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Low calorie dieting could be making you fatter

Low calorie dieting could be making you fatter

on Monday, 12 January 2015. posted in lifestyle, nutrition

It's that time of year where you may find yourself wanting to go on that big ‘diet’. But before you start on those low calories, and before you make yourself suffer those bad moods, obsessiveness, tiredness, and clearing your social schedule- please read this. Because there IS an easier way. It may even see the weight you lose actually stay off too. 

-Diets don’t work

We all would love a quick fix to lose weight. That’s why there is such a big market in the weight loss industry, with an endless list of books, products, programs and fad diets.

I don’t have a problem with proper, gradual dieting. If it works for you, you are doing it healthily and you can keep it off, then that is fantastic. But the problem is extreme dieting and restriction. The problem being that over the long run, 95% of these diets fail. People can lose weight, but not keep it off.

Strict diets so often causes people to have a bad relationship with food. When foods are forbidden, we feel guilty when we give in, which makes us feel worse about ourselves. Cue eating disorders. Dieting makes food an enemy, not a source of pure nourishment and well-being. Everyone’s been there. When you restrict yourself of food, then before you know it all you are thinking about is food.. You are so confused about what is going to work for you and you try so many different approaches.. low fat… no wait… its no carbs... no wait its paelo… or high carb vegan!? I get it. It is SO confusing. We have the weight loss market, and fad diet preachers to thank for that.

It gets said a lot, but it is SO correct to say that no one diet is the answer for everyone. What works for someone, certainly may not work for you.

-Why they can make you gain weight 

Diet plans favouring fads and extremism are not the answer to weight loss. Be it cutting out food groups, diet shakes, low carbs, low fat, meal replacements, juice cleanses, soup diets etc. If you have been considering strictly dieting, give some thought to this fact: the vast majority of dieters eventually go back to their pre-diet weight, or become heavier than they were before.

Why these extreme diets work at first is simply because they are low calorie. So at first yes, some weight will come off (a lot of it will be water weight). But your body is designed for survival, so when you suddenly reduce your food intake, your body will slow down your metabolic rate (and other things) in order to conserve energy. So after weeks of low calorie dieting, your body is burning less and less calories day to day. It is adapting to the way you are now eating, finding ways to use less energy, as it is not receiving enough energy (food).

So what happens when you start eating normally again? You pile the weight back on. Why? Because now your metabolism is lower and you have effectively trained your body to run off much less food. So when you start eating your normal amounts of food again you are going to put the weight back on, possibly even more. Cue yo-yo dieting.

Yo yo dieting (losing weight, putting it back on, losing it again and so on) is bad for your physical/social/emotional/mental health. Another scary fact: dieting to lose weight is associated with future weight gain and obesity. And the more times we crash diet, the more weight we will eventually gain back. Anybody can lose weight eating low calories – but it isn’t sustainable. It’s like it has become the norm to feel like we need to punish ourselves in order to lose weight, or to look good. Like we need to feel hungry, tired, sad and deprive ourselves of what we call living when dieting. 

So while low calorie dieting can be effective in the short term, it can be costly in the long run. Another crash diet example: Let’s say you do end up getting to your goal weight eating low calories… what happens then? Your body has become accustomed to this low intake – so are you now going to try to eat the amount of food you were before, and hope to maintain your new weight?  Unfortunately, not likely.

-The answer

Most people who start dieting will continue to do so, on and off, for the rest of their lives. If you want to lose weight and stay within a healthy weight, then you need to take your health seriously and realise that it is a permanent lifestyle change that is needed- of a balanced healthy diet and some exercise. We need to realise that a restrictive or extreme diet is a quick fix, which will probably see you put the weight back on – possibly more. 

Stop wasting money on heavily marketed products or following fad diets that deep down you know won’t work. Balance is the key. Moderation if you decide to indulge. To lose and maintain body weight, you firstly need a balanced diet full of nutrients to take care of your well-being. Make a weekly meal plan, do a food shop, filling your fridge and pantry with fresh, healthy, whole foods- including lots of plant foods. Just eat REAL foods, not so much packaged & fast food stuff. Try not to over eat. Balance your meals with some wholesome carbs, lean protein, veggies and a little bit of healthy fats. Become more active, even if it is just walking more. I highly encourage mixing up your training and including resistance/weight training, as this builds active lean muscle, which helps to build your metabolism. Increased muscle = increased metabolism = body uses / burns more calories. And remember, slow and gradual weight loss is more likely to stay off. That’s really all there is to it. It’s simple and may sound boring on the surface- but there are no magic fat pills, no secret supplements, and no new amazing exercise moves or machines that will magically get you the body you desire. Just consistency with healthy eating, a little bit of hard work in the gym or outdoors and dedication to the slow and gradual process. Say goodbye to the all-or-nothing mindset. Moderation is the key!

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