Risks of Dieting

If you try to alter your natural body size and shape, your body will fight back! If you eat fewer calories to try to live below your natural size (by dieting), your body responds by slowing down your metabolism (the rate at which we burn calories). This is because our bodies think we are starving them and so they actually start burning fewer calories than they would if we were not dieting. At first, we may dip below our natural body size. Over time, however, our bodies return to the size that is natural. As an added insurance, our bodies may actually raise our natural size- just in case we try to starve them again!

Diets don’t work ! They can make athletes... 

  • have less energy to train and compete, - lose muscle tissue
  • be more likely to get injured,
  • have irregular sleep and menstrual cycles,
  • be constipated,
  • have stomach cramps,
  • lose hair,
  • be moody, cranky or depressed,
  • have trouble concentrating and remembering things,
  • be obsessed about their bodies and what they eat,
  • be at a high risk for developing an eating disorder.

Read the fine print – Weight-loss companies may promise you big results, but nearly all diet advertisements have a tiny disclaimer at the bottom. It will say something like, “Results not typical. Results not guaranteed to last.” Even the diet industry knows that diets don’t work!

Risks to your sport performance

Some female athletes want to lose weight thinking that it will help their performance.

Sports where athletes are required to “cut weight” to compete in a lower weight category and gain an advantage (e.g., wrestling) or conform to perceive judging requirements (e.g., figure skating) can be very detrimental to the health of the athlete.

Even though many athletes and coaches believe that losing weight can actually give the athletes an advantage, the athlete’s body is breaking down and is not functioning properly, leaving it at risk for injury. The desire to lose weight may not only hurt performance, but it can seriously affect the athlete’s perception of her body and of food, leading to higher chances of developing an eating disorder.

Risks to your health

There is a long list of the effects of trying to change your natural body size and shape:

  • Unhappiness,
  • Preoccupation with food, weight and shape,
  • Potential loss of friendships and an active social life, and
  • Loss of enjoyment and participation in sport.

Intense body dissatisfaction and trying to alter your natural body size and shape can eventually lead an athlete to develop disordered eating or an eating disorder.