“You are unhappy with the way you look and feel. The weight has slowing being piling on and you have now decided it is time to do something about it. You have done diets in the pasts and they have worked. You managed to lose a stone, or more, in a couple of months. Wonderful, let’s do that again. You google ‘diets’ and away you go; shakes twice a day, one evening meal, you get to eat somewhere between 600-1000 calories.
You start to lose weight fast and you love it. You are motivated and you stick to it for 2-4 weeks. Then it becomes harder; you are missing foods, especially the taste of them, and you are hungry. However, you are enjoying the results so you try to continue.
Then disaster strikes. Your weight loss slows down and then stops. All you can do is lower your calorie intake even more so you reduce this size of your one meal a day. It works for another week, but it is even harder to stick to, and then the weight loss stops again. At this point you are really hungry and missing your favourite foods and your motivation is faltering because you are no longer getting easy results.
You get invited for a night out with friends and you can no longer turn it down. You think you’ll be good and eat healthy food and not drink. However, when the evening comes, all of your friends are eating and drinking what they want, are having fun and so you give it to the temptation. You now eat and drink more that you normally would do, and so the next day you feel fat, bloated, hungover and basically ‘rubbish’.
You then decide that you are not happy with starving yourself any more as it is no longer working. You go back to eating how you were before the diet. A couple of weeks later you jump back on the scales and you have gained the weight that you had lost, but in half the time. Now what do you do? Do you start the diet again? Do you just keep eating and put on more weight?”
I hear this from so many people. They go through this process so many times throughout their lives. They always claim that these diets have worked for them and they always lose weight. So I ask them one question: why are you heavier and unhappier than you were when you started to diet? The one overriding reason is that almost all diets that have a ‘name’ are unsustainable. They restrict food to such an extent that it is inevitable that people will give in to their cravings, not to mention the potential health risks a lot of these diets can cause.
Diets are designed to put you into a calorie deficit. This is needed in order for you to lose weight. However, a lot of these diets are often aimed at putting you into a deficit of around 1000 calories less than you should be having. On top of this a lot of people combine dieting with a starting exercise. This ends up putting your body into starvation mode which can then lead to the down regulation by the body of hormones such as thyroid, leptin and testosterone. It can also up regulation of cortisol, the stress hormone that increases fat storage).
The down regulation of the thyroid makes you more susceptible to developing an underactive thyroid, meaning your metabolism slows down (plus other systems within the body), which means that you don’t burn as many calories as you should. This is where the slow-down in weight loss happens and what causes the increased weight-gain when you start to eat normally again. Some people may then be on thyroid medication for the rest of their lives due to dieting.
Going back to caveman times, our bodies have been designed for survival and conservation, withstanding prolonged periods of time without food. However, crash dieting goes against every natural instinct in your body and, as amazing as the human body is at surviving, it will react accordingly to bring you back to square one as quickly as you lost the weight. This means as soon as you start to eat reasonably normally, you will put the weight back on.
What is also bad in my view is that the meal replacement shakes usually contain so many artificial ingredients they cause even more health issues.
There are no quick fixes for long-term, sustainable weight loss. You must be patient and realise that if you continue to enjoy the foods that you eat, the weight will come off and it will stay off. You need to learn what the right foods are for you and then experiment with different recipes and foods. Once you get the hang of healthy eating, eating mainly whole, natural foods and ingredients, you will become healthier, happier and not to forget, a few pounds lighter.
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