Health (things to know)

Diet Fads and Eating Disorders: what they do to your body

Hopefully you don’t mind another health related post. I am fascinated by them! It truly seems like everything health related comes back to nutrition and energy expenditure. After genetics, everything else is controlled and manipulated by your environment.

Our brains love sugar. In fact, sugar is the primary source of fuel for them. Interestingly, the brain seems to be the only organ we have that doesn’t store its own form of fuel- in contrast to, say, the liver or the muscles, which are full of their own sugar stores.

When we are hungry, our brain lacks fuel. We start to get tired or cranky until we eat. Once we eat, our bodies get to work on storing up sugars and fats to use for energy until our next meal and our brains are happy.

Now, “sugars” to our bodies can also constitute carbohydrates. So starchy and sugary foods are what will make our bodies (and brains) satisfied.

A Sugar Free or Carb-free Diet

So, what happens when someone goes on a completely sugar or carb free diet? Gradually, the body will have trouble finding the fuel it needs. It will use up the sugar sources it has and will then start breaking down other, less efficient fuel sources like fats and proteins. This sounds good in theory, but in reality it’s not. You’re body uses a ton of energy to take on these processes, and it will eventually start to make you feel tired and lethargic.

The body will also start using essential proteins for cellular respiration as a sugar source. This prevents your cells from fully functioning properly and will lead to the build up of something called ketoacids. These ketoacids are a very bad source of fuel, and your brain will refuse to consume them. Furthermore, it will lower the pH (chemical environment) of your blood, which contributes to feeling tired.

A Fat Free Diet

Despite having a “fat free” diet, the body will still store fat. This is because your body can synthesize fat from other sources. On this diet, your body still produces the appropriate amount of energy. When it has enough energy, it will start converting your remaining sources to stored fat.

Typically with fat free diets, people feel that eating fat free foods “won’t count.” In other words, they will actually overeat. This means that people on fat free diets are at risk of gaining weight, which defeats the whole purpose of the diet in the first place.

Binging and Purging

Repeated bouts of binging and purging are a terrible “tease” to the body. When you eat, your body will produce all the proteins it needs to get ready to use the fuel for your organs; however, if you purge soon after, the fuel source is no longer there. To combat this problem, the body will try to over compensate for increased levels of your food storage hormones by releasing hormones that will break down your stores of fat and sugar. Eventually, this will lead to feeling extremely tired (not to mention the psychological effects are terrible as well).


When your body is starving, fat reserves eventually get depleted and there is a switch to using proteins as the major energy source. Muscles, the largest source of protein in the body, are rapidly depleted. Once the body starts consuming its own proteins, all of its essential functions will slow down (after all, everything that goes on in your body occurs through various proteins). At this point, the body is more or less breaking itself down as a means of finding fuel sources.


It’s important to understand that what I’ve described here represents extreme situations. You may consider yourself to be a “low carb” person, but this does NOT mean that you are harming yourself in any way.

The moral of the story is that balance is extremely important. Your body is smart. It will tell you what it needs. It’s quite possible that feeling tired or unproductive may be a sign that you’re missing something. Pay attention to what you eat!


3 thoughts on “Diet Fads and Eating Disorders: what they do to your body

  1. Pingback: “Type 3″ Diabetes: How diet is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease « Tori Teaches Fitness

  2. Great post! It’s so important what we eat each day. I need to remember that when I order a massive cookie while studying at Starbucks!!! Hope all is going well!!

    • Haha- you should bring one of your own healthy cookies you make as an alternative. Also, once we get into fall we can start making our own healthy/delicious lattes 🙂 Medical school is hitting me like a hammer, but hopefully I’ll get the swing of things soon….

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