Extreme Dieting = Longer Life?

30 May

USA Today: Extreme Dieting = Longer Life?

The above linked article is about a new study that shows people who do extreme calorie deprivation tend to live longer. The reason? People who eat less have lower core body temperatures which allows their organs to function more ideally. The article focuses on a 6-foot plus tall man who only eats 1800 calories a day. He’s lost 60 lbs and has a BMI of 19 (only one number than 18, which is considered starvation).

I’m 5’7 and weigh 140 lbs. In order to maintain this weight and based on exercising 4 – 5 days a week, I need to consume 2200 calories. The man in the article is at least 5 inches taller than me, and he’s eating 400 less calories. I absolutely don’t understand how in any way this form of dieting can be A. Healthy or B. Promoting a happy existence.

Food is great. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Yes, we need it for fueling our bodies and yes we, as Americans, tend to over indulge way too often, but food is wonderful and should be savored. So I don’t know how this person in the article is not angry 100% of the time, because he’s starving all the time.

Furthermore I don’t understand how this can be healthy. While it makes sense I suppose about the core body temperature, being one point away from starvation cannot be good for you in the long run. I think this study could promote a lot of unhealthy eating behavior like anorexia and bulimia. Studies far more numerous than this one urge consuming the proper amount of calories from healthy sources like whole grains and veggies, not starving yourself.

If you work out, it is even more important to eat a certain number of calories each day to keep your athletic body strong and healthy. Consuming far less than what your body needs cannot be healthy in the long run.

Let’s say the study is right, I can’t imagine anyone is happy being hungry all the time. So as a food-a-phile, I would much rather live to 80 instead of 90 if it means getting to enjoy all the culinary delights this world has to offer.

Interested in your opinions on this article, please share!

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6 Responses to “Extreme Dieting = Longer Life?”

  1. laurapayette May 30, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

    I’m with you. I’d be so angry if I was always hungry! I’d much rather eat yummy food than starve so I can be thin. I’m also about your height and weight and while I’m about 10 lbs. heavier than my ideal weight, I don’t stress about it. Instead, I exercise when I can, eat decently, and enjoy life. I thought about my weight a lot before I had a baby, but now it’s just not that important. As long as I’m healthy, that’s all that matters.

    • Noel D. May 31, 2011 at 6:26 AM #

      You definitely have the right attitude! Being healthy and happy are what matters, not numbers.

  2. Hannah May 30, 2011 at 11:38 PM #

    I don’t think he’s doing extreme exercise, which is basically what marathon training is and requires a higher daily caloric intake. Most people who embark on this diet are meticulous about meeting their daily nutrient requirements, which are different than caloric requirements meaning he can quite reasonable get the proper nutrients without eating as many calories as another person.

    This guy is also not continually losing weight and nothing is said about him being hungry all the time. His body fat percentage is within normal ranges. And as far as I’ve read, a normal BMI range STARTS at 18, meaning he is TWO points above underweight. There are some people out there who are classified as obese yet participate in competitive sports and have extremely good cholesterol and blood pressure levels. I don’t think you can base health on arbitrary numbers without taking other factors into consideration.

    Food and nutrient science is an always-evolving field. Just recently the sodium recommendations have been changed by the FDA to reflect new findings on how sodium affects health. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what is healthiest for an individual, aside maybe from avoiding carcinogens. Just think about that guy who eats a Big Mac a day and doesn’t have health problems. Not a diet recommended for everyone but it works for him.

    I think as long as you feel good and aren’t having adverse health affects, it’s pretty open to interpretation on what is healthy and what isn’t. You can always look at your blood pressure, your liver function, your cholesterol levels, and your overall well being as better indications of whether you are healthy or not.

    • Noel D. May 31, 2011 at 6:25 AM #

      I think you make some really good points, Hannah. It didn’t say the guy was hungry all the time, I just assumed he would be given his caloric intake and height, etc. I was basing it off of how I would feel consuming 400 – 600 less calories than I am now. I would be GROUCHY!!!! LOL And true, we don’t know his exercise regimen, if there even is any.

      I just think looking at the study, it can’t be healthy or make you feel good. But I could be totally wrong. After all, we adapt to our eating habits, our stomachs shrink/expand based on our habits so he could be fine. I just thought it sounded like a miserable existence and wonder about the health factors.

      Good to see both sides!

      • Hannah May 31, 2011 at 1:07 PM #

        I guess I mostly take issue with the article in that it doesn’t express anything about the relative health of the individual but judges based on an arbitrary caloric intake that is supposed to be the average for every person out there. I just didn’t think it was very objective. I don’t think there is one fit for everybody, regardless of FDA recommendations.

  3. Noel D. June 1, 2011 at 5:19 PM #

    I agree, Hannah. I think there are general guidelines everyone can follow, but once you do an extreme on either end, you can’t use that to generalize everyone.

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