Protein Obsessed: Deceptive and Dangerous
A couple days ago, I got a message from one of my instagram followers whereby they asked me if I could give them advice on how much protein they should be eating. They explained to me that they are still gaining weight in their recovery from an eating disorder, and that a voice in their head keeps telling them that they absolutely need to be eating lots of protein.
As soon as I read their message, I felt instant recognition and was immediately reminded of how I felt just a mere year ago. I was protein obsessed. And I’m not the only one who struggled with that, clearly. I figured since protein obsession is such a recurring phenomenon in the messages I receive about recovery, it was definitely due time of a blog post.
So for those of you who currently struggle with protein obsession, you are not alone. There are so many people out there who eat way more protein than they need to be eating, simply because the diet industry tells them to! In fact, when I Google searched ‘High Protein Diet’, the first hit was an article on how a high protein diet is the best diet for losing weight!
I think we can all agree on the fact that the diet industry promotes an unhealthy lifestyle in many ways, from low calorie, to fat free, carb free, and high protein diets. The best way to lose weight (if necessary) is not the same for everyone, and is not solved with a diet. It is a complete lifestyle change, and a commitment to healthy eating and balanced exercise is necessary.
But this blog post is not intended to inform people how to lose weight; I want to illustrate how deceiving the diet industry can be, and how certain claims that are promoted are not always true. In fact, they are often the opposite of true, and can even be harmful to your health.
For example, that a high protein diet is the best for losing weight. It’s not for nothing that people with eating disorders will immediately jump to such a diet, if they hear claims like this. I think it is safe to say that no one person with an eating disorder has the same goals, or, rather: no one eating disorder affects a person in the same way. So, I am certainly not saying everyonewith an eating disorder has the main goal of losing weight. An eating disorder is so much more complex than this. For me, it was about control, and eating a high-protein diet gave me the feeling that I could control some part of my life. For others, it may be because it has been advertised in a certain way. I just want to be clear that I am not, in any way, putting a blanket statement over people with eating disorders and their food choices.
After getting that out of the way, let’s chat about being protein obsessed. Why do some of us obsess over eating protein? Like I said above, I cannot answer that for everyone, because clearly, everyone is different. I can tell you about what it was for me.
I wanted to burn calories. As many as possible. That was what control felt like for me. I wanted to be able to control what I ate, and wanted to make sure I could also control how my body used it. I read about how you could boost your metabolism, and found out this could be done by eating high amounts of protein and gaining muscle. Moreover, I read that eating protein helps curb hunger, which intrigued me for obvious reasons.
I will not go into a lot of detail about all the reasons why protein could potentially cause weight loss, because that is not what I am here to tell you, and would defeat the purpose of this blog post. What I will go into detail about, however, is the consequences of eating excessive amounts of protein. Consequences I had to face, and consequences that were absolutely not good for my overall health.
For me, this was a huge issue. I know it’s something we usually don’t like to talk about, but it’s still important that it gets addressed. When following a high protein diet, you typically do not get enough carbohydrates, which leads to a lack of fiber in your diet. Fiber aids in digestion, so a lack thereof can cause constipation in most individuals.
When following a high-protein diet, you are also getting an excessive amount of nitrogen, which found in the amino acids that make up proteins. Your body flushes out this excess nitrogen with water and other liquids, causing you to get dehydrated.
Following a high-protein diet for an extended period of time can increase your risk of kidney damage, as the excess amount of nitrogen puts a huge strain on your kidneys. When I used to get blood tests, my BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) levels were elevated, indicating there was too much nitrogen in my blood, which was making my kidney work way harder than it needed to. It’s amazing that weight gain and eating a more balanced diet caused those levels to become normal again!
Eating a diet high in protein for a prolonged period of time can contribute to osteopenia and osteoporosis, or bone loss. Eating an excessive amount of protein increases the acid load of your body, which then causes the body to take calcium out of the bones to neutralize the acid.
As you now realize (I hope), eating a high amount of protein is actually DANGEROUS, and can permanently damage vital parts of our bodies. A high-protein diet is not the ‘key’ to weight loss or building of muscles, especially the latter. If you are consuming excessive amounts of protein that your body cannot handle, it will get rid of what it cannot use, and all of your efforts will have been for nothing. The best way to get healthy and stay healthy is, you guessed it: eating a BALANCED diet with a healthy balance of carbs, fats, and proteins!
Please understand that I am in no way a medical professional, and I speak from both experience and gained knowledge. This blog post is intended for those who struggle or have struggled with protein obsession, and to give some insight into the dangers around it. I hope to have helped anyone reading this post, and appreciate everyone who has.