It has been well documented in many studies that dieting makes you food obsessed. People who restrict there intake for long periods of time can develop behavioural problems and an unhealthy relationship with food.
This is particularly true for people who drop there body weight too low and are chronic dieters. So what is too low?
There is a school of thought called the set point theory. Scientist's suggests that there is a level of body fat that a person is genetically pre determined to be. It's a body weight in which everything functions optimally e.g proper menstrual cycles for women and high metabolism.
This theory suggests that when a person tries to diet below there set point, the body fights back and tries to maintain body weight. It does this by lowering metabolic rate, increasing thoughts of food, increasing feelings of hunger and inducing lethargy, causing people to become less active. Similarly the body can fight weight gain to some degree, how ever less effectively.
When eating above energy requirements the metabolism increases in order to try and burn off excess fuel. The reason why people gain excessive amounts of weight and push their set point to a higher level is through chronic over eating.
Studies have shown that when trying to reduce energy intake below 1200kcal daily the set point theory mechanisms kick in. When a person under consumes calories for greater than 2 weeks body weight protection mechanisms take place. Mechanisms such as: decreasing metabolism by 1.4% every day, increasing thoughts of food, obsessive behaviours such as counting calories, heating food to certain temperatures,increased used of herbs, salt and spices for flavour enhancement, lengthening out meal times for food to last longer and hiding food.
Similar thought processes, obsessive tendencies can also happen in the recreational dieter. Obsessive tendencies have also been found to continue on, even after calories are increased back to a healthy intake and weight is returned back to normal levels.
How do you get around this?
The trick is not to drop you calories too low, at least not below 1200kcal for females and 1500kcal for males who are inactive. The second is to keep exercising to sustain metabolic rate. The third is to make simple changes to your diet that is going to be sustainable and not unrealistic. For example eating a 1200kcal diet of tuna and rice cakes for breakfast lunch and dinner is unrealistic and certainly not fun. However eating a varied diet containing some of your favourite foods such as flavoured yogurt, fruit and pasta will be enjoyable and less of a chore.
Don't diet, it's bad for your mental health and physical health long term. Healthy eating and good portion control habits are much better.