Why is dieting a never ending story? Part 1
For many people, Thanksgiving and Christmas mean gaining some extra weight then starting dieting once the holidays are over. I don’t think that it is the smartest idea to eat extra with a wish to then lose it after the holidays. Here’s why…
I am pretty sure that almost everyone, at some point in their life, has tried some type of dieting approach to either lose or gain weight. Actually a huge part of the population does try to just maintain their healthy weight, although we don’t hear much about that as I think weight maintenance is probably just not exciting or something that we look forward to. As I have mentioned in many of my articles there are many types of diet that you can apply and eventually, as long as you keep your calories lower than the energy that your body spends, and you consume quality nutrient dense food, you will lose weight. The question is, then what?
Dieting works for most people only for a short time. It is very rare to see someone keep up long term weight loss unless they really change how they identify with food and manage to create new habits and beliefs. It is especially hard to keep it up in the longer term if you are following a diet that is very much restricting most or even all of the foods that you enjoy to eat. Of course, we all know that if we want to lose weight we need to decrease our calorie consumption. However, I wish it were that simple so that we can all keep within a healthy weight range all the time. Researchers have found that in order to be successful you not only need to change your behavior but also you need to be a good friend with your own body. Our body has a set point, whenever you are losing weight and you get close to that it will start to fight with you. And unfortunately it is very hard to win!
We know that obesity and related health problems are getting more and more widespread, in fact 60% of US adults are now carrying excess body fat. When we restrict energy our body will try to keep everything in balance and maintain homeostasis, so actually the more you lower your calories the more your body will fight back to keep the weight on. The body starts to lower its metabolic rate by decreasing energy expenditure, increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin, which will make you more hungry. And of course the more hungry you become, the harder it is to stick to your diet.
Finally though a new model has been proposed to explain the persistence of the “energy depletion” signals which occur during the state of weight regain. It is at this point that the body’s signals no longer reflect the energy that is stored. Evidence would suggest that our biological response to weight loss involves changes in energy homeostasis, so to be successful in the long term we need to do more than just focus on losing weight — our strategies for preventing weight regain may need to be just as comprehensive as the body’s biological adaptations that are making it so hard to not regain the weight we have lost. Our individual biology may play a subtle role during the initial development of obesity, but it becomes a driving force for weight regain after weight loss.
Now I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing a diet. However, you should be aware of how to set up your diet, develop a strategy that does not rush to lose weight, and remember that it is equally important to consider the strategies that you will follow after you have lost the weight. Even if you do want to rush to lose weight, and you follow a very aggressive weight loss strategy, you are still going to need to take a diet break and step back and observe your new habits before restarting your dieting phase.
In part two of this article series I will go into more detail about hormones and what role they play in weight loss and weight regain.
“Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat And Biology”; https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/10/31/141794801/losing-weight-a-battle-against-fat-and-biology
“Biological factors and weight loss methods”; https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/biological-factors-weight-loss-methods
“Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174765/
“Ghrelin enhances in vivo skeletal muscle but not liver AKT signaling in rats”; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18070752/
“Identification of Body Fat Mass as a Major Determinant of Metabolic Rate in Mice”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2889765/
“Effects of weight change on plasma leptin concentrations and energy expenditure”; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9360521/
“Why Diets Fail”; https://www.science.org/content/article/why-diets-fail