The Dangers of Restrictive Dieting and Ignoring Your Body’s Signals That You Need to Know

Finding someone who is fully content with their body shape has got to be as rare as winning a jackpot. You don’t agree with me? Ask someone, and wait for the… “but I wish…” Yoga Teacher and Founder of Eating Fit, Amy Giannotti shares the body signals you should not ignore.

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Studies looking at ‘healthy body shape’ and body satisfaction also fail to show positive correlations. When healthy body shape range is measured using body mass index and investigating body dissatisfaction ratings, the results show that there is more to it than just physical shape.

“Beyond Stereotypes”, the study commissioned by Dove, surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 across 10 countries. They found that 67% of all women aged 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks.

Especially for females, who believe that achieving the ‘thin ideal’ (which is most often unattainable within healthful means), will bring about positive psychosocial benefits, dieting is seen as a solution. In fact, research shows that dieting is a stronger predictor of weight gain over time, rather than weight loss.

Further, dieting is the number one risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Recurrent binge eating, fasting, purging, or excessive exercise behaviours are associated with feelings of guilt, shame, frustration, and loss of self-control around food. Often promoting intensified feelings of body dissatisfaction. Are you starting to see the trap?

A healthy body is a happy and confident body. A happy and confident mindset drives positive behaviours that are intuitive with the body’s needs.

The ‘attachment’ we have to our body shape and our appearance is consuming, exhausting and limiting to our quality of life, especially when our expectations are most often unattainable.

The more emphasis and importance you have on your physical appearance striving to ‘fit in’ to cultural ‘ideals’, the more consumed you will be. You may find a place where you are feeling ‘ok’ or ‘fit’ but then the effort to ‘control’ or ‘maintain’ your weight is what consumes you. You live in fear to sway too far away from your ‘safe’ foods and exercise routine.

When your restrictive diet involves ignoring your bodies appetite signals in order to follow some ‘external’ rules, you lose connection and trust with your body. You wouldn’t ignore someone you love and care greatly for but then why do we feel it’s ok to ignore your body?

Your healthy body is one that you communicate well with and look after its needs.

Hypothalamic amenorrhea, a growing endocrinological condition in females, is a result of perceived stress in your body. It is defined as a loss of menstrual cycle for greater than 3 months. The result is the switching off of the communications between the hypothalamus (the master control centre of the brain) to the ovaries.

Its causes are multifactorial but can include, insufficient energy availability, insufficient body fat and stress both physical and psychological. This includes over training, ignoring hunger signals and insufficient rest when your body is signalling fatigue.

You can see here that being ‘good’ from a sociocultural standpoint, by not giving in to your bodies ‘wants’ with restrictive dieting and intensive training, can be incredibly dangerous. Ignoring your body doesn’t result in a healthy body.

Females are made to reproduce but when the body is evaluated to be unsafe to conceive a new life, our body switches this ability off. Your body’s number one requirement is to look after your life so it switches off non-essential bodily processes to conserve energy in hope that the available energy can be spared to the most essential functions such as the heart and lungs. It will draw nutrients from bone and muscle when energy is too sparse to do so.

The result unfortunately is not just an absence of a monthly bleed. Your heart health is compromised, bone mineral density will start to reduce, increasing your risk of osteoporotic fractures, you will likely have trouble with temperature regulation, because again your body doesn’t want to waste energy keeping you at perfect temperatures, your libido will lower along with your fertility. No period is not ok. It is sign that something is not right.

If this resinates with you, it’s not too late to make a change. After ignoring it for so long it’s only natural you will have communication issues. Liken this to a best friend, ex or family member who had ‘disappeared’ for a while, especially if you had ignored them or not supported them. It takes time to get on the same page and build that trust. But once you do, there will be no wanting to turn back. Feeling connected, not ‘resisting’ and honouring your body will give you the peace and freedom you have been searching for.


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