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It’s not a diet … It’s a lifestyle!

17 June 2015

Do you find yourself going from one diet to the next without actually losing any weight? Have you lost weight on a diet only to regain it all back and then some when you come off it? Well don’t feel guilty, it’s not your fault. If you are constantly on a diet of some form, sooner or later you are going to come off it. Whether it’s a month, a year, or 5 years later. All that weight you worked so hard on losing will come back with a vengeance! But fear not, help is at hand. I am going to outline the reasons why losing weight and staying healthy is a lifestyle, not just a diet.

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By definition, to diet is to “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Now for many this may sound like a good idea. People believe that by eating less, and exercising more they will lose weight and technically they would be correct. They will weigh less. But will they be slimmer, healthier and look better? Chances are probably not (or at least not for very long). Research shows that 95% of people who begin a weight loss diet will regain this weight back within the next 1-5 years (NEDIC, 2008).

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The first problem with dieting is that it messes with your body’s metabolism. Your metabolism is your body’s energy burning system. The higher your metabolism, the more energy you burn and the more food you need to eat in order to maintain your current bodyweight. The lower your metabolism the fewer calories you need to eat to sustain your current bodyweight. When you begin a particularly over-restrictive diet, you are basically starving yourself. Obviously, your body doesn’t want you to starve, so as a response it slows down it’s metabolism in order to reduce the amount of energy it takes you to just be alive. This can in fact lead to fat gain! You see your body notices that it’s not getting in enough food so the food you do eat gets stored as body fat, to be used at a later date. Not good! How many of you have started a diet, lost a lot of weight up to a certain point, and then struggled to lose any more? Well again, this is your bodies way of surviving. It basically adjusts itself to survive on less food. Not to mention, restrictive diets mean you can’t eat tasty, delicious foods (nobody wants that!!!). This lowering of the metabolism also explains why people who go on diets find themselves tired a lot of the time; your body is saving as much energy as it possibly can due to the deprivation of calories.

Following on from this, your weight only tells you so much. A lot of diets like Slimming World or Weight Watchers for example, judge their clients progress by the scale and nothing else; body fat doesn’t even get taken into account. But isn’t that what we are trying to lose? The clue is in the name ‘Weight’ Watchers. If I were to start a diet club I’d call it ‘Fat Watchers’. But I can’t do this because it hurts peoples feelings. Just because somebody loses weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have gotten slimmer. When you drop weight quickly, the majority of that weight loss is from water. So you feel really happy because the scale says less, but do you look any better? Chances are probably not. This explains why a lot of people on diets find themselves more thirsty than usual. This thirst for water can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, so when you feel the need to eat, try having a glass of water, you may just be dehydrated.

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The majority of diets out there don’t take into account a proper exercise regime, therefore the rest of the initial weight-loss people experience usually comes from muscle tissue. So again, the scales tell you that you weigh less, but the mirror tells you a different story. This is not to say that the Weight Watchers and the likes don’t work, as I say technically they do. You eat less calories than you burn off and therefore you lose weight …. easy! But consider this, every time you lose your lean muscle tissue, you are losing a percentage of your metabolism effectively. This means less calories are burned throughout the day, which means you have to starve yourself even more. It’s a viscous cycle.

Muscle weighs more than fat. Two people can weigh the same on the scales, but one can look much slimmer and more toned than the other. A lot of the time when people eat right and combine this with a proper strength training program, they actually end up weighing more than they did before they started but they are a lot more ‘toned’ and defined than they were. This is a tough concept for a lot of people to grasp, especially women. But please trust when I say, the scales aren’t your friend, the mirror is!

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The major downfall with all these diets is they don’t actually promote a well rounded, healthy way of eating. Eating natural, whole foods wins every time, without a doubt. Herbalife for example claims that:“Our Mission is to change people’s lives by providing the best business opportunity in direct selling and the best nutrition and weight-management products in the world”. Now I’m no scientist, but take a look at the ingredients below of the Herbalife protein shake and tell me if this looks like good nutrition. It looks like a whole lot of chemicals to me! There are more chemicals in there than there is real food and nutrients:

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Others work using some sort of points system. It doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you stay under your points then all is good. In other words, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat pizza and drink coke, it just means you can’t eat much else that day. Wonderful!! You’re under your set number of points for the day so must be doing good. No thought goes into how different foods affect your metabolism. What gets me is that common sense seems to go out of the window. Everyone knows that pizza and fizzy drinks aren’t good for you, but they justify eating these things because they have a structure (the points system) to follow which is given to them by people who are meant to be helping them be healthier and lose weight. Right?

At the end of the day all the companies; Herbalife, Juice Plus, Weight Watchers, Slimming World etc are exactly that; companies. They all have one thing in common and that is that they want to make as much money as possible. These guys have done their research and they know who they are targeting. They even make up their own brands of foods to further enhances the idea that people need to be dependent on their system to be successful. Surely if they were so concerned about getting you slimmer, they would just give away advice on what to eat and how to exercise? But no, instead you have to pay to be weighed and told whether or not you’ve gained or lost any weight.

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If you know anything about nutrition then you know that everybody is different. Two people can eat the exact same thing and see completely different results. Therefore having this one size fits all attitude towards diet is careless, but it does make money! As I mentioned, they know their target market. Generally speaking, women are more subject to this idea of weighing a certain weight. Regardless of how they look, as long as the scale says what they want it to say, they are happy. Now doesn’t it seem strange that as of 2008, 95.3% of people on the Weight Watchers diet were female? (Lowe et al, 2008). Well if you think about it, it’s not, especially when the owners are fully aware that people will pay money to weigh less.

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This is not to mention the eating disorders that arise from being so caught up on ‘weight’. Those who diet constantly and judge their progress by the scales are eight times more likely to develop eating disorders, than those who don’t diet; especially when those people diet in their early teens (Matz, 2014).

Conclusion

I apologise if it seems like I’ve just been having one big rant. For those of you who are following some sort of diet, and are seeing results and are feeling better about yourself then that’s fine. Do what makes you happy (except if eating lots of cake and chocolate makes you feel happy). I just want to make you aware that there are healthier, not to mention cheaper ways, of getting that body you’ve always wanted, and keeping it for longer than those 2 weeks in Majorca.

Now if you’ve read my previous blogs you should be aware that starving yourself and running for hours on end is not the answer to your weight loss solutions. No magic shake or break-through drug beats eating whole, natural, un-processed foods. Yes dieting might get you down to the dress size you want, but once you get there it’s time to start eating sensibly again, and keep the weight off. Remember the scales don’t give you the whole story. Instead, I’d suggest taking measurements of those areas you want to change; waist, hips, arms etc and check again in a few weeks to see how much you have lost.

Also take photos of yourself. Take a photo of yourself before you start on your new healthy lifestyle and then every couple of weeks, take another. You yourself won’t notice these small changes because you see yourself everyday. But if you look back on your photos you will see your transformation taking place.Use this as your progress.

Eat sensibly, drink lots, lift heavy, run fast and watch your body transform!

References

Lowe, M.R., Kral, T.V.E., Miller-Kovach, K. 2008. Weight-loss maintenance 1,2 and 5 years after successful completion of a weight-loss programme. British Journal of Nutrition. 99(4): 925-930.

Matz, Judith. “Beyond the Diet Mentality,”http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/currentissue/923-in-consultation. Accessed 30/03/2014.

National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC). http://nedic.ca/know-facts/statisticsAccessed 30/03/2014.

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author: Josh Morrell

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