- Does it allow you less than 1200 calories a day?
- Does it ban any whole foods, particularly produce?
- Does it limit your intake on any given day to specific foods? (E.g.: Day two, eat only carrots, celery, melon and red meat. This is not to be confused with diet plans that offer menus covering a range of produce, carbs and protein.)
- Does it demand more than four to five hours of physical activity each week?
- Does it dismiss the idea of rest days?
- Does it allow “cheat days” in contrast to days of high restriction?
- Does it ask you to binge on any food or foods? (E.g.: Day five, eat as much cabbage soup as you can, while eating little or nothing else.)
- Does it restrict OR inflate your water intake?
- Does it severely restrict the calories you can get from one of the three macronutrients? (Carbohydrates, protein, and fat)
- Does it claim you can lose more than 2 lbs (roughly 1 kg) in a week?
- Have you avoided telling your friends or family about going on this diet because you feel they would be vocal in their concern about your health?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, the diet in question is not respectful to your body, and could in fact be dangerous to your health. Very often, diets that advertise rapid weight loss deprive your body of something you need to survive, but that, once reintroduced, will cause you to gain the weight back, and then some. Before you embark on any diet that doesn’t pass this test, talk to your doctor and describe the diet in full for his or her approval; better yet, get a referral to a registered dietician or nutritionist for guidance.
Highly restrictive diets are not good for your health or your self-esteem. Restricting calories too much can cause slack or sallow skin, brittle hair, bad breath, early osteoporosis, loss of muscular tissue, loss of fertility, concentration problems, spontaneous fainting, and even organ failure. And disordered eating isn’t strictly the territory of eating disorders - it comes in all stripes, but ultimately, it just means that you are using food as an outlet that lets you avoid dealing with something more important.