Why diets make you fat

“Lose 10 kilos (22 pounds) in 1 week!”, “Take these supplements and you will be ready for bikini season in only 2 weeks.” These are examples of common claims you will read or hear from the weight loss industry.

Unfortunately, what seems too good to be true, usually is. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry because it thrives on the desperation and hopelessness of people to lose weight fast. If people understood how the human body works, these claims would be a source of amusement rather than an effective way to lose weight.

Would you expect a baby to be born in 2 weeks or a child to reach adulthood in 2 years? Absolutely not! Nature has programmed our bodies to grow and mature in certain periods of time. Why should weight loss be any different? If it took you 4 years to gain 30 pounds, why would you expect that weight to come off in 2 weeks? The human body is not programmed this way. It is wired to survive death at any cost.

Why crash/fad diets make us fat:

Let’s pretend that you were placed in a desert for a month with only water to drink. In the beginning, your body would burn a certain amount of calories. As the days progressed without food, your body would decrease your metabolism to burn a minimum amount of calories in order to preserve energy until the next time you would find food (or fuel). It is also important to understand what sources of energy your body uses when there is no food available. Firstly, your body uses the most metabolically active tissue there is in order to decrease the amount of calories it needs to preserve this tissue. It breaks down muscle in order to use it as energy. Fat stores remain in tact for as long as possible as the body wants to prolong its survival rate. It figures, the longer there is fat available, the longer it can survive. Once your stay in the desert is over, you are, in essence, fatter than what you started as. Your body composition will be higher in fat that in muscle. Also, because your metabolism is so low, eating not that much will result in quick weight gain. And the only way for us to store excess energy without exercise is in the form of fat.

Therefore, going on a starvation diet will only make you fatter than what you were to begin with. To add to this, every time you would attempt a starvation diet, your body will remember its previous attempts and slow the metabolism even further. It’s not concerned with being thinner, its main concern is to keep you alive!

Want Proof That Dieting Makes You Fat?

Here are some studies to look at:

Research on nearly 17,000 kids ages 9-14 years old found that dieting was a significant predictor of weight gain (Field et al 2003). Moreover, the risk of binge eating increased with the frequency of dieting. Boys and girls who dieted frequently, were 5 to 12 times, respectively more likely to report binge eating compared to their nondieting counterparts. The researchers concluded, “…in the long term, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain”.

Teenage dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to non-dieting teens, according to a five-year study (Neumark-Sztainer et al 2006). Notably, at baseline, the dieters did not weigh more than their non-dieting peers. This is an important detail, because if the dieters weighed more—it would be a confounding factor, (which would implicate other factors, rather than dieting, such as genetics).

A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long term studies on the effectiveness of dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain—up to two-thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost (Mann 2007).

Most dieters lose the body’s natural ability to follow hunger cues. They tend to emotionally eat or follow patterns of disordered eating. According to Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, one who is a chronic dieter should follow a process called Intuitive Eating, based on the research of Trach Tyka (2006). Here are three of the 10 main principles one should follow:

Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and what food is desired

Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons

Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat.

What Should I Do If I Want To Lose Weight?

Instead of following diets that are designed for the masses, make a conscious decision to make a lifestyle change. Here are some tips for getting started:

1 – Stop thinking that you are on a diet. Instead, take ownership of every decision you make concerning food. What does this mean? If you decide that you would like to eat a piece of carrot cake, tell yourself that it’s ok and take responsibility for the rest of the day. For example, if you decide to eat that piece of carrot cake for an afternoon snack, choose a dinner high in fiber and filled with vegetables. This way, you learn to create a balance instead of thinking in extremes.

2 – Slow, steady weight loss is proven to be the most effective and long lasting. Aim for a weight loss of about .5-1 pound per week. More importantly, don’t give too much emphasis to the scale. Focus on your daily food and exercise habits instead.

3 – Get a support group in place. Whether it’s your significant other, a friend, or other family members, make changes together instead of feeling singled out.

4 – Seek advice from a professional. SuperBody has dieticians and personal trainers that are here to help you every step of the way!

Take responsibility for your body. Don’t fall victim to mindless and dangerous fad diets which are designed to make you fail. Make small, sustainable behavioural changes with your eating and fitness. Not only will you lose weight, but you will change your life!

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