Don’t Cut, Limit Yourself! The Downfall of Restrictive Diets

Don’t Cut, Limit Yourself! The Downfall of Restrictive Diets

Where do I start? There is so much more to weight loss than how many calories you consume – or even what type of food you choice to eat.

As a Nutritional Therapist I see a lot of clients who have a restrictive diet – but not by choice. They may have food intolerances or allergies and need to avoid certain foods such as gluten, dairy or yeast, and I work with them to determine how they can meet all their dietary needs.

Maintaining a balanced diet

This is not easy as clients will need to find other ways to obtain certain nutrients that they may otherwise be lacking. There is a reason that we eat a varied diet – we need to make sure that we get all macro and micronutrients covered. Seasonal food gives us the best of nutrients.

Eating the same food time after time, may mean that we are missing out on certain vitamins and minerals.

Calorie restriction diet

With this restriction diet, a person will get less than their recommended daily amount of energy intake, along with less of their recommended nutrient intake. Initially, this is likely to cause a weight loss, whether that weight is fat, muscle or water.

This is usually the large weight loss that people experience when they start some kind of diet for weight loss.

However, after a while of restricting calories the body ‘gets wise’ to this pattern and the next time the person eats food – whatever it is – it is more likely to be stored as body fat.

This is the body’s way of ensuring that it has a reserve of energy in case the situation happens again.

This is when weight loss slows down and a person loses heart with their regime.

Blood sugar levels are paramount in the quest to lose weight

They need to be kept steady so that the body has a steady, but constant supply of energy. Foods that cause spikes in blood sugar are more likely to cause a sudden drop shortly after.

This low blood sugar causes hunger pangs, and the body to be more likely to store food as fat when you next eat. Both of these responses are detrimental to trying to lose weight.

Don’t Cut, Limit Yourself! The Downfall of Restrictive DietsThe best way to lose weight is by initially trying to keep your blood sugars in balance

Eating every 3-4 hours with foods that help with the slow release of energy is the best way to get the body back on track for weight loss.

Foods containing protein, fat and fibre are all great for slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, which means that the energy contained within the food is slowly released rather than all in one go.

Ideal snack items

These include nuts, hummus and vegetables to dip or avocados. Items such as biscuits or cakes offer a short-term energy fix but the energy within them is released all too quickly, leaving the person in a blood sugar deficit.

As well as macronutrients within the diet, some vitamins and minerals also help towards balancing blood sugar within the body. Magnesium appears to play a role in lowering blood sugar and having more in the diet may help to protect against the development of Type II Diabetes.

Foods that are high in magnesium

These include fish, artichokes, lentils, oat bran, almonds and seeds. Other foods that may help to balance blood sugar levels include B vitamins (meat, eggs, soya, pumpkin seeds and brewers yeast), Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers and sprouted seeds), and Zinc (liver, eggs, whole grains, oysters and mushrooms).

Restricting your diet, if done with weight loss in mind, is likely to cause you to get fed up of the food you are eating when avoiding anything that may be considered slightly unhealthy or calorie dense.

Although it is true that it is better to eat vitamin and mineral dense food rather than just something that contains lots of calories without any, or little, nutritional value – a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

The key is moderation

Little treats are great for mood boosting and the way we feel also has an effect on how our bodies deal with food. Rather than cutting something out completely from your diet, why not restrict yourself to eating it once a week.

Have one day a week where you allow yourself to eat a little more and even eat or drink things that would usually be considered to be on the ‘naughty list’.

If you eat a nutrient dense diet six days a week and eat a variety of food, rotating fruits and vegetables according to the season, then one day of some treats won’t rock the boat too much. 

It will also serve to boost your mood and help to keep you on track for the rest of the week.

Connect with Expert Lisa J Lowery-Jones.

1. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2016; 12: 213–218.Published online 2016 Jan 19. doi:10.2147/NDT.S82538 Update on eating disorders: current perspectives on avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder in children and youth. Mark L Norris, Wendy J Spettigue, and Debra K Katzman

2. Miller, C (2009) How to Balance Blood Sugar Naturally.

3. Trinka, T (2010) The Myths of Blood Sugar Control and What To Do About It.