Are There Any Benefits to Extreme Diets?
Extreme diets tend to seem like it's a fairly dominant within the fitness community. You'll find someone who looks 'healthy' or is in good shape and plenty of times, they're on a fad/extreme diet. Usually, this correlation makes it very easy to see if you need to get in shape or be 'healthy' then you need to follow an extreme diet.
First, let me define what is an extreme diet in this context. How I define an extreme diet is a diet that usually tends to cut out major macronutrients or food groups to be healthy.
Now, we know this is simply not the case overall. We know you can create a perfect diet for yourself without going crazy and cutting out macronutrients or food groups.
Even with this knowledge, can extreme diets provide any real benefits? Or are they usually more harmful than good?
Appealing to People Who Want to Get into Fitness
I don't think I've ever encountered someone who when they first started to diet or get into shape, didn't try some type of extreme/fad diet. When I first started to work out and bulk, it had to be all 'clean food' and when I was cutting, it had to be low carbs. From trial and error and plenty of research, I realized I didn't have to do this anymore.
There is something about extreme diets that bring in new people to get into shape. This is probably because most may think that extreme diet = extreme results. Again, we know that's not true. Plenty of extreme diets can actually cause other issues down the line due to a lack of micronutrients. Unless you're properly supplementing, most extreme diets can start causing some sort of deficiency.
I will give credit that extreme diets tend to bring in new people which is always great. I do think though that newcomers should be educated though that extreme diets aren't necessarily needed though.
To me, this is probably where extreme diets can either be truly beneficial or can lag your results and only make you frustrated through the process.
People who are educated about extreme diets, sometimes know that it's not needed for them to be healthy. Why do they keep doing it though? Simply because it's sustainable for them.
There are plenty of people that having the choice/option to eat whatever they want as long as it fits into their macros, which actually causes them to not sustain their diet because they easily go off the rails. Extreme diets, tend to cut out a majority of the items you may normally binge on, so people who do follow an extreme diet, may find it more sustainable to follow.
Now, this can also cause issues too. I've noticed others who go on extreme diets simply can't keep up with it for a couple of weeks and then start to binge. They feel guilty, go back on the extreme diet, and then again can't keep up with it. This process is unsustainable and will leave a person feeling defeated. In this case, a more flexible diet might be a better approach.
If you have trouble sustaining your diet due to too many choices of food items and having it be overwhelming, then an extreme diet may be more beneficial to you.
However, if you feel like you keep yo-yo dieting from an extreme diet, maybe you need to have a more flexible diet.
I wrote this article on how to create a sustainable diet for you that goes over these concepts more. If you ever have trouble sustaining your weight loss, check out this article.
Can be Useful for Specific Underlying Conditions
First, I'm not a doctor. You should consult your doctor if you plan on changing up your diet in any regards that can impact your health.
From what I've witnessed, extreme diets can sometimes be beneficial for underlying conditions coupled with a healthy supplementation and being at a healthy weight. For example, someone who is type 2 diabetic may be better off going on a more low carb diet/ keto diet. I've heard other stories of people who use the carnivore diet for their underlying conditions.
I don't wish to dwell on this subject too much as again I'm not a doctor and this isn't my place to say whether an extreme diet can benefit you and your underlying condition. These are just situations i've witnessed or heard from others. Again, if you have any underlying condition and plan on trying a more extreme diet, please consult your doctor.
A Tool to Meet Your Goals
Even though you can probably achieve your goals without an extreme diet, that doesn't mean you won't get results from an extreme diet. You can see some great results and lose weight (specifically not saying fat because at first, most water weight sheds off first) fast in some cases. It can be a great tool to utilize to meet your goals and potentially help with sustainability or lose those last extra pounds fast.
Extreme diets can have some benefits that can help you. The main issue is that too many people preach that it's the only way to get results, which isn't true. I do think it can potentially benefit you depending on if you have issues sustaining a more flexible diet. It also can help bring more people into the fitness community in general, which is always a good thing. However, more people should be aware of the potential side effects of extreme diets and the fact they're not needed. They can be used as a tool to meet your goals, but there is no one diet to cure-all. If you plan on changing your diet and want to go on a more extreme diet, I would highly advise you to consult with your doctor first before making any changes.