If losing weight is one of your New Year resolutions, be careful not to fall into the fad diet trap. These fad diets can actually affect your period (and overall health).
When entering a new year, we tend to be surrounded by supposed solutions, tips and plans for weight loss. We are sold the message that extreme, fad diets such as ‘no carbs’ and detox teas are the key to successful weight loss. But the truth is, weight loss can be successfully achieved by increasing your activity and with simple choices and swaps with your nutrition. A wholesome, nutritional diet is key.
Unfortunately, with the marketing messages surrounding these fad diets promising a ‘quick fix’, they become desirable to many people. But these fad diets can affect our periods and be detrimental to our health. Read on to discover how.
What is a fad diet?
A fad diet is the kind of plan where you eat a very restrictive diet with few foods or an unusual combination of foods for a short period of time to lose weight very quickly.
How might fad diets affect your period?
A sudden change to a restrictive diet acts as a stressor, just as much as illness or extreme increase in exercise does. This can affect the hormone release (mainly oestrogen) that allows you to have regular cycles. Think of it this way – when your body is stressed, it sacrifices non-essential functions (such as the ability to become pregnant) to survive. Low oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, but a long-term health concern is an increased risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) and missed periods can also affect fertility.
How might fad diets affect your overall health?
1. The majority of the weight you drop when you lose weight too quickly tends to be water weight, which can lead to rapid dehydration.
2. Fad diets involve depriving yourself of calories, however, calories are what translate into the energy your body needs to get through the day, so you might find yourself feeling fatigued for most of the day.
3. Losing weight too quickly can lead to severe diarrhoea, to be followed later by constipation.
4. Your body may be deprived of its essential nutrients and you’ll become malnourished.
What’s the advice?
If you suspect your periods have stopped as a result of fad dieting, returning to and maintaining a healthy weight may help your period to return. However, we recommend seeing a doctor to rule out any other causes.
When attempting to lose weight, it’s best change your diet and increase exercise slowly. NHS UK suggests aiming to lose weight at around 0.5kg to 1kg a week (1lb to 2lb). This method will also be more sustainable in the long run, rather than piling the pounds back on at the end of a fad diet.
Also consider what your goal is and why you are trying to achieve it. The aim should always be to maintain a body weight within a healthy range. To find the healthy range for you, check out this BMI calculator. Even if you lose weight really slowly, if you drop below the healthy range, you may still suffer with health complications such as amenorrhea (missing periods), osteoporosis (bone loss) or anaemia (low red blood cells).