Conventional nutrition has consistently told to us that in order to lose weight, you need to exercise more and eat less. Theoretically, it makes sense that if you use more energy and put less in, the scales should go down, however, studies show quite the opposite. Countless studies show that extreme dieting is rarely ever effective! Moreover, statistics show that adhering to a very low energy diet (VLED) does not improve health and instead can be more detrimental to health! These studies show that dieters often regain lost weight + more in the long run.
Despite what some people think the problem is not their lack of will power either!
Physiologically, our bodies are set to a weight range that it wants to sit at healthily. Everyone has a different "set point" and this is determined by both lifestyle and genetics. The body is programmed for survival and as far as your body is concerned, when you go into severe energy or nutrient deficit you are going into a starvation period. Its defence is to switch into a survival mode. To save energy and it stops burning as much energy at rest, thus showing a decrease in the metabolic rate. Hormonally, the body responds by decreasing an appetite hormone called leptin, causing you to become hungrier and increase cravings.
If dieting continues and few kilojoules continue to be consumed, the body begins to look for fuel elsewhere and breaks down muscle to use for energy. This muscle loss causes the metabolism to slow even further so, at rest, even less energy is needed by the body. This process is serious.
It is important to acknowledge (though we will save this for a blog for another day) that there is an even more intricate relationship between mental health and overall nutrient status and the information below is really just the tip of the iceberg. Our brains and body need food to function well - so dieting can worsen mental health conditions!
Psychological damage is also a risk of extreme dieting. Common restrictive dietary behaviours such as cutting certain foods or food groups completely, and excessively exercising cause diet "backfire." When the thought of food outside of the rigid structure you or the diet has set for you triggers a binge or overeating. Ever felt like as soon as you tell yourself you can't have something or do something, all you can then focus on is that one thing you "can't" have? This is a perfect example of what we mean by dieting backfire. It is unhealthy and the psychological damage does not stop here! With this deprivation, dieters are likely to give in to the craving and overindulge. This causes guilt, then the cycle continues.
The brain uses every method it knows after receiving feedback from your body that something is not right. It wants to get food back in (often craving sugar which is the easiest fuel to break down) and for the starvation to end. With every attempt to diet, the rate of weight loss slows down. This is why you might find that the weight comes off easily during your first diet, but subsequent attempts don’t have the same results. Over time, chronic dieting can increase your set point weight range and these biological responses kick in even if you are at a higher weight than usual.
That's why at Inspire Wellness we do not condone severe restrictive meal plans and that the programs offered to our clients are part of a healthy lifestyle change. There is no strict elimination of food groups, there are no fad shakes - just wholesome, nourishing and healthy foods. The foods we recommend you are to re-balance your body and give it all the nutrients it needs to help your metabolism function well again! Many of our clients are surprised by just HOW MUCH we are asking them to eat. This is not an excess of food. A lot of the time this is because they are so used to undereating in fear of weight gain that they no longer remember what healthy is! We calculate the amount of food each client's body needs to function and we make recommendations accordingly.
Image Via Jessie May
We understand that this process can be daunting and that trusting in a lifestyle change, particularly when it is inconsistent with something that you truly believed was the right thing to be doing. That is why our practitioners are with you every step of the way, to help and to guide you into your new healthy way of living so there are no more rebounds, no more fads EVER again!
For the keen reader: Here are a couple of really interesting links for further reading.