Anytime someone is unhappy with their shape, they automatically think of diets first. I certainly can’t blame them, since they consume good portions of television programming, from news of post-pregnancy starlets returning to athletic shape in record time to late night infomercials that prey on our exhausted minds to facilitate an impulse purchase. And then there are those who always ask: will dieting work for me? The answer is yes. They were actually conceived to work for everyone. But there’s a catch.
Diets are designed to work in the short term. They’re not intended for sustained weight loss. This means that within a month or two your body has lost all it can lose and you’ve plateaued at about 85-90% of the original mass. This naturally comes with all the side-effects of hunger: grumpiness, weakness, chemical imbalance, low energy and the instinctive knowledge that you’re doing something wrong. That’s just your body’s way of telling you that without an actual lifestyle change, things just aren’t going to change. A reduction in the number of calories ingested is not the same as calories burned. In effect, it’s practically the opposite, since fasting brings with it fatigue, which makes it difficult to exercise enough to burn calories in the first place.
But the biggest reason for avoiding diets is their effect on muscle. They not only cause it to atrophy during periods of caloric restriction, but they destroy it by reducing the metabolic rate. This doesn’t cause muscle to turn into fat, but for all intents and purposes, once muscle mass has been reduced, the arrival of fat is a natural reaction to the panic mode that the body has been forced into.
According to a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the relapse and cravings suffered by dieters are not only behavioural but physiological. The body simply keeps producing hunger hormones even years after the diet, eventually leading to relapses. What’s more, according to a new report published in the journal Cell Metabolism, during caloric restriction certain hunger inducing neurons actually consume one another, further boosting the hunger signal and prompting the urgency to consume.
According to a UCLA study, dieting often has the opposite effect of the desired weight loss. Whether it is a fad diet, crash diet or other abrupt caloric restriction, your body will react negatively to it. In fact, several studies now show that dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain. The answer is simple: moderate consumption and regular exercise. It works. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that prevention works even better. This is why efforts should be focused on preventing weight gain initially – in particular for young people - rather than counting on the ability to lose it later.
Written by Claudiu Popa, in Canfitpro Magazine