Why good things get destroyed when taken to extremes - The truth about extreme dieting

It must be in our DNA, but most of the time when trying become healthier or more successful, it has to be in an extreme way. Such as "I don't eat any carbs for the next month", and then right after the 30 days, we swing back to the other extreme, where carbs are eaten in excess. There is no in between.

We take something good and - in an effort to get better and faster results - design a much extremer version of it. Losing sight of what made it a good idea in the first place.

We like these extreme rules, because they are simple to understand, so we don't have to think about anything. We don't have to actually learn how food affects our bodies or which kind of exercise has which benefits. But being on such an extreme diet can have several negative effects on your body and mind.

Be wary of extremes

Restriction and deprivation most often lead straight to the opposite we want to achieve. Meaning binging, frustration, unhealthy substitutes and overcompensation.

What is meant to make you feel great about yourself is now twisted into a restricted diet, which is more stifling than rewarding.

Extreme diets

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I know that losing weight isn't always the easiest. However, it is definitely not rocket science! And I understand why people are constantly looking for quick fixes.

But please, do yourself a favour and stop googling for "fast weight loss diets" or "how to lose weight in 3 days". You didn't put that extra weight on in 3 days, so you aren't able to lose it in 3 days. Look for more sustainable ways to live healthier and to lose weight by making healthier decisions. This shouldn't be a change that lasts for about 3 weeks or so and then you go back to your old habits.

Incorporate more healthy habits into your lifestyle on a weekly basis. Even baby steps are steps in the right direction.

Start by taking a walk every day for half an hour. Fill your fridge with more veggies, cut out processed food, eat out only 2 times per month, start meal prepping, try weightlifting. It's really not that complicated, especially if you incorporate new habits step by step.

How can you determine if a new diet on the market is just another fad? Here are a few tips:

  • The diet forces you to intensely cut back calories and/or cut out entire food groups
  • You're only allowed to eat certain foods with very specific instructions
  • Most of the foods you're allowed to eat, are expensive "superfoods", bars, meal replacement drinks, powders and similar non-food items
  • The product related to the fad or the fad itself is endorsed by a celebrity or self-proclaimed "health or fitness guru"
  • The diet claims it's better than all the others
  • The diet claims it's "new"
  • The diet claims it works for everyone

Generally speaking, every diet program that promises a weight loss of more than 5 lbs (2 kg) per week, every week, is utter nonsense! Why? It's almost impossible - unless you weight A LOT - to lose so much fat every week. Nor is it healthy.

What might work in the short term doesn't translate to long-term success, good health and mental wellbeing.

See, fad diets just don't work in the long run. They come and go as quickly as the new #1 hit in the charts. The truth is, they don't teach you how to change your relationship to food, which most likely led to your fat storages in the first place.

Do you want to solve the problem, or merely fix the symptoms? Just fixing the symptoms usually means you're going to have to deal with the problem again a little bit further down the road.

Extreme exercise

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Being fit is good. I absolutely love lifting weights. It improves my mood, helped me develop my own personality and strengthens my mind.

However, exercising is supposed to make you feel great about yourself and teach you what your body is capable of. Often times though, it is used as a punishment, for when the diet wasn't on point or you want to fix your "flaws".

Let me be completely clear here: Exercise should never be used as a punishment or to make up for a bad diet. You can't outrun a bad diet anyway!

Remember, too much of anything isn't healthy. Listen to your body, it tells you when something is not right.

Extreme self-improvement

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Never ever try to look better to meet society's impossible standards of beauty. You already are beautiful! Do it for a healthier lifestyle, do it for a better quality of life, do it to reach your full potential. Especially when it comes to physical appearance, your flaws might not actually be flaws.

Perfection is a myth. It doesn't exist in the real world and it certainly doesn't exist in human appearance. If you ask me, imperfections are much more attractive.

Magazine editors know, to make a sale, they only have to play with our doubts or create new ones, making us think we have "problems" that don't really exist. Every part of the body is picked apart and scrutinised, with most articles telling us outright which products we should buy to fix – or at least camouflage – our numerous "flaws".

In other words, you are not a failure for not having a thigh gap, abs or a bigger biceps. We all struggle and suffer from self-doubt from time to time, but you should never let something as little as a "flaw" be the reason not to: smile, wear your favourite clothes or enjoy the day.

Stop letting the mirror, magazines or other people's dumb comments dictate how you perceive yourself. Especially on the internet, where everyone has an opinion, because it's anonymous.

Don't get me wrong, becoming a better human being and aiming to live life to the fullest is perfect. But don't allow that pursuit to consume every thought. The "average" can be satisfying, too. We need to stop trying to force "perfect" things in life, when things are perfect the way they are.

Bottom line

Improvement is hard work and not everybody is willing to work hard. So it's no surprise that people look for extremes to reach their goal faster. However, these methods don't offer any real long-term success. Balance and moderation is the key to a healthy, fulfilling life. Remember, if you can't enjoy it, you can't stick to it.

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