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Why diets do not work for all?

Young beautiful girl with fruit and cake in her hands.

Food is not our foe but friend that keeps us kicking. Dieting often reverses this fact. We need to understand that diets don’t help in weight loss programs on a long-term basis. 95% people on diet are likely to regain the lost weight by 1-5 years and 40% of dieters may even weigh more.

UCLA Researchers in their report in the journal of the American Psychological Association state that initially dieting may help in losing 5-10% of the body weight but it again comes back. Very few are able to maintain a sustained weight loss with programmed diets.

Going crazy after dieting, we miss an important point that diet is a temporary restrictive eating program for weight loss and cannot be inculcated as a permanent habit in our lifestyle.

Obesity is not by choice:

Obesity is not by choice


Obesity is a complex health issue that needs to be addressed in a different manner. It is a result of a multitude of causes and factors like behavior and genetic profile. Behavior may include eating disorders (due to emotional triggers), physical inactivity or insufficient activity, medical conditions and societal environment including the influence of the community and education.

Variations in people’s response to environment fostering physical inactivity and intake of calorie-rich foods do not overrule the genetic role in increasing obesity. Several variants of genes also contribute to obesity, causing increased appetite and food intake.

Overeating causes obesity but what leads to overeating?

Overeating causes obesity

Obesity can be caused by childhood trauma. In a well-documented research study with 286 obese adults, it was found that 50% of them had gone through sexual abuse in childhood. For them, obesity is just the outcome of attempting solutions as this trauma dwelled in their subconscious mind.  A much larger study involving 17,000 people also documented the linkage between adverse childhood experiences and smoking, drinking, overeating and other unhealthy behaviors.

Need to change the perception of eating:

Dieting woman

People often get confused with the term “diet”. What is it?  Diet can depend on the customary food habits of a race or culture. It can also be an eating program meant for specific medical reasons.

Our society perceives diet in an entirely wrong way. It is more focused on consuming less. This leads to a drastic cut in food intake allowing limited eating at specified times. Rules are stricter with fad diets and therefore are likely to be unsustainable for a long period.

Losing a lot of weight means your muscles burn much fewer calories as your metabolism gets suppressed. If you lose 10% of your body weight, it means your muscles burn 250-400 calories less energy.

Therefore, to maintain this standard of body weight you will have to eat less the 250-400 calorie equivalent amount of food forever than a person with the same bodyweight. This is not easy to sustain. Your body will sense your starvation but not that of a person normally having the same lean mass.

Do you know that your brain has the sense of how much should you weigh?

brain controls our body weight

The neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt tackles dieting and weight loss in a different way. Our hunger pangs and energy are controlled naturally by brain irrespective of our awareness just as it controls our normal activities like breathing and other movements.

The hypothalamus of our brain controls our body weight. Dozens of chemicals in the brain may direct us to lose or gain weight at different times but the hypothalamus responds to the signals by adjusting our hunger, activity and metabolism.

Even if your conscious mind is working on checking eating habits, your brain is working continuously at the backside to keep your weight within a certain range which may go up but not below. You can make lifestyle choices to reduce your body weight but not beyond a certain point.

If you manage to lose a few pounds, the brain will take it as you are starving and will use all powerful tools to get your bodyweight back to what it considers normal. Unfortunately, your brain cannot indicate whether you need to lose weight or not.

Starving backfires making your weight loss unsustainable:

Starving backfires

Human beings in various stages of evolution suffered from starvation more than overeating. As a result, our brains are wired to move up the set points than lowering to prevent our body from starving. If you have managed to lose body weight through dieting, your brain continuously strives to make you gain it back.

Therefore, in this era of abundance, we tend to lay our hands on any food that is available and satisfy ourselves. This obviously explains why Dr.  Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa feels a change in the food environment can effectively address the problem of obesity.

Prolonged overweight condition can rewire your brain:

A temporary weight gain can give a wrong signal to your brain. It will consider it as the new standard and force your body to maintain that.

Are you an intuitive eater?

intuitive eater

According to psychologists, there are two groups of eaters. Those who trust their hunger are intuitive eaters. Those controlling their eating habits through will force are known as controlled eaters.

Interestingly, intuitive eaters are more successful in weight management as they think less about eating and weight gain. The controlled eaters are vulnerable to overeating and get easily swayed away by promotions and advertising and struggle with weight management.

Healthy habits in obese or overweight people can lower the risk of death:

exercising thrice a week

Dieting should not be the focal point to lead a healthy life. A study observing the death risk over a 14-year period based on 4 healthy habits (eating fruits and veggies, exercising thrice a week, moderate drinking and zero smoking) revealed some interesting facts.

  • Overweight people lacking all four healthy habits are at a higher risk of death.
  • Including just one healthy habit lowers the death risk of overweight people almost to that of normal ones.
  • Obese people with no healthy habits have 7 times higher death risk than normal people.
  • Inclusion of the healthy lifestyle lowers the death risk of obese people substantially.

Therefore, by taking charge of your lifestyle you can control your health even if you can’t keep off your weight gain.

If dieting doesn’t help, then what can you do?

 fit womanPractice mindful eating. It is important to read your body’s signals and respond accordingly. Eat only when you are hungry. You can eat as much as you want but figure out what makes your body feel good. Stick to regular meals and follow your body signals mindfully when to stop eating. This would guide you to differentiate between fullness and overeaten.

Healthy food choice is important to give your body the required nutrition. A nutrient-deprived body would ask for more. Get the right nutrition and have control on your health. You will enjoy the fitness of your body instead of being anxious about the weight.

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