Eat less and move more is the perennial weight loss advice. This is known as the calorie model of weight. But it’s been thoroughly proven to be incomplete, if not wrong. And because all weight loss diets operate on this principle, it’s why they all ultimately fail.
Any diet based on this principle can achieve modest weight loss initially, but then the body fights back against the perceived famine by lowering metabolism and increasing appetite. The result 95 – 99% of the time is weight re-gain.
When this happens we feel shame and defeat. Yet, it’s not you that has failed – it’s the diet that has failed you.
Diets fail because the underlying assumptions are wrong. First, our bodies are not machines that burn the same amount of energy under all conditions. Our ability to survive periods of starvation over millennia has resulted in human bodies that aggressively defend our fat stores. Lower intake and your body automatically responds by lowering output. This results in a downward spiral where the less you eat, the less you need, until you are maintaining or even gaining while barely eating. Meanwhile you feel tired, irritable, and “hangry.”
Second, diets teach you to follow external rules rather than listening to your body. You are taught to try to trick your appetite and ignore your hunger. You are taught to avoid foods you enjoy while filling up on foods you don’t want. This sets up a no win battle within yourself – you vs. food and appetite.
Third, diets create deprivation that fuels future cravings. When you can’t eat what you want and enjoy, it creates deprivation. This backlog of deprivation drives obsession with the food choices you were denied, and sets up biological and psychological conditions for ignoring fullness in the future in an effort to get what has previously been denied.
Looked at this way it’s no wonder that not only do diets not achieve lasting weight loss, but they mess up your metabolism, appetite, and energy for long afterwards. It’s no wonder that following external rules gets in the way of listening to your internal body wisdom. Or that deprivation predictably results in strong cravings, overeating, and binges.
These are the conditions that set the Dieting Cycle in motion, resulting in weight loss followed by re-gain until the point that the diets no longer work even to achieve modest initial weight loss.
There’s only one solution. And that is to step out of the Dieting Cycle and focus on healing your relationship with food and body.
If diets worked you wouldn’t need another one. Research shows that having gone on a diet is the strongest predictor of weight gain. The non-diet approach may or may not result in permanent weight loss, but at the end of the day you will feel better about yourself, be practicing healthier habits consistently, and will feel in charge of your choices.
I’d love to get to know you better. To get on my schedule for an informal talk with no agenda other than understanding your struggles and helping you get unstuck click here. If you need other times, use the contact form linked below.
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This week I’m reading Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. This book is a must read for anyone who struggles with communicating emotions and needs within relationships at work or at home. I thought I had a good grasp of this material and had studied it years ago but it turns out that there was much more for me to learn. Emotions and unmet needs are the trigger for much unwanted eating and the advice in this book will help.
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