4 Warning Signs You're Taking Your Diet Way Too Far
It's possible for your diet to be too extreme to be healthy.
Making dietary changes can certainly change your health for the better, but in the current landscape of hardcore fad diets and ever-changing advice from so-called experts, mixed messages and lack of science can do more harm than good. Here are four signs you might be taking your diet “improvements” a bit too far.
Warning Sign: All or Nothing
A big mistake folks often make when making diet changes is biting off more than they can chew (pun intended!). It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in a full diet overhaul, which, as most dieters learn VERY quickly, is impossible to maintain long term. Instead set short term goals and adopt smaller changes you can build upon. A series of small successes can add up to more effective changes.
Warning Sign: Plant-Based or Bust
There is a huge movement toward more plant-based diets, and the messaging around eating plant-based seems to be getting cloudy. Eating more plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes could up your intake of several healthy nutrients including fiber, healthy carbs, healthy fats and antioxidants. But this doesn’t require an all or nothing approach (see above). Somewhere along the way, the “plants are good” message has sparked a new message that animal foods are bad, which is just plain false.
Eating a vegan diet has been linked to several health benefits including better gut health, weight loss and improved insulin control for those suffering from diabetes; but vegan dieters also run the risk of missing out on important essential nutrients like protein, iron and vitamin D. Vegan diets can also be hard to adhere to, especially if you’re a picky eater. Plus, if your style of vegan diet is nothing but coconut oil and French fries, it’s unlikely you will see any health improvements! All kinds of foods, both plant and animal, can fit into a health diet, so it's great to increase your plant intake, but there’s no need to cut out the low fat dairy, eggs and lean meats.
Warning Sign: Cutting Out Entire Food Groups
Speaking of cutting out, any diet that slashes entire food groups from existence should be a red flag. Whether it’s Paleo, Keto or good old Atkins, long lists of foods that are off-limits or demonizing a macronutrient just makes eating too hard. Eating in this strict fashion long term can put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. While some medical conditions may call for a hiatus from specific foods (like celiac disease, for example), there is good reason to be cautious when unqualified experts call them bad without real science to back it up.
Warning Sign: Obsessing Over Everything You Eat
Is your diet a comfortable lifestyle or an unhealthy obsession? Making food choices shouldn’t be stressful or overly time consuming. Consider taking a more mindful approach to eating and your body and mind will benefit. Eat slowly, enjoy your food, pause to ask if you’re hungry or bored before a late night snack instead of obsessing about how many almonds you ate for a snack today.
Bottom Line: There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all healthy diet; so decide what foods feel right for you and your lifestyle.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.