Why perpetual dieting can be detrimental to your health


Let me guess, your goal is to lose weight?

Yeah – and have you had that goal for 3 months, 3 years?

And put your hand up if you have tried a diet, and then felt like you failed because you couldn’t maintain it? (I’ll put up a few hands, too).

The human body is adaptable and incredible, but it can only take so much.

So while you may have a goal of fat loss, you cannot be constantly dieting trying to lose weight.

Dieting is more than just restricting calories and food intake.

It takes planning and it takes an understanding of your body as a whole.

Let’s talk through why perpetual dieting can be detrimental to your health, and how you can properly go through diet stages to reach your goals.

What is a diet? Technically

The definition of “diet” according to google is this:

Noun: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”


Noun: “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”


Verb: “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.”

So diet is what we consume, in general.

But it is also known as the act of restricting food for a specific outcome.

This means restricting overall food intake, restricting types of food, restricting time frame of eating food, etc.

And a diet doesn’t always have to be bad.

Sometimes we follow certain diets for our health, like keto for those with epilepsy or limiting nuts/seeds for those with colitis.

Either way, a diet is following a set of rules for how to eat, with a specific outcome in mind.

What happens to your body when dieting?

Dieting is a complex subject, and a lot of body functions are involved in it.

First off – when we consume food, our body uses some for energy, and stores some for future use.

If we eat in a caloric surplus (eating more than we burn off), the excess energy is stored in fat cells.

This is how our body preserves energy for future needs. But this is also how, over time, excess energy (calories) results in a fat surplus that affects our body shape and size.

In order to lose weight, we then need to be in a caloric deficit (eating less than we are burning in a day).

By staying in that deficit, the body will start to transport stored fat cells to the mitochondria to be used as energy.

The by-product of this energy system is carbon dioxide and water.

Therefore the fat then leaves the body through breathing or through urine/sweating.

And if done correctly, the size of the fat cells shrink and our weight and body size decrease.

What can happen to body due to extreme calorie restriction

Extreme restriction (no matter the duration) of calories can alter your metabolism.

Which is not something we want to happen long term.

The metabolism, simply put, is the process of converting food to energy.

So by restricting calories, we can slow down this process.

If we slow the process down, more calories (energy) is going to be stored as fat to help the body “survive” the times of less calories (energy).

It is a defense mechanism the body created against starvation, which is essentially what you are doing if calories are cut enough.

So instead of using fat as an energy source, it uses muscle because it is more readily available.

Muscle/lean tissue being used as energy = lower metabolism so that fewer calories are needed to create the energy needed.

The metabolic rate in those with more muscle is higher/faster than those without.

This is because muscle burns more calories than fat does…therefore the loss of muscle due to the calorie restriction is going to slow the metabolic ate and the number of calories burned (because the body wants to store it).

So long term restriction of calories is going to slow the metabolism down, and also use lean mass as energy resulting is less muscle and more fat being stored.

What happens to your body when you stop dieting?

One problem people have with weight loss over time is that we never have less fat cells, they just shrink in size.

So by doing the work to lose the weight, we are just shrinking fat cells which can cause the unwanted weight gain in the future because the fat cells are already present.

After long periods of calorie restriction, the body may also start to produce higher levels of hunger hormones.

This means you will find yourself hungry more often, leading you to eat more. Which we know, can lead to more fat storage if more food is being consumed than is being burned.

This is obviously not something people want if fat loss is the main goal.

Why You cannot diet forever

Diets have residual effects.

Meaning it doesn’t just shrink your waistline – the body is more complex than that.

Dieting affects your body on a physical, psychological and hormonal level, it is more than just weighing less on the scale!

So if you are someone that is always dieting – listen up!

Let’s say you have found yourself a good routine during the week.

Your meals are well rounded, you are working out well and you have figured out how you can prep your food and stay on track.

But then Friday, Saturday and Sunday happen..and you don’t prepare or plan.

You do happy hour, dinner out, brunch, drinks with friends, late night snacks and sleep like garbage.

Then Monday, you get up and start your week long routine again.

This is not sustainable, and this is also not going to get you results.

This is where people get frustrated with dieting.

You cannot have a week “on track” and then spend your weekends going overboard.

Think of your calories as a week long number – during the week you consume maybe 1500 calories per day.

If you do this 7 days a week – you are consuming 10,500 calories.

If you eat 1500 calories per day Monday – Thursday and then Friday-Sunday you consume 2,800 (which is very easy to do) then you are consuming 14,400 calories.

That is a big difference on a weekly scale – but something you aren’t really paying attention to.

Then you also have the idea of “preparing” for vacation. So you slash your calories to 1200 for 2 weeks before you go, and then on vacation you dive headfirst into umbrella drinks and free appetizers.

What is going to happen?

You are probably going to gain weight.

And not because you are just eating more food, but because your body, hormonally, is still working with 1200 calorie functionality.

Before you left your body adapted its energy levels and consumption to 1200 calories (because it still wants to keep you alive).

But now, all of a sudden, you are feeding it 3000 calories per day, and it hasn’t had time to adjust to the influx.

So instead of using it as energy like it would if you gradually increased, it is going to store it until it adapts to the new calorie intake (which takes longer than a few days).

Do you see the problem here?

Yo-yo dieting isn’t just trying low carb, low fat, keto or Whole30. It is also dieting, not dieting, dieting, not dieting…and not doing it in a safe manner.

Not to mention, you have probably been under eating for the majority of your adult life because we are a diet-obsessed culture that thinks less is more.

So if you are under eating, and constantly going through the cyclical cycle of diet, free for all, restriction, indulgence etc…you are going to find yourself completely frustrated, and maybe with a few hormonal imbalances.  So – you have to do it the right way.

And that is…

Taking time to NOT diet.

Your goal for yourself and your body cannot always be fat loss, because then you will never achieve it.

You have to take time to focus in other places and give your body a break before going back.

What to do before dieting

Typically, you cannot build new healthy habits, while also dieting at the same time.

Why? Because dieting isn’t a walk in the park, and flipping your life upside down with new routines and habits is going to also throw you for a loop.

The key is to build the healthy habits first, and then, once you have that secured and successful, then you can try to get into fat loss.

For most people – fat loss is going to happen with lifestyle changes.

We don’t need to weight 120lbs and have 12% body fat to reach our goals.

Most people just want to feel good, and comfortable in their skin.

For me – I want to be able to perform. I want to be able to sleep well, do activities, workout and have fun! And that starts with solid habits.

Start with making sure your meals have all the macronutrients you need – a carb, a fat, a protein. And a vegetable because #health and #micronutrients.

Check your sleep, mood, energy levels, food thoughts and stress management. These are all KEY to have in a good place before dieting. Because yes, dieting is more than just eating less.

Get your hormones tested. I am talking female hormones, vitamins, minerals, thyroid. Everything. Do you have a period? No? Then you need to get that back before thinking about fat loss (if you are not in menopause, obvi).

Eat at maintenance. This means eating the amount of food your body needs to live. For most women, this is going to be somewhere around 2,000 calories. Eat there, for a few months with good habits and satisfaction.

Create small habits. Decrease your soda intake. Increase vegetable intake. Eat less Chinese take-out. Learn how you can eat all three meals well. Learn meal prepping and grocery shopping. Understand portion sizes. Become less emotional with the scale and fluctuations. Prioritize your sleep. Understand your levels of satiety, fullness, and hunger. Dig deep into emotional eating and understand where that comes from. These all need to be learned and understood before you can worry about losing fat. Because the body works as a whole. And until you have all of these figured out, you are going to continue to unsuccessfully yo-yo diet.

How to properly diet (if you are going to)

Once you have these habits in place – you have a better understanding of food, you have started moving your body more, you understand that being healthy is more than being skinny.

THEN, and only then, are you likely ready to lose fat.

Dieting is uncomfortable.

It isn’t glamorous. And you are going to be hungry. It isn’t a stroll along the beach, because if it was, there wouldn’t be a BILLION DOLLAR  diet/supplement industry out there trying to get you to take the “easy” way out (the one that by the way, DOES NOT WORK).

So be prepared to be uncomfortable.

Dieting is going to include…

Making sure you are in a deficit – aka you are eating less than you are burning. This sometimes is 100 calories less than you burn, and sometimes it is more.

Dieting takes time. You aren’t going to see progress in 1-2 weeks. It typically (and sustainably) takes longer than that.

Dieting phases should only be 8-12 weeks.

After dieting, you want to reverse diet. This means slowly bringing your calories up 5-10% until you are back at maintenance.

It is hard work – and usually you want a coach or someone to help you so you can do it correctly and have clear direction.

The easiest way to achieve fat loss is going to be by tracking macronutreints. This means tracking and weighing everything you are eating. Again, not glamorous and can lead to some disoriented eating patterns if not done correctly.

Most people who want to diet and lose fat, aren’t willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work.

Which is okay, but that means you also shouldn’t try crash courses expecting them to work.

Build sustainable habits, work to be the healthiest version of yourself, and set goals that are not aesthetic based but rather performance based!

Intuitive Eating and weight loss

And if specific dieting and tracking isn’t for you, you can always get results with intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating is allowing yourself to eat all types of food, giving it no “feelings” like good or bad, and eating to the fullness that feels right for you.

So often we feel like we need to eat “diet” foods, which then can lead to over eating because they are not satisfying.

Instead, intuitive eating allows you to eat what you want, with moderation and listening to hunger/full cues.

Only eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are satisfied.

Allowing yourself to have indulgences and snacks so that you don’t restrict to the point of binging.

It also allows you to work on your nutrition on a bigger scale.

Making sure all nutrients are met on your plate (carb, fat, protein and fiber/vegetables), focusing on protein intake, trying fun new foods etc.

Dieting doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, it can just be an increased attention to food during a period of time.


I hope you found this blog on perpetual dieting helpful for you. If you did, please make sure to share it on social media. Any simple click and share you do is helpful for me, so thank you!


Haley Rowe January 18, 2022