Diets May Cause Long-term Weight Gain

As a strategy for losing weight, diets do not work. The word “diet” has several connotations. A diet may describe the kinds of food that someone eats regularly, like eating a vegetarian diet. It is also used to describe the foods unique to a certain culture. Dieting may also be something that you do to lose weight. In this kind of diet you’re changing the kinds and amounts of food that you eat with the goal of losing weight. This article is about this latter definition of dieting.

Fad Diets

From low-fat diets to the Paleo Diet, there always seems to be a new fad diet. Fads, by definition, are short-lived. They are also defined by their widespread popularity. By their nature, diets are well suited to fads. Just like any fad, fad diets fade just as quickly as they catch on. A diet only works long enough for the next fad diet to catch on. By that time, people are already looking for the next new way to lose weight and there is usually a new fad diet to take the place of the last one. Fad diets have one significant thing in common: They put stress on your body and ultimately cause you to gain weight.

Diets Make You Gain Weight

When you first go on a diet, you might start to noticeably lose weight and feel pretty good about the diet. You might start to get compliments and people may ask how you’re doing it.

The problem with dieting is that the results are only noticeable in the beginning. When you go on a restrictive diet you are limiting the calories and nutrients that your body can use to keep you healthy. You may lose weight initially, but your body’s job is survival. So, after initially losing weight, you start gaining that weight back and maybe even gain a little more weight back than you had before you started the diet.

From a biological perspective, when you diet you are starving – so your body goes into “protection mode”. While on a diet, your body doesn’t have enough nutrients to help your body function at its best. It reacts by protecting itself in case it goes into this starvation mode again. The metabolism slows and your body packs on the weight so that there is something it can use if your body enters starvation mode again.

Dieting Slows Your Metabolism

Our bodies are amazing and efficient biological machines. Consider this: Before modern times, back when our food sources were dependent on the seasons, the availability of food may have been inconsistent. Within the natural rhythm of the seasons there will be times when there is an abundance food and other times when food may be scarce. Your body responds to times of scarcity by slowing your metabolism.

Metabolism is the rate at which your body converts food into fuel. When your metabolism slows, your body is using less of what it has available for energy. This is your body doing its job to protect you. When you go on a diet your body interprets this as a time of scarcity or starvation and it responds by storing nutrients and fat.

The more you diet, the greater your body’s response is to this time of starvation. If your body learns that you experience starvation often, then it will slow your metabolism accordingly and you will gain back weight when you stop dieting.

Diets Take a Toll on Your Body

Dieting is stressful on your body. When your body endures phases of dieting and not dieting then your metabolism has to adjust accordingly. The more you diet, the more stress you are putting on your body. Your body’s way of responding to this kind of stress is to slow your metabolism. This causes you to gain weight, which is the whole reason you probably went on a diet to begin with. Instead of dieting, pay attention to the kinds of foods that you are putting in your body. Make sure that you are eating high-quality foods. Eat meals at times of the day that work with your body and help you maintain a healthy weight. If your body is healthy, then your metabolism will be healthy. You will feel better in the long run. 

See the article “Feeling Stressed: Ten Foods that Reduce Stress and Anxiety” for some ideas on how to reduce your stress levels with healthy foods.





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