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Negative Side Effects of Very Low Calorie Diets

By Rachael Attard, Updated Apr 12, 2019

One of the biggest health challenges we face today is losing weight. When asked what the best way to lose weight is, most people would tell you cut back on calories, or, just eat less!” There however are many negative side effects of very low calorie diets! Read this to find out just some examples of these negative side effects :)

As a result of this logic, many women are eating low calorie or restricted diets.  

While you might think it’s the right thing to do, very low calorie diets are actually one of the worst things you can do, not only for weight loss but for overall health.

One of the first things to keep in mind is the body needs a minimum number of calories to function efficiently. For the average woman, the absolute minimum is approximately 1200 calories per day. Not counting occasional fasting, eating less than 1200 calories per day on a consistent basis can be hazardous to your health.

yo yo dieting

Here are a few potential dangers of low calorie diets: 

  • Electrolyte imbalances 
  • Gout 
  • Fatigue 
  • Anemia 
  • Nausea 
  • Gallstones 
  • Heart problems 
  • Loss of lean muscle mass 

Would you associate these symptoms with a low calorie diet? I wouldn’t either!  

So here are some reasons why you should avoid very low calorie diets, and some things you can do instead. 

RELATED POST: HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR DAILY CALORIE INTAKE

LOW CALORIE DIETS = WEIGHT GAIN? 

In addition to the health issues described above, did you know low calorie diets can do the one thing people are trying to avoid: cause weight gain? 

It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true. If we eat less than 1200 calories per day, every day, our bodies will soon go into “starvation mode.” Our metabolisms will slow down and will hold onto every calorie it receives. This means instead of losing weight, we could actually gain weight… even on fewer calories! 

Another problem to watch out for is yo-yo dieting and binge eating.  

Drastically cutting calories could cause us to crave our favourite foods even more, prompting us to binge eat when we finally give in to the cravings. Once the binge is over, we try cut calories again, only to fall off the wagon and go on another binge eating frenzy a short time later. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends, which often results in more calories consumed and weight gained.

SAY “NO” TO LOW CALORIE FOODS

While it’s important to eat, we must remember that not all food is created equal. In other words, the quality of the food is critical.  

For example, many people like to eat crackers or popcorn when they are trying to cut calories. These foods (and many others) are labeled as low calorie, but they are not the best options because they have very little nutritional value. Without getting the proper nutrients, we set ourselves up for even more health issues. Opt for foods that are healthy and high in nutrients instead.  

Many nutrient dense foods are also low in calories. Here are a few to try: 

  • Spinach 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Broccoli 
  • Greens 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Blueberries 
  • Raspberries 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Quinoa 
  • Brown rice 
  • Nuts & seeds 

Eating these and other healthy low calorie foods can help with weight loss while giving your body the nutrients it needs. 

A FEW EXTRA TIPS

Instead of focusing on super low calorie diets, try these healthy eating tips to lose weight naturally and keep it off: 

AVOID FOODS THAT COME IN A BOX

Many of these foods are full of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. They also have little nutritional value. 

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Water helps increase feelings of fullness, which can help decrease the amount of food consumed naturally. Drinking more water that also means we’re not drinking as much soda or other beverages that are high in sugar and calories.  

low calorie diets

DON’T STARVE YOURSELF

“Food” is not a four letter word. We need to eat to survive. They key is to focus on eating the proper foods, which means eating less junk food and more fruits, veggies and lean meats.   

GO FOR A WALK

Walking for just thirty minutes per day is a great way to burn excess calories.  

Low calorie diets can do more harm than good. Change your diet and you can change your life.

If you are interested in losing weight in a healthy way and you want to try out eating healthy, I have a 7 Day Lean Legs Meal Plan that you can download for free :)

I hope this will help you avoid the negative side effects of very low calorie diets! xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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2 comments on “Negative Side Effects of Very Low Calorie Diets”

    Kelly says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I love your blog so much, you’ve helped me slim down my legs with your advice – I power walk or run daily, stay away from squats and keep my cycling to a minimum. However, I’ve recently had an injury on my foot, which has in turn affected my knee and now I can’t run and it’s painful to walk. I’ve been (stupidly) cutting calories as I’m scared of ruining my progress but after reading this article I need to try and get my diet right again so I was wondering, are there any exercises you could recommend which are low/no impact which will keep me from bulking? I asked at the gym but they obviously said ‘lift weights, squat, you don’t need cardio’ etc *rolls eyes*. Please can you help?! I have access to a pool so all I could think of doing was swimming and pilates/yoga and I think I’m a mesomorph with part ectomorph.
    Thanks for your help!!

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, I’m so sorry to hear about your injury! Yes you are on the right track – I would do swimming for your cardio, and pilates and yoga. These shouldn’t bulk :) I wish you a speedy recovery! xx