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Too often people look for the secret to weight loss by following the latest and greatest fad diet like: Keto, Whole 30, Paleo…the list goes on and on.  It’s true that you lose weight initially, but 95% of dieters regain their weight within 1-5 years.  Why?  Because fad diets are temporary food plans, they won’t work in the long run.  Fad diets teach you nothing about healthy eating. Inevitably, you boomerang back to poor eating habits once you’ve “finished” the diet plan and regain the weight back.  This loss and regain of weight is referred to as yo-yo dieting and starts a long road of health complications.  There are approximately 45 million people on a diet in the United States on any given day and 95% of them regain the weight.  Because of this, there is a 33 billion dollar diet industry banking on the fact that people will not have long-term weight loss success!   Companies that promote fad diets make their money off of your failure, not your success; they rely on repeat business.

Losing Weight is hard, it is more than just self-control.  Our bodies have a system in place to regulate our weight similar to how a thermostat controls the temperature of your house.  Once the thermostat is set for a specific temperature, it tells the furnace when to turn on or turn off to regulate the temperature of the room.  Unless the furnace breaks, the temperature will always be regulated at that set point.  Like a thermostat, our bodies have its own set point, except for our weight.  It is VERY hard to change our weight’s set point, even with dieting.  The set point for body weight varies among people, with some remaining lean throughout their lives while others may be overweight or obese. There is also evidence for a genetically determined weight trajectory in some people that keeps weight low until middle age, and then allows it to increase. The genes we inherit from our parents are one major influence on the value of the set point, and nutritional factors before and soon after birth are also thought to be important.

Not only is your set point working against you, but several other functions are occurring when you diet.  First, there is a biological change with your metabolism.  Since your body doesn’t want you to starve, it responds to overly-restrictive diets by slowing your metabolism, which of course makes it harder to lose weight.  Essentially, your metabolism starts slowing down because your body is using calories as efficiently as possible.  This would be a good thing in times of famine, when you need to conserve energy, but not when you are dieting.  When you reduce your calories, your body finds a way to run itself on even fewer calories, leaving more leftover to be stored as fat.  Not to mention your body also experiences hormonal changes.  When you lose body fat, the amount of hormones in your body also change.  Ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, increases; while Leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full, decreases.  In other words, you become more likely to feel hungry and less likely to feel full on the same amount of food.  Lastly, your brain causes some neurological changes which fight against your attempt at dieting.  Have you ever noticed you crave a food more when you are dieting than you would if you weren’t dieting? Basically your brain becomes overly responsive to food.  But you don’t just notice it, it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting. It has an increased reward value to you. So the very food you’re trying to resist becomes harder to resist.

Fad diets are basically just overly restrictive diets that take all the pleasure out of eating.  They also don’t address the hormonal, biological, or neurological changes that occur with dieting.  To be healthy, it’s best to take a non-diet approach in which you learn to identify your own hunger and fullness cues, while still enjoying food.  Take notice of how you feel after you eat and why you are eating.  Are you hungry or are you stressed, sad, bored?  This is the basis for intuitive eating and is a better approach than fad diets.

For a great video watch this TED Talk:


References: Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2018