Most people automatically associate losing weight with dieting. And when you think of dieting, you probably think of self-denial and torturous sacrifice that will last for weeks or months. (Here I’m talking about Very Low Calorie diets that severely restrict what you can eat and your calorie intake. Of course any set of healthy eating habits can also be called a “diet” but this article deals mainly with VLCDs). The thing is, there are several problems associated with this way of losing weight. Here are some reasons why low calorie diets just don’t work.
1. They Don’t Last
The whole point of a diet is that it ends at some point. It’s a temporary change that’s supposed to get you to your ideal weight. No one tells you how to maintain that weight after you get there! Or was giving up desserts for the rest of your life part of the plan?
If you’re like most people, you only endure the diet because you know that one happy day in the future (after your high school reunion is over), you can go back to your double chocolate fudge sundaes and potato chips!
2. They Send The Body Into Shock
If you’re used to eating around 3,000 calories a day and you suddenly drop to 1,000 calories a day, your body will think there’s some kind of food crisis or drought going on. It goes into “starvation mode,” which means your metabolism slows down drastically to conserve resources and improve your chances of survival. (And you thought you had no survival instincts!)
Starvation mode means you’ll have much less energy than you’re used to. Activities that you did easily before will now be really hard work. It also means that if you happen to break your diet with just a teensy weensy piece of birthday cake, your wired-for-survival brain will promptly send those calories into storage as fat cells instead of using them for energy.
This is why it’s so common to hear that someone got to their dream weight, only to put it back on in a matter of a week or two! Diets make your body think you’re going through a life-threatening situation.
3. Many Diets Aren’t So Scientific
A lot of diets claim their program will work for everyone, but that just isn’t true. Millions of dollars invested in research would only tell us what we already know—that each person’s system is unique. There is no guarantee that what works for some people will work for you, and no reason to endanger your health by following rules that feel harsh on your system. There is no one diet that will work for everyone.
And what a wonderful thing that is! Imagine having to eat the same things as everyone else, regardless of your personal tastes. Food is such an important part of our lives that not enjoying your food can actually be harmful to your mental health in the long run. It’s far better to make gradual changes and take steps towards finding a well-balanced personalized diet you really enjoy.
Not only is it possible to lose weight that way, but it’s far more sustainable. Take the time to get to know your body, read healthy recipes, experiment with new foods, and enjoy the process. Of course it will take discipline to avoid falling back into your old eating habits, but as long as you find new healthier foods to substitute for your old cravings, you’ll be fighting a winning battle. Before you realize it, you will have achieved lifestyle changes that you once thought were impossible.
CC Photo courtesy of Charlotte Astrid.