An honest look at the ways women are taking care of their minds and bodies in 2018.

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Pretty much everyone has heard of, or maybe even tried, a fad diet. Whether you were all about Atkins, keep a secret Pinterest board of Keto-friendly Instant Pot recipes, maintain a steady rotation of one-pot Paleo lunches, or tried the Whole30 diet for yourself, trendy meal plans that purport to jumpstart your metabolism and make you feel amazing may seem like a win-win. But there are reasons for concern over diets that require people to heavily restrict caloric intake or cut out certain foods altogether, and the implications can affect more than just your waist size. Here’s why some experts say that dieting is not always the healthy lifestyle choice it is made out to be.

Marisa Moore, Registered Dietician Nutritionist:

Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Atlanta, Georgia, tells Brit + Co that the nutritional health payoff of a diet depends on the specifics of what you are or are not eating. That said, her general rule of thumb for people looking to shave off a few pounds or overhaul their nutritional intake is to make realistic big-picture lifestyle tweaks instead of seeking drastic short-term solutions.

“I get requests all the time for a meal plan, something really rigid to follow,” she tells us. “I generally don’t find that these are a good fit. For me, it’s more important to make lifestyle changes to achieve goals. It’s not a quick fix, it’s not going to be something you go on then go off once you reach a certain weight.”

However, she notes that people who have certain medical conditions may, in fact, need to cut or add certain foods from their diet. For example, she explains that the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet (aka the keto diet) has been shown to be helpful for some people who have epilepsy. But diets such as these are only truly advisable, in her professional opinion, if someone has a “specific need” for it, Moore says.

Deborah Klinger, Psychotherapist:

Deborah Klinger, MA LMFT CEDS-S, a psychotherapist in Durham, North Carolina who treats patients with eating disorders, has seen the life-threatening pitfalls of fad diets firsthand. Though not the case for all dieters, for people who are genetically predisposed to eating disorders, Klinger says that “dieting can be really dangerous.”

But even for those who are not at risk for an eating disorder, Klinger argues that dieting still isn’t healthy. Often, the decision to diet rooted in harmful social attitudes about body size, weight, and shape. Consider the idea of a “healthy weight,” a term that Klinger says “implies that a weight itself can be healthy or unhealthy, but that isn’t true.”

“Instead of having a size-diverse attitude about bodies,” Klinger tells us, “we have an attitude that skinny is good and fat is bad.”

Because of our culture’s frequent insistence that bodies can only be healthy or “good” at a certain weight or size, Klinger sees dieting as an indication that a person may be dealing with broader mental health issues: trauma, anxiety, depression, or general insecurities.

“The antidote to a person being concerned about or unhappy with their body size, shape, or weight, and going on a diet in response, is to make a U-turn and practice accepting their body and its current size, shape, and weight. To treat it really well with proper nutrition and movement without the intent of changing it,” Klinger tells us. She recommends that people look into body-positivity resources such as the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), too.

If someone does want to change their diet, however, Moore recommends thinking about sustainability, and to not fixate only on food. “Creat[e] a holistically healthy lifestyle versus solely focusing on food, because sometimes when you follow a diet it can lead to an obsessive nature where you feel the food is in control or you fear food,” she says.

When being healthy becomes about control over food, it can be cause for concern, Moore says, “especially with younger women. Food is not the enemy… [food] is so important, so there’s no need to fear it or feel shame.”

Klinger says that a psychologically healthy relationship with food is one that “Combines informed choices and wisdom based on information about nutrition combined with eating intuitively.” Simply put, learn to know when you’re hungry and when you’re satisfied, and use that as information to decide when to eat and when to not.

So while fad dieting is a socially acceptable and popular way that people try to alter their bodies, in reality, there are much healthier and safer long-term ways to think about and eat food. Though much of our society tells us there’s only one kind of “good” body, the truth is that all kinds of bodies can be healthy. If you still want to give a certain meal plan a try, make sure you check with your doctor first.

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(Images via Getty)