Maybe you’ve been thinking about shedding those last 10 pounds. Maybe you’re looking at getting shredded and finally getting that physique you promised you’d have when the calendar turned over in 2019.
I don’t doubt it.
It’s a great idea and plan if that’s something that matters to you.
But, have you ever stopped to consider what’s going on under the hood when we diet?
It’s an even more important thought, especially for those of us who haven untaken a diet before, whether it was successful or not.
It’s important because the history of your dieting is going to dictate how successful this diet and every other diet is going to go for you. Research suggests that the more we diet, the less likely we are to actually be successful with the diet.
Think about that.
Now, you’re probably asking, why?
The reality is that, no matter what diet you decide to undertake, you’re limiting calories to a number less than you’re normally eating--i.e creating a caloric deficit.
When you do that, you’re limiting the energy coming in. It’s great because it means we start to burn excess adipose tissue (science word for fat) but, our body isn’t geared for actually doing that. Know that from an evolutionary perspective, our body actually wants to maintain its current bodyweight. This is known as the homeostatic mechanism within our body.
In response to you starting to lose weight, your hormones (the things sending your body signals to do certain things) start to tell you to get back to that ‘normal’ bodyweight. The first one is your hunger hormone ghrelin which tells your body, “hey, we need more food.” The sister hormone, leptin (the hormone that says, “hey, we’re full”) also gets suppressed meaning that we’re more likely to be hungrier than ever and less likely to just stop at 1 Oreo.
That’s why when you do have a little binge on the diet after eating less, you’re less likely to be able to stop at one of something in today’s ever-available simple calorie food market.
If you’re able to overcome that, your body actually starts to burn less calories in everyday living. You read that right. Your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) starts to decline, meaning that even if you keep up those 10,000 steps Aunt Karen, you’re still going to be burning less calories through less fidgeting, pacing…. Even blinking.
On top of that, cognitive function declines as brain fog is on the regular. Even when we exercise, we do so at levels that are far less intense than when we were eating at “maintenance” levels with enough calories.
As the list goes on, cortisol increases because of an apparent food shortage and therefore, sex hormone goes down--sometimes to the point where men can’t maintain a hard on and women go through months without having a reproductive cycle. NO, THAT’S NOT NORMAL.
The reality is that basically every hormone regulating your body will change as a result of you eating less food. What’s worse is that your body is like a teenager who remembers every single bad thing you may have done to it or even thought about doing to it.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
The simple answer?
You read that right. Stop trying to diet every single week. The reality is that your body can really only handle dieting--that is, creating a caloric deficit---three months at a time separated by AT LEAST three months of eating maintenance.
Sure, there are exceptions. But to maintain good health, you shouldn’t be dieting for years on end without actively trying to maintain that weight and actively increasing your calories back to maintenance level.
So, think about when you want to diet the next time to make sure that it’s the most successful it can be. Every diet period counts so make sure there’s no holidays, no obstacles that will without a doubt get in your way. Find a period of time you can commit so you’re not dieting every single day of the year.
A former journalist and sports blogger, I've turned my writing prowess and love of fitness and nutrition into a personal blog where you can find anything you are looking for on the world of health, nutrition and fitness.