We’ve all heard the discussion over the last few years with regards to why semi-regular and seasonal dieting is not good for us. To some degree we’ve probably seen it with family members, friends or other acquaintances, where they manage to lose some serious weight in a short period of time, however always seem to put it back on as quickly as they lost it. Certainly I’ve seen it too many times to count in my workplace and career as an Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer. We know that it can’t be good for our body, to put it through the continual stress of severe kilojoule restriction followed by a return to the norm, eating to excess. And research is now starting to illustrate to us exactly why it is deleterious to our long term health and the reasons why so-called ‘yo-yo dieters’ always seem to put the weight back on.
It appears that repeated dieting with severe kilojoule restriction does indeed cause the person’s body to store more fat than average, because the repeated bouts of kilojoule restriction are interpreted by the brain as part of a semi-regular famine. This interpretation is part of an evolutionary feature of almost all animals, who have at times undergone periods of famine when food resources were scarce. In animals, when food sources are scarce they tend to gain weight, often significant amounts. This might sound counterintuitive, however when we consider our evolutionary past it starts to make sense that our metabolic processes would begin to slow down when we know that we are about to enter a period of energy scarcity. It is simply a means of survival.
Various models now being applied suggest that average weight gain for chronic dieters will be greater than for those that never diet during the periods in between diets and when the food resources are not scarce. This will happen because in people that rarely diet that commands for energy ‘insurance’ during times when food is scarce will not be as great. Unfortunately, more and more people are falling into a negative cycle of ‘yo-yo’ dieting where they are only convincing their brain to keep storing fat.
The recent research done in this area predicts that the urge to eat will continue to increase as the diet moves forward and this urge will not reduce once the diet has finished as the brain becomes convinced that another famine must be near.
So what is the best way to lose weight? Great question! And the answer is revolutionary!
Ensure that you engage in exercise and physical activity every day and consume an amount of food that is slightly below the volume that you would normally. This slow and steady method ensures that the brain does not respond by triggering the rapid accumulation of fat storage, because as far as the brain is concerned you have not entered a period of famine and thus the entire metabolic system should continue to operate as normal. This will mean that you are significantly more likely to keep any weight lost as gone for good – and this is surely the goal of any healthy lifestyle and weight loss program.
Yours in health!