What is an Anorexia Diet?

Amanda R. Bell

The term anorexia diet can refer to one of two things. In general it describes the extreme caloric restriction those with anorexia — of whom about 90% are women — subject themselves to as well as the limited food choices they make. Anorexia diet is also another name for the Ana boot camp diet, which is essentially a 50-day fast that can cause severe health issues.

Papaya is a common part of an anorexia diet.
Papaya is a common part of an anorexia diet.

The diet typically consists of eating fewer than 1,000 calories per day. Many go much lower than this caloric intake, however. This restriction of calories is often coupled with excessive exercising, as well as a greater than normal consumption of water.

Anorexics severely restrict their diets.
Anorexics severely restrict their diets.

This type of diet can also include eating only very low calorie foods such as saltine crackers, rice cakes, carrot sticks, and celery. The focus of this diet is typically on eating what are termed as negative calorie foods. The idea behind this regimen centers on the belief that the body burns more calories while simply eating the food than it has consumed. Grapefruit, papaya, chili peppers, asparagus, radishes, watercress, and iceberg lettuce are also all believed to fit into this category.

Anorexics tend to consume large quantities of water to prevent themselves from eating.
Anorexics tend to consume large quantities of water to prevent themselves from eating.

This idea of negative calorie foods, however, is a myth, despite its prevalence in an anorexia diet. The body burns about 10% of the calories consumed when eating. This means that even though a stick of celery has about two calories, only .2 calories are burned while eating it. Despite this fact, those who follow this diet often believe they can end up with a calorie deficit by eating only these foods.

Anorexia dieters often consume negative calorie foods like celery.
Anorexia dieters often consume negative calorie foods like celery.

There are also a few anorexia diet regimes, all of which are considered extremely unhealthy by medical professionals. One of the most popular of these is known as the Ana boot camp diet. This type of anorexia diet lasts for 50 days, with each day's calories ranging from zero to 800. The idea is that by eating next to nothing one day and a little bit the next, one can trick the body out of going into starvation mode, thus maximizing weight loss.

While this type of anorexia diet will almost assuredly cause one to lose weight, the health detriments associated with it are extreme. Fatigue, hair loss, skin issues, bone loss, and tissue deterioration are all very likely to occur during this 50-day diet. It can also cause rapid changes in blood pressure as well as permanently damage the reproductive systems of both men and women.

On top of all this, at the end of the diet any food consumed afterward will most likely turn directly into fat, causing one to gain the weight back. This is part of the body's defense mechanism against starvation; after going so long with little to no food, the body's fat stores are depleted. Once extra food is available, its first goal is to replenish these resources. These health issues are common with almost every anorexia type diet, which is why most medical professionals insist that regardless of the diet followed, at least 1,200 daily calories are needed to maintain proper bodily function.

An anorexia diet can cause a woman to lose too much weight in a short period of time.
An anorexia diet can cause a woman to lose too much weight in a short period of time.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - If more emphasis was put on health rather than on beauty I think it would be less of a problem. But not all anorexics are trying to be beautiful or popular.

I had a friend who went on the anorexia diet when we were teenagers because she had it in her mind that curvy girls were what men wanted, and she had been abused, so she wanted to be less attractive to them, rather than more.


@bythewell - It's usually got more to do with mental illness and a need for control than it actually does with dieting and trying to look attractive. The human mind is eager to be accepted by the other humans in their social sphere and weight is seen as a huge deal in our society. Many young people make the connection that they are not popular, or may become less popular, because of weighing too much, so they try to control that.

Since they get fixated on losing weight and their lives start to revolve around it, it's very difficult to change. And the problem these days is also that the "pro-ana" movement tends to reinforce their values and understanding of the world by perpetrating schemes like the anorexic diet and sharing them.


I can never get my head around what people with anorexia think they are achieving when they get to the point where they aren't eating any calories at all. I mean, you can't describe that as anything except starving to death.

I just don't see the point of it, since by the time they get to that point they generally look extremely ill, so if they are aiming to be attractive, then they've completely overshot the mark.

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