We’ve all heard it—“I feel so fat today.” I’m only eating [fill in the blank] today.” Girls often sacrifice meals because they “feel fat”, or are trying to lose weight. We all know that when the amount of calories the body needs (burns) exceeds the calories being consumed, we lose weight. But too often girls take this to the extreme and will not eat for the day, only consume 100-200 calories per day, are constantly dieting, working out too much (yes, that is possible), or eliminating certain food groups (no carbs, no fats, no sugar) from their diets all to be skinny. But is “skinny” really worth it?
When these practices continue for extended periods of time, extreme and unhealthy weight loss occurs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a body mass below 18.5 is considered underweight. Being underweight means you are below what is considered the normal recommended weight for your body’s height, build and gender. This can cause serious health risks and even worse—mental and emotional risks such as social withdrawal, irritability, depression and sleep disorders.
While looking like the women in Vogue may appeal to you, are things like loosing hair, having irregular hormone regulation and weak immune systems worth it? When you have a significantly low calorie intake, your body can actually cause you to gain weight if you return to normal eating habits. Technically, you become malnourished. Your body will then hold onto any nutrient, fat or carb it takes in because who knows when it will be fed again. Therefore, when you do eat another meal 24 hours later, it will again store all it can in fat cells. If you constantly deplete your body of its energy, it works hard to save as much as it can which is why going on “one celery-stick-a-day diets” may make you feel skinny for a couple days, but you will gain weight once you start to eat normally.
When women do not eat enough, hypoglycemia and electrolyte deficiencies can occur. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs when glucose levels in the body decrease (livestrong.com). Experiencing dizziness, headaches and even fainting can be a sign of low blood sugar—none of which are fun to experience on your walk from your apartment to class. Electrolytes deplete as the body starves. Lack of potassium can cause an abnormal heartbeat and muscle spasms, lack of calcium can lead to heart problems, and low sodium levels can cause confusion and muscle weakness. Any type of electrolyte deficiency can be life threatening if left untreated. Additionally, if starving yourself for weight loss is your goal, gym sessions will become impossible to complete with these side effects.
Although common in older women, anemia – not having enough blood cells in the body – is also a result of restricting calories. MayoClinic.com suggests that the same side effects of low blood sugar and electrolyte deficiencies along with cold hands and feet, can be a result of anemia.
At first glance these side effects may not seem horrific. But when “skinny” is the only thing on your mind, it can have a huge impact on your physical, mental and emotional health and can even completely change you as a person. Don’t sacrifice yourself for a number on the scale.