This week NBite is all about dieting and weight loss
The use of dieting as a way to "lose weight" seems to have become the norm for an ever increasing number of people. A 2004 study published in the British journal of nutrition showed that in 2002, 231 million Europeans had tried to diet, (Hill, A.J. Br J Nutr. 2004) these numbers have only increased since then.This has been matched, some would say fuelled, by the ever growing number of popular diets, often endorsed by celebrities and all promising great results through the use of their own unique weight loss systems, plans or zones.
Whatever the diet is based on, reducing carbs, fat (both), or calorie restriction and whatever spin and jargon is used by the proprietors of these diets in their slick marketing campaigns. Ultimately, they all work the same way, by eating less. It is easy to find lots of evidence showing that people have lost weight, especially over the first few weeks and months while following these diet plans, you may have experienced it yourself and probably have friends who have as well. It is exactly this cycle of short-term weight loss that keeps the dieting industry going strong, most of these diet plans have very high dropout rates (45-50%) meaning up to half the people following the diets don't finish them as the initial weight loss starts to lessen or stop. Some diets such as the weight watchers and slimming world programs use a group support system to improve compliance, but even with this, all the evidence for dieting over the longer term shows that after 6-12 months the weight starts going back on.
Most people who have used these diets time and time again will blame themselves for a lack of willpower or the motivation to stick to the plan and this is exactly what the diet industry would like us to think, it's our fault, we'll do much better and stick to the plan next time we sign up and hand over our cash each month. The truth is, our bodies aren't meant to function on low amounts of energy (calories) over long periods of time and there are biological systems in place to help us survive these times of food shortage.
Despite all the negativity surrounding body fat, it is actually there for many important reasons, one of which is an energy store, to be used at times when food is scarce. When the body isn't getting enough food for its needs, it tries to preserve the fat stores we already have and make it easier to store more fat in the in case it happens again. One way it does this is by releasing hormones that act on the brain to increase our appetite, causing us to want to eat more, which obviously makes it even harder to stick to a restrictive diet plan. The other way is to dramatically reduce the amount of energy it uses during a day, by slowing down metabolism it can reduce energy needs by 300-400 calories per day.This means that instead of the average 2000 calories for women and 2500 calories for men needed each day, only 1600-1700 calories (women) or 2100-2200 calories (men) will be needed, making it even harder to lose weight and easier to put weight back on.
The worst part is that research has shown that these effects can last for years, maybe even permanently, even after dieting for just a few weeks.This all shows that although weightloss diets may work to begin with, in the longer term most of us will gain more weight than we started with, and once we have tried to diet any further attempts to lose weight will be even harder to achieve. So far from helping us all to lose unwanted body fat and tackle the obesity crises, the diet industry is actually making it worse.
So If fad dieting isn't the answer to losing our excess weight, then what is? Instead of focusing on short-term goals and over fixating on numbers on scales while trying to lose weight, far more benefits are gained by making small, but long-term changes to our overall diets and lifestyles.
In next weeks NBite I'll go through many of the changes we should be making, not just to lose weight but to improve energy levels and our overall health.