5 reasons dieting is a waste of time
Diets don’t work. In fact, in the long term, they make us fatter. This is proven fact.
In 2018, more than 60% of UK adults are overweight, having a BMI greater than 25, and 28% are medically obese, with a BMI of over 30. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.
It’s not just our appearance that suffers – the many nasty side-effects of carrying too much fat include increased likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and many cancers, as well as the mechanical breakdown of our bodies when ankles, knees, hips and backs struggle to support that extra weight.
This expansion of our waistlines has been mirrored by the growth of the so-called diet industry, which is now worth more than £2bn a year in the UK alone. But, oddly, the more we diet, the fatter we get. Here’s why…
1. We’re all unique.
We all have different genetic make-up, different microbiomes (internal gut bacteria) and exhibit widely variant responses to different foods. A diet that works for one person will not necessarily work for another.
2. It’s a temporary measure.
Just like stopping drinking by ‘going on the wagon’, going on a diet implies at some future point jumping off the wagon and coming off the diet. Lo and behold, no sooner do we do that than our weight piles back on – and more often than not, it’s more than we lost in the first place. The diet industry preys on people’s desperation and thirst for something new to try in the face of these previous failures. But if you never go “ON” a diet, you can never come “OFF” it either, and any weight you lose – slowly and safely, painstakingly and carefully through exercise and healthy living options – stays off forever.
3. You’re fighting against evolution.
The availability of abundant and cheap food is a modern phenomenon: our Stone Age ancestors had to work hard to obtain enough food to survive harsh winters and random climate fluctuations. As such, humans are incredibly well adapted to surviving low-calorie periods. Our ancestors will have regularly experienced episodes of near-starvation, for example when the bison failed to show up in summer, or when drought and bush fires drove off the herd of antelopes and the back of the cave was empty all winter. When faced with starvation, our metabolism is very clever: it slows down. This is a self-defence mechanism that allows us to survive for many months on as little as 800kcal per day. When faced with starvation and a slower metabolism, the body starts using its own reserves to keep our brains alive. Initially it utilizes our fat reserves, and when they are down to under 5%, it starts to break down our muscles. In short, the body starts to “eat itself”. The consequences of this breakdown are severe, because our muscles act as metabolic furnaces, burning calories for us 24/7 and boosting our metabolism. When the muscles atrophy and are broken down during heavy dieting, your basal metabolic rate drops like a stone, and soon you stop losing weight even when eating less than half your usual daily calories. Again, thanks to our ancestors’ survival skills which evolved over millions of years, as soon as food was plentiful once again and our prey herds returned to our valleys, we became extremely good at gaining weight rapidly in the presence of abundance. The problem now is that our primordial survival skills are still very much present within us today, yet the over-abundance of food surrounding us never goes away.
4. You’re programmed to crave sweet and fatty foods.
Our brains are hard-wired to desire sweet and fatty stuff. Why? Because our Stone Age ancestors had almost none. Even today, hunter-gatherers travel for miles to track down a bee hive, and will brave dozens of painful stings to obtain a few honey combs. Sugars and fats trigger the ‘I love this’ response in our brains and we are genetically pre-programmed to prefer them. Although in recent decades the food industry has responded to the obesity epidemic by reducing the fat content in its offerings, they have tended to substitute sugars instead of fats in so-called ‘lighter’ variations. Ironically, the lower the overall fat content of our daily intake has become (since 1990 we eat 50% less fats), the fatter we have become. The drop in fats is mirrored by an equal and opposite increase in sugars, and in parallel to this our weight as a population has increased. But it’s not sugars alone that are to blame – it’s the diet/food industry and our governments failing to educate our children, and it’s our medical professionals offering gastric bypass surgery instead of referring obese clients to fitness professionals
5. It does not require much calorie excess to become obese, so it also doesn’t require much calorie shortfall to lose a lot of weight.
People may see an obese person struggling up the high street and cruelly think to themselves: “Greedy – must be stuffing their face 24/7.” That could not be further from the truth. Every overweight or obese person has become that way over decades, not weeks or months. One chocolate biscuit is approximately 100kcal, so around 10g of fat. Let’s assume your metabolic burn is 2,200kcal on a day when you are doing some exercise. If you eat exactly 2,200kcal that day your weight remains constant. However, just one extra chocolate biscuit that day means you gain 10g. One week of that and it’s now 70g. One year and you have gained just over 3.6kg. Two years and that’s 7kg, or one stone. As you can see, just one extra biscuit a day will make you obese in a handful of years.
5 Easy Strategies for losing weight permanently
1. Never go on a diet – see above as to why.
2. Never eat with the TV on. Focus 100% of your attention on your food. Enjoy it. Savour it. If you eat with the TV on, before you know it it’s all gone, and your brain hasn’t had time to recognise you have eaten.
3. Reduce your portion size / helpings. This one is easy. We mostly overeat through having massive portions. Buy smaller plates: a small plate looks fuller than a big plate with the same food on it, and your brain is fooled into feeling fuller too.
4. Hydrate before eating. The brain confuses thirst with hunger and when you are thirsty, you will overeat. Try drinking at least one pint of water with each meal.
5. Identify your special treats. Treat them as treats, not as an everyday snacks. Say you love chocolate: that’s fine – most people love chocolate. Just keep your treats for rewards, say after a good workout, or at the end of the week. Moderation is the key word.
There really is no secret to losing weight. It’s simple if you are disciplined, methodical, patient, and committed. Eat a little less, move a lot more. Get sweaty two or three times a week and strengthen your muscles with weights. Don’t give up the things you like: wine, chocolate, pizza and crisps are all OK in moderation. Eat three square meals a day, balanced and varied. Try not to snack too often, but don’t beat yourself up when you do. Don’t try to lose weight too fast or you will break down your muscles and lower your metabolism. Here at the Fitness Factory, 1kg per month is the maximum weight loss we advise. That’s like giving up three biscuits a day – easy! Take your time and stick with it; results will come, guaranteed!