Extreme Dieting in the Fitness Industry

I’m not sure if any of you have read the article I wrote for Fitness Mag online issue a couple months ago which was all about the Minnesota starvation study.

It is probably one of the most profound studies done on the effects of long-term and extreme dieting. It was conducted in order to find out the treatment options for starving populations in 1944. In brief, being that this topic is about the extremes in the fitness industry. I want to explain the outcomes of this study. It showed many physical, mental and social effects of serious food restriction.


Even showing how taking diets to the extreme can cause changes to personality.


The men involved had not only become aggressive, but they became obsessive over any food that they came into contact with – including bubble gum and sodas. They would daydream about food and they would steal food. They even got to the point where licking their plates after a meal was normal.


Can you imagine being in such a starved state? That even laughing and finding the fun in life becomes difficult?


In terms of how much of a deficit they were in, these men were eating half or less of their daily calories. To survive off so little for so long was truly remarkable! They actually became obsessed with protruding bones and thin legs. Becoming driven for more results, they would even turn on themselves. Depression would set in when they would consume cheats, what a scary thought.

The most poignant part of all though, was how long it took them to recover post diet.

They could no longer distinguish between serious hunger and a normal appetite, often taking their binges to the extreme. Distinguishing between psychological and physiological hunger should be normal for us. But not when you have been hungry for so long. At this point so many chemical structures change that there is no normal to compare to. It took them more than double the time to recover, and some noted years later that their relationship with food was still affected.

How does this translate to the fitness industry? Well many people take their diet and their training programs a little too far. Yes there is such a thing as extreme dieting – and it happens a lot in the fitness industry.

It becomes imperative that one should listen to your body. Rather than keep trying to push it further and further than it wants to go. I don’t think anyone wants to have a rebound, or even worse, completely ruin their relationship with food and exercise.

There are some cases, such as in bodybuilding, where one needs to keep dropping calories low and exercising more. But some cases of extreme dieting can also be those people who are constantly on a diet, year after year. This is even less apparent to others (including the dieter).


The point is, you need to know exactly how it is affecting your:


hormones and

relationship with food.


Nothing should ever be overdone, nothing should ever cost you your health. I would advise you all right now, if you are competing or not, to look at your lifestyle. Know whether everything you do on a daily basis keeps you happy, and moving towards your goals. Should it fall away, it will not affect who you want to become in the long run. Keep your environment working for you. Until next time lovelies..


Isilda Da Costa is a personal trainer and women’s fitness specialist who, if she isn’t at the gym training, is busy researching the most up to date information for growing those muscles. She has combined her love of everything healthy by being a health coach in her own health shop in Swaziland. Follow along on @izzy.healthandfitness

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