Why it’s time to ditch diet fads and choose a lifestyle change.

Fact, anyone can lose weight. Further fact: almost everybody has, at some point.

So why do you walk down the street and see so many people that are overweight? 

Because most weight loss is due to following a fad eating regime. And most weight regain is almost entirely due to the fad eating. Eating less and getting fit is the easy part; keeping the weight off is where the difficulty begins. And this is especially true if you’ve followed a regime that you can’t maintain for the rest of your life. Because for the vast majority of us, as soon as we stop dieting, the weight will start to pile back on.

Low carb – low long term success rate

We all know that low carb is a really great way to lose weight. Because meat is allowed in unlimited amounts, many men find this plan really suits them. Maybe it’s the stone age human in all of us that enjoys eating lots of protein. However, low carb is no more successful than any other regime for long-term weight loss.

Intermittent fasting – same old, same old

So what about the 5:2 plans, where you fast for two days and eat unrestrictedly on the others? Surprise, surprise, intermittent fasting also works really well for losing weight. No surprise at all really, given our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the regain rate is the same as for other regimes.

Extreme fitness regimes

The problem here is that people tend to drop their fitness regime once they achieve their goal. And you’ll see in the next section, that the body defends itself against excessive energy loss even when it’s caused by fitness activities.

So why do we gain it back?

To survive, our stone age human ancestors had to make the most of food when it was available. So your body knows how to defend itself during a period of famine by slowing your energy use right down. That’s why after an initial success period, losing weight gets harder and harder.

Your body is also physiologically programmed to build itself up again as soon as more food is available. So if your body senses that it has become depleted, through weight reduction, it goes into defence mode. As soon as there is more food available, the weight piles back on more quickly than before.

An article in Clinical Science called “The Defence of Body Weight” put forward some evidence for this. Hormones that make your appetite stronger are increased by a long period of undereating, and studies have shown that your energy expenditure also goes down, so that you are using fewer calories in activity. In fact a loss of 10% of your body weight can reduce your energy expenditure by 15%. So what’s the answer?

Developing a long-term strategy

How can we get fitter and lose weight without pushing our bodies into the compensation mode, where they are desperately trying to make up the lost weight?

Start by making changes that you know you can live with forever. Let’s face it, if we’re overweight, it’s because we eat too much and our sedentary lifestyle means that we don’t use up the calories we’re taking in.

So we have to change our mind set from “I’ve got to lose weight by next week, what’s the latest craze?” to something more like, “Today, I’m going to make one change towards eating less. So I’ll cut out the biscuits. And when I’m used to that, I’ll make the next change.”

Same with exercise. You have to choose exercise that you can still do in February, when it’s cold and wet and you’re busy. If that’s an exercise bike in front of a soap, so be it, provided you can keep it up and make it part of your life forever.

Of course this doesn’t sell books, or classes, or TV shows. So don’t expect to find a celeb preaching it. But ditching the fad diets could be your first step to stepping off the diet treadmill and gaining long term control over your weight.

About Jack

Jack Purdie @ImJackPurdie lives in Southampton and is on a slow but steady mission to try and find a way to share some of the random, and sometimes interesting, thoughts that go through his head.

Working heavily in the event industry, but also behind a health and nutrition startup, Jack is known to always be up to something, with many projects bubbling away.

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