Dieters wage a personal war against their bodies that they can’t possibly win. But they do stay valiantly in control of their eating—their portions, their menu, and their mealtimes—for a while. This shows that pure will and determination can overcome the body’s survival mechanisms, right? Yes, but this temporary part of the war is really just a skirmish. Some times it’s a month, sometimes three or six months or even a year that they are able to stay with a restrictive diet program It’s admirable. Often they lose a significant amount of weight during this time, and experience all the perks of their new body. But there comes a time when they can’t go on under eating. They lose control, either suddenly or gradually. Usually the experience is confusing at best. The idea that they’ve actually lost control of their food intake does not occur to them. They blame themselves, they blame the sprained ankle, they blame their ex-boyfriend. But the five ways their bodies are programmed to fight them for control of food intake is the real reason they lose their grip.
You’ve Got to be Kidding
Here’s a sad and ironic fact: During diets, our bodies use fuel sources within to make up for external food shortages. Calorie-deprived bodies use two main internal sources for energy: fat and lean muscle tissue. Fat is relatively light and bulky. It takes up a lot of space but doesn’t actually weigh as much as muscle, which makes it an especially efficient energy storage system. Muscle on the other hand, is dense and heavy. The first type of fuel source used by the body in a famine is muscle tissue. The reason bodies use muscle for emergency fuel is this: After using up glycogen, which is stored in the liver, bodies burn muscle for fuel if the demand is immediate rather than gradual. Bodies also burn fat to keep fueled during famines, as a more gradual fuel source. It is estimated that 25 percent of weight lost by traditional dieting is muscle tissue, depending on the speed of weight loss and amount of exercise, and about 75 percent is fat.
The equation above is significant because it affects body composition after a diet is over. When dieters stop dieting and gain lost weight back, they don’t gain the same amount of lean muscle tissue they’ve lost, they gain nearly all fat. So the diet cycle of weight loss/weight gain leads to an overall increase in percentage of body fat. Why does this happen? We know that bodies intermittently experiencing famine generally need more fat, right? They need more fat even more than muscle. We also know that the body gets what it needs most in the recovery period. There you have it.
Is this why we are so fat when we are the most diet-conscious nation on earth? It has a lot to do with it. The connection between our diet-obsessed country and our obesity statistics is undeniable when you consider the overall effect of quick weight loss dieting on the body. We have been approaching the weight problem from a completely wrong direction for over fifty years, and it shows. The terrible truth about dieting is that, for most people, not only does it fail in solving weight problems; it actually causes weight gain for most dieters over the long run.
Does dieting singularly cause weight problems and obesity? No, definitely not. Reckless eating habits, dangerously poor food, lack of education regarding diet and food (both the public and medical professionals), rampant advertising of poor quality food, fast food control of school menus, and particularly advertising for quick weight loss diets and “diet” foods.
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Mary’s first famine happened when she was 14. She decided she was fat, even though her mother told her she was not fat. When she started going to a diet center, her mother said, “Well, it won’t hurt you. Maybe it will keep you from getting fat like me.” Neither Mary nor her mother knew where this decision would eventually lead.
In spite of the fact that Mary was at her ideal weight, her weight loss goal was 15 pounds. Mary was fine with that. So on her new program, Mary lost weight, and she felt good about it! Naturally, weight loss in overweight people, or those who think they are overweight, is very encouraging. There is a sense of pride, accomplishment, control, even euphoria when people trying to lose weight actually manage to do it. For Mary, it looked like this group support program would work for her. She was so excited, and got a lot of compliments from friends. Her total weight loss was 10 pounds.
But afer four or five months on the diet, Mary started eating more than her diet allowance. She knew she was cheating but she just felt so hungry! Gradually she fell off her diet and began to gain. Mary hadn’t factored in this extra hunger. She felt she couldn’t help but cheat on her eating program Her appetite became more and more demanding! As she overate and gained weight, she blamed herself and felt like a failure. She felt embarrassed and ashamed of her lack of control.
Mary lived with her discouragement while her weight crept up. As she fought with her appetite and
cravings, she ended up gaining 13 pounds—the 10 that she had lost and three more. Once the rebound phase was complete and Mary’s weight leveled off, something remarkable happened to Mary’s thinking. This change is the phenomenon that leads to the continuation of the yo-yo diet cycle. It’s called “denial.” After she spent time away from the pain of both dieting and rebounding, Mary developed a new determination to lose weight again. And so, she adopted a plan that was advertised on TV which guaranteed a 10-pound weight loss in two weeks. Mary resumed control for her eating and started her new diet, excited that she could reverse most of the damage in two short weeks. Mary was on her way to 23 years of dieting that ultimately contributed to her gaining nearly 100 pounds.
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