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Amy Robach says her strict keto diet makes her feel free. Here's what you need to know about strict dieting.

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ABC News anchor Amy Robach.
  • Journalist Amy Robach said keto and fasting felt "empowering" and improved her relationship with her health.
  • The diet helped her feel in control of her body after cancer, she said on Dave Asprey's podcast.
  • An expert said food routines can feel helpful for some, but too much restriction can be unhealthy.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories .

Journalist Amy Robach, anchor for ABC News and a survivor of breast cancer, recently shared that a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting helped her develop a better relationship with her health.

She described the strict diet as "freedom" because it made her feel more in control of her well-being, Robach said in a recent episode of the Bulletproof Radio podcast with Dave Asprey .

Following the diet for the past four and a half years also helped her regain confidence and trust in her body, she said.

"I'm proud of it, I work hard for it. I'm 47 years old, had two children and battled cancer, I have scars to prove all of those things. And I do love the body I'm in," she said.

While everyone's relationship to food is unique, too much restriction can spill over into potentially disordered eating habits, according to a body image therapist. Here's what to avoid if you're following a strict diet and signs that it's gone too far.

Why an eating routine helps people feel in control

A strict diet like keto can feel "empowering" because it gives you a sense of control, Robach said, especially if you've had previous health issues.

"That's where the fear is, because you're thinking 'I can't do anything. It's happening to me and I have no say.' But actually we do have so much more say than we think," she said. "You can control what you put in your body, and you can have an impact on your outcome."

It can also feel incredibly validating to see results from making dietary changes, she said.

For instance, Robach said cutting back on carbs led to significantly fewer cravings and hunger pangs, and eating just twice a day gave her more time to focus on other priorities.

"It's this amazing feeling of, I'm not a slave to my next snack," she said. "I remember just feeling giddy about it."

There are tradeoffs, too. Robach said she was "militant" about the diet for the first 18 months, without exceptions.

Now, she occasionally enjoys carbs without feeling guilty, but compensates by fasting afterward to kickstart ketosis.

"When I do indulge, I tell myself, is it worth a 20 hour fast?" she said.

Restriction can sometimes backfire into disordered eating and obsessive thoughts about food and body image

These types of diets may feel helpful, but there can be drawbacks, according to Sarah Herstich, LCSW and body image therapist. There's little evidence that a strict diet can reduce the risk of disease, particularly long-term, and they can put people at greater risk of disordered eating , she said.

"If certain behaviors are a distraction or protective of vulnerability in some way, it makes sense that people find comfort in them. That doesn't mean that the behaviors are health promoting, though," Herstich told Insider.

Disordered eating is a spectrum, Herstich said, that includes common dieting behaviors normalized in our culture, as well as full-blown clinical disorders requiring intensive treatment.

How to avoid unhealthy restriction

Potential red flags that a diet might be verging into disordered behaviors, according to Herstich, include:

  • Preoccupation with body size or shape
  • Hypervigilance around food (such as rigorously monitoring carbs or calories)
  • Guilt or shame about eating experiences
  • Compensating behaviors to "undo" the perceived damage of certain foods
  • Frequently switching diets
  • Cycles of losing and regaining weight

If these behaviors are becoming a habit, it may be helpful to seek support or try adding new food experiences to your routine. Experts also recommend eating plans that encourage a less-strict relationship to food, like intuitive eating .

"People deserve so much more than a life of obsession with the way their body appears and preoccupation with how and what they are feeding themselves," Herstich said.

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