Don't Diet in 2019 - Reason #26: You'll Need Life Alert

Brittle bones are just one of the many health risks associated with restrictive diets.

Brittle bones are just one of the many health risks associated with restrictive diets.

If you’re going on a restrictive diet, you may need to consider investing in a “senior alert system”.

But Life Alert is for old people! I’m only 40…why would I need that?!? Diets that restrict calories and food groups are associated with higher risk of osteopenia, osteoporosis, and bone fractures. Why? There are three main reasons:

  1. In a starvation state your body will pull energy from all systems – including the skeletal system.

  2. Extreme diets are unlikely to offer all of the nutrients you need to maintain bone density. This is why most restrictive diets also come with a laundry list of supplements you need to take to “stay healthy”.

  3. Finally, diets cause imbalance in estrogen and testosterone hormones. Estrogen is closely associated with bone density in women. Low estrogen = low bone density.

A personal story from my triathlon days…toward the end of my triathlon “career” I went to Ohio State University to get a DEXA scan to check my body fat percentage and bone density. This is the gold standard test for both. My body fat was low – about 18%. I was pretty proud of myself until the tech asked…

How old are you?” I told her I was 33. She said, “Wow, your bone density is really low for your age…you’re borderline osteopenia”. HOLD THE PHONE! I thought I was sooooo healthy! I was exercising, my diet was clean as a whistle, and I was even taking a calcium supplement!

Reality check. I was fit but very unhealthy. My ultra-restrictive low-calorie low-carb “lifestyle” coupled with intense exercise had dropped my body fat to an unsafe level. The consequence was a body that ceased production of estrogen (I hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in over a year). My extreme diet was causing skeletal degradation! Yikes!

Ladies, may I please remind you that we are supposed to have body fat! Fat around our hips, thighs, butt, and belly are integral for many facets of our health and well-being, including the hormones that regulate appetite, sex drive, ability to get pregnant, emotional well-being, and bone health.

What you should do instead…

Anti-Diet Suggestion: Most diets cut calories way too low, way too fast, and for way too long. This will negatively impact your body’s biological processes and cause a cascade of unwanted “diet side effects”. Be wary of any diet or plan that cuts calories below 1400 or eschews entire food groups.

Do you need to eat healthy to be healthy? Yes. But you don’t need a diet to do it. As often as possible choose to eat foods that come directly from nature (i.e. add more fiber-rich veggies and fruits to your diet), choose from a wide variety of foods and food groups, get enough sunlight (or take a Vitamin D supplement), get calcium from real foods like leafy greens and pasture-raised full-fat dairy, lift weights, manage stress, and don’t overdo cardio.


Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer

Learn more about the author here.