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Restrictive Diet: Types, Benefits, Risks, and More


A restrictive diet is a diet that you follow to lose weight. Basically, some people cut down on their calorie intake and sometimes also limit their time of consuming food.

Such measures could help you in burning off the excessive fat from your body and taking a step towards a healthy lifestyle.

In this article, I will walk you through the details of a few trending weight loss restrictive diets. You will also come across the shortcomings of following these restrictive diets.

This way you can decide which restrictive diets will suit you best. Let us begin.

What Is A Restrictive diet?

A restrictive diet is a diet that limits specific foods to lose weight. It is any type of diet that cuts out a major group of foods or calories with the sole intention of reducing fat.

Dieting these days has become a contemporary trend. Weight loss is a vast industry in the US with new dietary plans and schedules emerging every day.

Since the last century, there has been an immense emphasis on fitness and weight loss which led to the growth of this industry.

Maintaining a healthy weight is necessary[1] however, desiring a specific weight loss goal by compromising on the nutritional requirement of your body is not beneficial for your health.

A restrictive diet aims at reducing weight in a shorter period. There are several kinds of restrictive diets such as low carbs diet, Atkins diet, keto diet, paleo diet, and fasting diet.

All these diets are difficult to follow in the long term. Eliminating a particular group of foods can give rise to several health conditions.

A sudden decrease in body weight is not sustainable. Restrictive diets are difficult to maintain as a result of which, you are highly vulnerable to satisfying your cravings once you lose your patience.

Therefore, it is advisable to follow a diet that is healthy, beneficial, and sustainable.

Types Of restrictive Diet

  1. Low carb diet

    Low-carb diets have been popular[2] for weight loss. It is a diet that restricts carbohydrates. People on a low-carb diet avoid consuming foods like pasta, bread, rice, and sugary foods.

    Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your body. When you are on a low-carb diet, your body pushes itself to utilize energy from fats and proteins by converting them into glucose.

    When fat becomes the energy source for your body, you burn it more, resulting in weight loss.

    As per this study[3], low-carb diets tend to cause more weightlessness than low-fat diets.

    It may also improve health markers such as good cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels.

    A low-carb diet limits starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. It emphasizes eating more animal-based proteins, non-starchy foods, and healthy fats such as avocado and olives.

  2. Keto diet

    A keto or ketogenic diet is a very low carb, moderate proteins, and high-fat diet. The primary focus is to completely reduce[4] the intake of carbohydrates.

    You could say that the followers of the keto diet mainly focus on high fat and low carb foods.

    According to them, the reason is that our body converts carbs into sugars and utilizes them as energy sources, but not in a keto diet.

    Because of the absence of carbohydrates, the body uses ketones to obtain energy from food, and your body enters a metabolic state known as ketosis.

    In this state, the stored fats are used up and converted into ketones, resulting in weight loss. However, it is argued that it becomes difficult to include macronutrients in a keto diet.

    A study suggests[5] that the ketogenic diet may help you reduce your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

  3. Fasting

    The body derives its fuel from the food that it consumes. Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between eating and fasting regularly.

    Intermittent fasting disrupts your body’s metabolism. Fasting forces your body to use the fat stored in the body.

    A narrative review[6] shows that fasting also reduces hormones such as insulin and leptin, which stores fats.

    There are several types of fasting, such as crescendo and 24-hour fasting. In the crescendo method, you allow yourself to fast for 12-16 hours and eat for 8 to 12 hours.

    In this method, you tend to eat more during the hours you allow yourself to eat. Hence, it is not favorable in the long term.

  4. Paleo diet

    Paleo diets focus on primitive methods of foods that the hunter-gatherers ate. Recent findings suggest that this diet may help you reduce weight and improve your health.

    People on a paleo diet consume foods like lean meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils.

    While they restrict themselves from consuming processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, and trans fat.

    As per this study[7], the foods incorporated by our ancestors were highly dependent on geographical location, resulting in several versions of paleo diets that people follow.

    The one thing different kinds of paleo diets have in common is that a person on a paleo diet restricts him/herself from consuming processed foods.

    The Pegan diet is another extension of the Paleo diet.

  5. Atkins diet

    The Atkins diet is beneficial for weight loss. In this diet, an individual eats as much protein and fats as he/she wants.

    People on the Atkins diet restrict themselves from eating foods rich in carbohydrates.

    According to this article[8], people on a low carbohydrate diet can lose weight more efficiently and without counting calories.

    However, this diet was initially considered unhealthy because of the presence of saturated fats, which may cause heart problems as they may increase LDL or bad cholesterol levels.

Are Restrictive diets good for you?

Restrictive diets prove to be effective for weight loss. When you restrict calories, fats, or carbs in your diet, you tend to lose weight.

In this process, it may happen that your body would not be receiving proper nutrition because you might be restricting yourself from having several vegetable groups.

This can lead to health problems such as deficiency of iron, vitamins, and minerals.

Experts[9] say that restricting yourself from eating complete food groups can momentarily help you lose weight but in the long run, these diets take a toll on your mental as well as physical health.

Risks associated with restrictive diets

  • Nutrient deficiency

    Individuals on restrictive diets cut several food groups from their diet.

    This means that you are not only excluding calories from your diet but also missing out on some essential vitamins and minerals.

    Such a condition may also result in some health issues such as dehydration, digestive problems, heart-related issues, muscle cramps, and difficulty in concentration.

    A study shows[10] that people on a low-carb diet may cause feelings of fatigue.

    To avoid nutrient deficiency, one must prevent oneself from overtly restricting oneself and consume a balanced nutrient-rich diet.

  • Mental health

    Constantly counting on calories and restricting yourself to eating what you wish to can impact[11] your mental health.

    You are always conscious about what you eat which restricts you to enjoy eating. Consuming very few calories may slow down your metabolism.

    Your body tends to lose weight quickly when you start eating less. However, when you return to your earlier food habits, you may see more weight gain as compared to earlier.

    This can lead to demotivation and you may eat more than earlier. Hence, restrictive diets are not friendly in the long term.

  • Self-confidence

    Restrictive diets have the sole aim of reducing weight. You become conscious of your body type and desire for a specific body image because of which you lose self-confidence.

    The human body regains weight more quickly when you return to your regular eating habits. You may struggle with self-confidence if you do not see results.

    Eating less can also develop into eating disorders[12] and health problems.

  • Social life

    Since your complete focus is on monitoring what to eat and what not to eat, you may find social gatherings uncomfortable where friends and families eat freely and enjoy food.

    A restrictive diet can affect your social life as well. Dinner parties and treats at restaurants not only uplift your mood but also help you to maintain healthy social circles.

    For your mental health, a good social life is extremely significant.

Difference between weight loss and health

Losing weight does not necessarily mean that you are healthy. Restrictive diets simply focus on reducing weight.

When you consume too few calories, you may experience a slow metabolism as a result of which symptoms like fatigue, headache, and tiredness may be experienced.

So, even if you look well on the outside, you’ll not feel good from the inside. The definition of being healthy is not restricted to weight loss or fitting into an “ideal weight”.

The definition of a healthy weight depends from individual to individual. There is no such thing as a “perfect body weight”.

As per this article[13], when people begin to follow restrictive diets they tend to lose water and muscles instead of the actual fat because of which, it is easy to regain weight.

Instead of restrictive diets, you may adopt a healthy lifestyle by following a healthy diet, and less processed foods, and also include physical activity[14] in your daily routine.

The Essence

Restrictive diets are initially good for weight loss. There are several types of restrictive diets such as low carb diet, Atkins diet, keto diet, and low-calorie diet.

However, there are several risks associated with restrictive diets such as it may lead to nutrient deprivation, it may take a toll on your mental health and it can also affect your social life.

Therefore, restrictive diets are not good in the long term. Instead of restrictive diets, you can adopt a healthy lifestyle to maintain healthy body weight.


Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies. 

  1. Maintaining a Healthy Weight Content reviewed: April 07, 2022 Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/maintaining-healthy-weight
  2. Robert Oh; Brian Gilani; Kalyan R. Uppaluri. Low Carbohydrate Diet Last Update: July 12, 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/
  3. Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein, David Kanter, Sanjay Kaul Dietary Intervention for Overweight and Obese Adults: Comparison of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets. A Meta-Analysis PLoS One. 2015 Oct 20;10(10):e0139817. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139817. eCollection 2015. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26485706/
  4. Wajeed Masood; Pavan Annamaraju; Kalyan R. Uppaluri. Ketogenic Diet Last Update: November 26, 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  5. Domenico Di Raimondo, Silvio Buscemi, Gaia Musiari, et al. Ketogenic Diet, Physical Activity, and Hypertension—A Narrative Review Nutrients. 2021 Aug; 13(8): 2567.
    Published online 2021 Jul 27. doi: 10.3390/nu13082567
  6. Michelle Harvie and Anthony Howell Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Mar; 7(1): 4.Published online 2017 Jan 19. doi: 10.3390/bs7010004
  7. Hima J. Challa; Manav Bandlamudi; Kalyan R. Uppaluri. Paleolithic Diet Last Update: May 2, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482457/
  8. Ghanim Salih Mahdi The Atkin’s diet controversy Ann Saudi Med. 2006 May-Jun; 26(3): 244–245.doi: 10.5144/0256-4947.2006.244
  9. Weight loss and fad diets Reviewed on: 31-08-2011 Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/weight-loss-and-fad-diets
  10. Andrea M White, Carol S Johnston, Pamela D Swan, et al. Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Oct;107(10):1792-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.07.009. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17904939/
  11. Yifan Zhang, Changhong Liu, Yinghao Zhao, et al. The Effects of Calorie Restriction in Depression and Potential Mechanisms Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015 Jul; 13(4): 536–542.
    Published online 2015 Jul. doi: 10.2174/1570159X13666150326003852
  12. Eating Disorders Last Revised: December 2021 Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders
  13. Edda Cava, Nai Chien Yeat, and Bettina Mittendorfer Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss Adv Nutr. 2017 May; 8(3): 511–519.Published online 2017 May 5. doi: 10.3945/an.116.014506
  14. Carla E. Cox Role of Physical Activity for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug; 30(3): 157–160.doi: 10.2337/ds17-0013

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