When Diets Don’t Work
Most popular diets do allow people to lose weight in the short term (assuming they don’t cheat). But after ending the diet, people tend to gain the weight back or even put on extra pounds.
A review article looked at the long-term outcomes of low-calorie diets and found that up to two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost. The researchers concluded that there is little support for the idea that dieting leads to long-term weight loss or health benefits.
It could be possible that the type of people who go on diets are those with a genetic propensity towards putting on weight, making them more apt to regain it. A large twin study was devised to test this theory. Researchers tracked the weight and height of 4129 twins from the age of 16 to 25 and collected information about the number of times they had intentionally lost weight on a diet. When they compared pairs of genetically identical (monozygotic) twins, one of which who had dieted in the past and one who had never dieted, they found that dieting increased the risk for accelerated weight gain independent of genetic factors.
Any diet that is unsustainable in the long run is doomed to fail. No one can live on cabbage soup or grapefruit for the rest of their lives. Diets that rely on pre-packaged low-calorie meals or meal-replacement shakes take away the dieter’s own responsibly for making healthy choices. The eating habits that caused people to put on weight in the first place are usually resumed shortly after their weight-loss goal has been reached.
To lose weight and keep it off in the long-term, permanent lifestyle changes are a better approach than a temporary diet. Simply concentrate on eating more healthily, exercising and giving up bad habits.
Here are some examples of common-sense changes that can help with weight loss and weight maintenance.
- Avoid processed foods and learn to make simple meals from fresh ingredients.
- If you eat bread products made from white, refined flour, switch to wholegrain.
- Don’t keep junk food in your cupboards or fridge.
- Eliminate liquid calories from sugary drinks.
- Avoid any foods that are battered or breaded and deep fried.
- Choose foods without any added sugar.
- If you’re a chocoholic, switch to a dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids.
- Reserve half the room on your dinner plate for non-starchy vegetables.
- Pay attention to ingredients, calories and nutrition information on labels.
- Listen to your body: eat when you are hungry and stop when you’re full.
- Spend less time sitting in front of screens and more time being physically active.
None of the methods listed here will result in the kind of rapid weight-loss associated with very low-calorie fad diets. On the other hand, they don’t involve starving yourself either.
Everyone’s bodies are a little bit different. You can try each method for a few weeks to see which ones best fit in with your routines and food preferences, and which ones make the most difference to your waistline.