african american woman diet

Everywhere I turn, I’m looking at someone else pushing a diet, a system, an injection, a whatever to help me diet. Because dieting is how you make weight loss happen.

Interesting. But what else does dieting do to your body?

It’s time to talk about the negative side effects of dieting, because goodness knows we’re beaten over the head with all the “positives” of dieting.

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All diets are the same. There’s a theme to it – The Grapefruit Diet, The Cookie Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet. There’s a severe restriction of calories. There’s an insane promise of losing tons of pounds within the first seven to ten days of the diet. But we never discuss what dieting can do to you on the inside.

1) Dieting can potentially damage your organs. Most diets force your body to expel stored water, akin to that which causes bloating. And, though we’d naturally presume that’s a good thing, the reality is that your body naturally retains water as a defense mechanism against acidity and excess sodium in the body. Small steps like eating more fresh vegetables like dark and leafy greens, and increasing the potassium in your diet can easily and naturally remove the causes behind the bloating, thereby allowing your body to naturally expel the water weight on its own.

2)Dieting – particularly the yo yo dieting lifestyle - can actually bring about osteopenia and, eventually, osteoporosis. Diets often ask you to cut entire food groups, groups that are known sources for vitamins, anti-oxidants, and minerals that help us keep our bodies strong. Something as simple as ensuring that your calcium and iron are in adequate balance with

3) Dieting can also wreck your metabolism. When you restrict calories too severely, you can potentially force your body to feed on muscle as opposed to fat. That same muscle burns more calories per hour than fat does, so when you lose muscle, you’re infinitely affecting your body’s ability to burn calories efficiently. In other words, you’re shrinking the amount of food you can eat successfully without weight gain. No one asked for that!

4) Dieting, by extension, makes your body weaker. With no muscle, your ability to complete simple tasks like catching yourself when you fall and standing up from a seated position without using your hands is severely impeded. We’re not even talking about exercises like pull-ups and squats. Basic life tasks – carrying groceries, carrying your children, carrying or lifting anything – become that much more difficult without muscle.

The severe caloric restriction that comes with dieting, without a doubt, confuses your body into thinking there is famine, causing the body to release excess amounts of cortisol, a hormone believed to contribute to fat storage. While you think you’re losing weight because of the loss of water weight (and, oftentimes, the cleansing of your colon), you’re actually still putting on fat from dieting. Was that your expected response? Probably not.

Dieting can leave you worse off than when you originally began. It’s just not the way to get it done.

So, what is?

Strength training, either in the form of calisthenics or high intensity interval training, combined with actually eating more – not less – allows your body to hone its current abilities and function optimally while you do it, meaning you actually burn more calories outside of exercise as well as inside of it.

In the long run, dieting actually brings about the opposite response of what you actually want when it comes to losing weight. It can cause you to compromise your muscle mass, can cause you to put on fat instead of lose it, and can even endanger your internal organs and bone density in the end. When the alternative is “eat higher quantities of fresh produce and lean proteins,” and “work out,” dieting doesn’t seem so appealing, does it?

Pick up the fork, and lift that weight! As I always say, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160lb weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Hit her up on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.