Dietitian Susie Burrell reveals five signs your diet is actually bad for you

There are loads of different types of diets out there, and there are plenty of ‘experts’ who sell diets or diet books that claim to hold the unique formula to achieve weight loss.

Then we have the fad diets that do the rounds for a couple of years at a time – paleo, keto, the 800 and lemon detox, to name a few that will likely be familiar.

The reality is most, if not all, diets will work when they are followed, but the issue is few, if any, can be followed long-term.

So, if you’re not sure if how you are eating is doing its job, here are some of the signs the diet you are following may actually be doing more harm than good.

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Is your diet doing more harm than good? (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

You are constantly feeling deprived

While a diet is simply a pattern of eating, in this day and age a ‘diet’ has come to mean restriction, with a list of foods to avoid and indulgences to steer clear of in the quest for diet superiority.

One of the issues with deprivation is that over time, it tends to fuel obsession, and in the case of food an obsession with all the foods we are not supposed to be eating.

For this reason, one of the tell-tale signs of a diet that is destined to fail is one in which you feel like you cannot include the foods you enjoy in reasonable amounts. This means if you are not able to eat cheese, chocolate, dessert, or enjoy a glass of wine occasionally without it derailing your diet, its unlikely to be the best choice for you long-term.

It takes hours of shopping, cooking and preparation

Life is busy. There are jobs, kids, family responsibilities, sport, appointments… so let’s be honest, a diet that requires hours of shopping, cooking, meal prep and is full of expensive ingredients that blow out the family budget may be feasible for a week or two, but unlikely to be sustainable.

A healthy diet does not need to require hours of meal prep, nor overly special foods. Rather, cost-effective, quick and easy meals that use some pre-made foods and meals can easily form part of a healthy, sustainable, calorie-controlled diet plan.

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Fruits and vegetables to include in a healthy diet
Any diet that requires expensive ingredients and hours of shopping isn’t worth it. (Getty)

Your body is not working well

You may feel clogged up; or find yourself getting sick more frequently. Or you may have dry skin, or your periods may even have stopped. Or you may be unable to remember the last time you felt hungry.

The human body is very sensitive to changes in usual dietary intake, and the slowing down of digestion and accompanying constipation one of the first signs your body may not be getting the calories and dietary fiber it requires to function optimally.

As your calorie and fat intake reduces, your hormones may be impacted, which in turn can affect mood and the menstrual cycle. Over time, as your intake of whole foods and key nutrients reduces, so too does your body’s ability to fight infection. If you are not feeling good in your body, chances are the diet you are following is not helping you to feel and perform at your best.

dietitian susie burrell
Susie Burrell says for a diet to work it needs to be sustainable long term. (Susie Burrell)

You are feeling tired and lethargic

Overly strict regimes that eliminate core food groups or nutrients may result in relatively fast weight loss, but over time they can negatively impact nutrient intake, which can leave you feeling tired, lethargic and negatively impact your mood.

Nutrients including carbohydrates, iron, Vitamin D and calcium deplete over time in the body, which means it may take several weeks or even months until you start to notice the physical symptoms associated with a restrictive dietary intake.

If you start to wake up and feel as if you have not slept, or are not recovering after your regular training sessions or are getting sick a little more often, it may be time to take a closer look at the foods and nutrients you may be lacking.

It is not sustainable

If you are following a diet in which you are either ‘on’ or ‘off’ it, chances are it is not the right diet for you. Strict regimes that require you to weigh and measure food, only eat specific food combinations, or count calories or carbs so tightly that you can literally not eat anything away from your meal plan is setting you up for a diet cycle that is difficult to escape from .

The best diet we can follow is one that fits into our lives, and includes social events, eating out and special treats. Weight loss may be slower on such a diet, but it will be sustainable.

Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.

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