It seems like a contradiction: Diet and you'll get fatter. The problem is not with the dieting itself, but how you approach it. When it comes to dieting, most people fail, according to authors and medical experts Judy Matz and Ellen Frankel in their book "The Diet Survivor's Handbook." In fact, up to 95 percent of people who go on a diet regain all the weight they lost. This is a clear sign that diets don't work as well as promised.
According to Geoffrey Cannon, in his book, "Dieting Makes You Fat," our bodies are programmed to understand hunger signals and not to diet. When you deprive your body of food, it will get the message that there's a risk of starvation. As a result, your hunger will increase and your metabolism will slow down to compensate for it. Once you get off the diet, your mind will go into overdrive and make you want to eat more to make up for the deprivation you just suffered. This is your body's way of preparing for possible famine. As a result, you might end up eating more than you did before the diet to soothe both your emotions and your body.
One of the reasons diets fail is that they have the wrong focus. They attract you by promising big numbers in very short periods of time. This is not only unlikely but also tough on your body. By trying to lose large amounts of weight quickly, you throw your body into disarray, sometimes shock. This might cause weight loss, but it's likely to be a temporary solution. Instead of focusing on instant gratification, the key to permanent weight loss is to think long-term. For example, choosing to eat whole grains instead of highly processed carbs is a healthy choice that will pay off over time: you'll be healthier, gain energy and lose weight. Cut all carbs instead and you might end up giving up soon because it's too hard to maintain the change; you'll be bored and low in energy.
Extreme or starvation diets might be the worst culprits. The recommended weight loss rate is no more than 2 pounds per week. Many extreme diets promise 10 pounds or more per week. Although it might be possible to lose large amounts of weight on your first few weeks on a diet, large numbers are usually caused by a loss of water weight or muscle, not fat. This means that once you go back to your regular eating habits, you're more likely to regain this weight back. When you do, it will be in the form of fat. So you might end up weighing the same you did before, but having a higher fat percentage and less muscle.
According to the University of Colorado's Body Image Center, people spend over $40 billion a year on dieting and dieting products. This might be tied to the fact that 30 percent of women and 25 percent of men are following a diet at any given time. So they diet, lose the weight, regain it as they give up the diet and then try a new diet. More than 60 percent of dieters regain all the weight lost within a year of giving up their diets. Within five years, almost all dieters are back to their original weight.
- Dr.Sharma.com: Will Dieting Make You Fat?
- Marie Claire: Is Your Diet Making You Fat?
- "The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care"; Judith Mat, Ellen Frankel; Sourcebooks, Inc.; 2006
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Key Recommendations
- "Dieting Makes You Fat: The Scientifically Proven Way to be Slim without Lowering Your Food Intake"; Geoffrey Cannon; Virgin Books, 2008