extreme dieting, HMT Hospitals

The Dangers of Extreme Dieting

Most people in the UK have tried some form of diet to lose weight, whether it be for medical purposes, aesthetic purposes or as a lifestyle change.

But when does dieting become a bad thing? Eating disorders are a recognised mental health issue and often stem from wanting to lose just a few pounds. Serious lack of nutrition for weight loss purposes is called extreme dieting.

What is extreme dieting?

Extreme dieting is when a person dramatically reduces their calorie intake to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time, essentially pushing the body beyond its capabilities. While extreme dieting may have the desired effected, there are health dangers associated with such a dangerous lack of calories.

A calorie is a measurement of energy, it is the unit for measuring how much energy is in food and drink and when more calories are consumed than are burnt, the body stores the excess as fat. When fewer calories are consumed than burnt, the body uses the stored fat as an energy source, this is when weight loss occurs.

As a general guide, men need around 2500 calories a day and women need around 2000 calories a day. If a there is a significant amount less being consumed over a period of time for the purpose of losing weight, this can have adverse side effects.

People suffering from obesity may be recommended a calorie-controlled diet to get to a healthy weight, but this would be under a doctor’s approval and supervision and many dieticians only recommend losing one or two pounds a week. We discussed the dangers of obesity in January during Obesity Awareness Week.


Having such a lack of nutrition can have debilitating effects on the physical and mental health of a person.

Dieters on low-calorie diets will experience a lack of energy and mood changes because of the sugar level drop in the blood. Extreme hunger can result in irritability and depression because of the lack of food and the cravings that come as a result of ‘banning’ foods or certain foods.

Malnutrition can lead to atrophy of muscles throughout the body, this is when muscles waste away, this includes the heart. A weakened heart is a serious problem which could cause a threat to life.

While most people on partake in extreme diets for a set period of time, eating disorders often stem from an initial diet that was intended to be temporary. As extreme diets require meticulous calorie counting, the obsession can become addictive. While other factors are often at play when developing an eating disorder, someone at high risk could be pushed over the edge with an extreme diet.

Other effects:

  • Gallbladder disease
  • Dehydration
  • Acidosis

The Healthy Way to Lose Weight

The best way to lose weight and sustain weight loss is to make a lifestyle change in your eating and exercising habits. The easiest explanation of how to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. The calories burnt includes the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the calories the body burns in order to perform its basic functions.

Eating healthy food, including protein and carbohydrates as well as lots of fruit and vegetables, while limiting saturated fat and sugar intake is the best ‘diet’ to lose weight safely. A healthy diet also needs to be subsidised with physical activity in order to reach health goals.

If you are concerned about your weight or eating habits, or need advice on how to safely diet and lose weight get in touch with a doctor.

HMT operates two not-for-profit hospitals, to speak to someone or to arrange an appointment, please contact the relevant hospital.

HMT ST Hughs in Grimsby – 01472 251 100 

HMT Sancta Maria is Swansea – 01792 479 040