Diets are doomed to fail
In today’s world, even if you’re slightly overweight like me, you are likely to have thought about dieting. Weight loss has become an incredible industry in itself, with new and wacky diets coming into fashion every season.
But I’ve always been skeptical of dieting.
For one, it means I have to give up delicious food. And…no, thanks!
Secondly, there’s never been enough evidence behind dieting—in general or around single dietary programs.
This is due to one glaring problem: dieting is only a temporary fix.
Your Stubborn Body
If you’re like me, it always feels like your weight is out of control, increasing wildly after just a week off from going to the gym.
But in reality, your body has a very tight control of your body weight.
In long-term studies, scientists have observed that body weight stays around a set value. It may increase temporarily, but your body will always bring it back to the set value.
So, what does this mean when you go on a diet? Well, it means that you may lose weight based on the quality of your diet…but your body will actively fight against it.
The Great Dietary War
Battle Strategy 1: Hunger
Hunger is a crucial part of body-weight control, and your body induces it with one main hormone: ghrelin. Released from the stomach, this hormone stimulates you to eat. So, when you’re dieting…(you guessed it!)…it’s released more.
Initially, that makes sense. On a diet, you may be eating less than you usually do and hence your body thinks it’s not getting enough food.
But studies show that ghrelin is elevated in your body even ONE YEAR after going on the diet! Not only that, but the hormones that make you stop eating by making your full (Neuropeptide Y and Cholecystokinin) are also chronically reduced.
This isn’t just a passive reaction to dieting, but a fighting stance taken by the body. It will get you to eat more.
Battle Strategy 2: Hangriness
But hunger is more than the stomach gurgling and the tummy aching. Hunger is a mental and emotional game too.
This is because the reward system (also in control of desire and pleasure) is involved in eating. At the most basic level, it gives you the incentive to eat—it’ll taste yummy and you will feel good. It will also give you reason not to go hungry—it will make you unhappy, irritated and crave food.
In essence, you are addicted (more literal than you think) to food.
So, when you go on a diet. You become like a meth-head without their meth. You won’t be able to think clearly. You’ll be stressed and irritable. You’ll be depressed.
Additionally, cheating will become more pleasurable. The food you look at will become more appealing and often taste better while dieting.
So, who wins?
All in all, dieting is an excruciating experience, physically and mentally. That’s why many fail to maintain their diets over time.
Even in those who do maintain their diets, their body ultimately wins. Half of the weight that is lost in the first 10 weeks of dieting is put back on within a year. In the long-term, most go back to their original weight and even get heavier.
Hungry for hope
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of people who have proven all this science wrong. I personally know 2 people who have significantly lost weight and kept it off for years.
That’s because there is one overarching force in the battle of body weight: will power.
With practice and a strong mind, you can overcome hunger and cravings to eat. Dieting gradually, consistently and over a long time can change the set body weight value that your body is trying to maintain. Exercise also helps.
So, what’s your experience with dieting and weight loss? Feel free to share in the comments below!