5 Reasons I Use MyFitnessPal spawned some interesting comments. In reference to calorie counting, many of you said that you either stopped using MyFitnessPal or never started using it because it can become an obsession.

I agree with this 100%. Calorie counting can lead to obsession.

There was a point in my life where I was overly obsessed with calorie counting. It was a very unhealthy period in my life I believe I have learned a lot from.

When I was a junior/senior in high school, I lost a lot of weight. It started healthily. I looked and felt good.

But then the weight loss obsession kicked in. There were days I only ate 600 calories a day. I remember being really proud of those days. Looking back, I ate almost 100% carbohydrates as food choices. I was repelled by any real food that was high fat. This meant bread with lean lunch meat, cereal, pasta canned vegetables, and the occasional granola bar. I did eat lots of salad which was mostly made of lettuce. Strangely, I also allowed myself soft serve ice cream – because I liked sugar and soft serve was low fat.

My eating went on to this extreme for about a year.

What were the effects of my low calorie diet plan?

  • I was all bone and skin. My body burned muscle to keep going. This was the reason I quit track my senior year of high school – because I could not physically make my body run like I had a year ago.
  • I was always tired, and always had a headache by the afternoon.
  • This was probably because I was getting barely any nutrition. Sure I ate a few salads here and there, but not enough to keep me going.
  • I hated going out to eat, so I was likely a drag to do anything social. There were never any sufficient ‘low fat’ options.
  • I became obsessed with the foods I would allow myself to eat….. I’ve talked to my sisters about this before, and I think this is where my dislike of sharing food came from (say at a restaurant). I was so obsessed with the foods I could eat, and could not eat anything anyone else would eat. Since it was actually allowed to me, no one else could have it. I’m actually working on this one right now. I still hate sharing food, but now that I would like to eat off of every one else’s plates too, I have to give in a little!
  • I forgot what being hungry felt like. This sounds really strange, but hunger became the norm. This was really hard for me when I at college trying to change the way I ate.
  • I put on weight in the years following this low calorie period of my life.

I weighed 108 in 2005, and in 2007 I fluctuated from 135 to 142. According to one of those ‘healthy weight’ charts, I was on the edge of an unhealthy weight. (I’m 5’5.5″) I don’t think most people would say I looked overweight, but I felt bad.

During the period of weight gain, I started trying to eat normally again. Although I would still dread anything with fat in it (I’ve only started eating butter again in the last few years), I was eating more calories. But my metabolism must have slowed down dramatically after such a long ‘starvation period.’ I don’t think my party days in college helped this much either, where I developed drunken binge eating. That’s a whole different story.

Second semester of my junior year I sought to lose weight again, this time with 1000 calorie days. I lost a lot of weight quickly. I did add in cardio and a bit of weight training so I felt like I was doing it better. Working out was so hard for me back then.

Where I am now

To make the rest of this long story short, after graduating college I continued to fluctuate in periods of weight gain and laziness, dieting and working out. It wasn’t until around the time I started this blog that I got serious about getting in shape the healthy way. 

So in regards to MyFitnessPal, I know that I will never follow the 1200 calorie diet plan. It’s my personal opinion that that is too low for a caloric intake for anyone. I do count calories when I am trying to get back on track, but I don’t get obsessed about it. I actually now get scared about having too low of a calorie intake. How’s that for a change of pace?

If you are following a low calorie diet, I will tell you to ‘proceed with caution.’ Don’t let the weight loss obsession catch up with you. If you find yourself starving all the time, eat more. If you’re working out a lot, make sure you are eating enough to compensate for that. On the flip side – for those of you who have done it, and then maintained a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight after dieting, that’s great too. If you have concerns about your diet, you should talk to doctor or specialist.

There is no golden set of rules for how many calories you need to eat to lose or maintain weight. It will be different for every person’s metabolism, job activity, and activity outside of work. And it’s likely to change often! Just try to stay in tune with what your body needs as best you can.

I apologize for the wordy, pictureless post.
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