Women’s Mental Health: The Dangers of the “Get Thin Quick” Diet

Woman with her mouth taped shut with a measuring tape.

It is important to understand the difference between undereating to be ‘skinny’ and fueling our bodies to be ‘strong’ or ‘healthy’. It has finally caught up with the fitness industry! BUT… its predecessor is still happening. And we need to continue to crack down and bring awareness to how harmful undereating is to our bodies. I believe we are all responsible for promoting healthy methods. However, I also believe this duty falls even heavier on those working in the health and fitness space in any capacity, and operating businesses that promote health and well-being.

While I do not claim to be a personal trainer, nutritionist, or any other fitness-related career person, I am a woman who works out for years. I have been to a number of gyms over the years, and have tried just about everything to “get skinny, and stay skinny”. But guess what? Those “get thin quick” regimes destroy your hormone balances, but wreck your metabolism… and it’s not sustainable.

Studies show that upwards of 90% of individuals who lose significant weight through restrictive diets of most kinds (low calorie, low fat, low carb) struggle to keep that weight off, and ultimately gain it back. I can also vouch for this, as I was one of them for many years! Constantly yo-yo-ing to get the ideal body weight, only to gain it all back within 1-2 years, having to start over again.

Harmful Diets

But why do so many people, companies, and gyms promote these harmful diets? This is when their purpose is ‘supposed’ to be to help you achieve your goals and become the most healthy versions of yourselves.

Knowing what I know now, and looking back on how my beliefs and ideals used to be – I cannot understand why anyone working in the fitness industry ever told me to “eat 1200 calories a day”, especially while working out. But unfortunately, (embarrassingly) for quite a number of years – I believed this was the way to the body I always longed for.

It’s true. I walked to a gym (no, I will not name names) that promoted this type of weight loss. It wasn’t advertised on the website, but when asked, this is what the owner suggested I do. Work out and set a 1200-calorie target. And at the time, I absorbed everything they said because I was disappointed in myself for gaining my weight back from “the last time”. I just wanted to be thin… because if I were thin, I would love myself right??

Wrong. I lost a lot of weight quickly. (Because I’m one to often strive above and beyond what I was told) – I consumed 1000-1200 calories per day and often worked out twice… yes TWICE per day. I reached my goal and still hated how I looked. I still found flaws. I always thought “If I could get rid of this, get rid of that, tighten here, tone there I would be happy”. But I never was. Suffering from body dysmorphia was an understatement.

Changing My Mindset

After I gained all the weight back… AGAIN… I… I realized I wanted a different approach. I literally gave myself PTSD from eating chicken and salad every day. And I was aware that while I wanted to get myself in shape, I didn’t wish to follow that route again. I began to change my mindset without being conscious of it. I knew I wanted to be fit and strong. Not just “skinny”. I was aware that I was looking for a flexible diet that would allow me to still enjoy the foods I loved. However, it allowed me the opportunity to tweak and make better choices along the way. I knew I desired strength over thinness.

But I can’t help but look back and wonder WHY on earth would someone who operates a fitness facility, someone who promotes health and well-being, someone who is working to be a positive influence on our community make such unhealthy recommendations? Is it because they want the cycle to keep clients returning? Do they not know better? Do they truly believe this is the way??

It worries me that while there is a shift towards more healthy fitness paths in today’s society, there are still people and places promoting harmful diets. My advice to you, the reader, is not to blindly follow anyone’s advice when making a change. Do some research, and get a better understanding of your body, your hormones, and your metabolism. And understand the ways you can make truly impactful positive changes for yourself. If you’re not sure – ask for a second, third, or fourth opinion!

Moving Forward

I can honestly say it’s been a journey. Learning to re-program my brain, correcting myself when I look in the mirror and dislike what I see, and reminding myself that slow progress is still progress – it’s a roller coaster. But it’s a ride I will never trade for low-calorie and quick fixes again.