Fad Diets - the best way to GAIN (NOT lose) weight! Here's why:

We’ve all seen the ads… “Lose x # of pounds in 2 weeks”, “Lose y inches by eating this food alone”. High-protein, low-carb, low-fat, grapefruit-only, “Little green pill”…, the list goes on & on. Especially this time of year, when the sun comes out and shorts, tank tops and bikinis are coming out of the closets.

And sure, some people may rapidly lose some weight or inches around the middle - temporarily. The trouble is, as soon as the diet is over the weight comes back – with extra! Why is that? Below are a few of the reasons why this is just another area where it doesn’t pay to cut corners/cheat.

#1) Maintenance.

  • Fad diets are meant to be short term. They focus on getting as many pounds off in as short a time possible, but then they leave you there - no mention of what to do when the diet is over. They don’t teach long term, sustainable eating habits so that you learn how to eat healthfully over the long term. Therefore when you do finish the diet and go back to eating the same things as before, the weight inevitably comes back.

#2) Activity level.

  • Optimal weight loss is a combination of both diet and exercise. A major part of the problem that people have with loosing weight and keeping it off is that they’re not moving enough to burn the excess energy (calories). Expended calories must equal or be less than ingested calories, or the extra will just be added on as fat.

  • If you concentrate solely on depriving yourself (which is not sustainable) and don’t incorporate regular exercise, the loss will never last.

#3) Metabolism.

  • The definition: the set of chemical reactions that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. In a nutshell, this means how quickly your body burns energy to keep you alive.

  • Depending on one’s age regular nutrient intake and activity level, this may be faster or slower, and the body is accustomed burning calories at a certain state.

  • During a fad diet, when calorie intake is severely restricted, the body enters a sort of “Starvation Mode” during which one’s metabolic rate re-adapts to the new lower nutrient intake (to preserve the little energy that it’s getting) and subsequently slows down. When you start eating regular foods/amounts of foods again, the calories are burned much more slowly since the body’s metabolism is used to running at a slower rate, leading to easier and more rapid weight gain than you were used to previously.

  • The yo-yo dieting that ensues as one repeatedly tries to lose what they've gained back further deteriorates metabolic health, leading to nothing but long term weight problems and ill health.

#4) Lean Muscle Mass.

  • When you lose a lot of weight quickly, the body enters starvation mode. The body will then use whatever it fuel source it can get a hold can for energy. Like it or not, the body wants to hold on to fat (there are many benefits to the body having some fat, including padding for your organs, warmth, etc) and will therefore burn muscle instead, so you lose lean muscle mass.

  • Having a healthy amount of lean muscle is great for metabolism (it burns calories quickly), so loosing this causes further slowing of metabolism, adding to the ease of gaining weight again.

  • When you then start eating more food again, the body won’t convert into the lost muscle but will instead immediately store it as fat. This means more fatty tissue and less lean muscle.

  • Losing fat and not lean muscle mass only comes from a combination of exercise and healthy diet. It can't work with one and not the other!

#5) Snacking.

  • Most fad diets cut meal times to only 3 or 2x per day with no snacks allowed.

  • The body needs a steady supply of fuel throughout the day to function properly, before hunger sets in. Forcing oneself to eat only at 5-6 hour intervals means one is extremely hungry by mealtime, leading to overeating on what would likely be heavier foods than would have been consumed at a mid meal snack.

  • This means excess calories are going in than will be burned by the already slowed metabolism, causing them to be stored as fat. Additionally, cheating will ultimately result, and usually on less healthy options, not to mention discarding the whole diet idea.

  • A healthier idea: small healthy snacks between main meals to keep energy levels up, prevent indulging at meal times, and help maintain a regular metabolic rate.

#6) Macronutrient Imbalance.

  • Fad diets tend to focus on limiting/eliminating individual food groups (i.e. carbohydrates or fat) for a certain amount of time. The body needs nutrients from all three main food groups (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to function properly.

  • Not only that, when the restricted foods are then reintroduced after the diet, one will often binge on the “missed” food (bread, pasta, ice cream), leading to more rapid weight gain.

The bottom line is that Fad Diets just don't work. Period. They are a waste of time, money and most importantly your health (physical and mental)! Permanent weight loss is only achievable by (sorry) work and discipline. It doesn't have to be hard, but it certainly isn't a quick fix.

There can be many reasons that you are having trouble losing weight and/or keeping it off. These can range from hormonal changes, cortisol/stress levels, foods sensitivities, less than optimal diet choices, lack of exercise, etc. A Naturopath can work with you to determine what your barriers are and will be able to work with you to boost your metabolism, learn to make healthier dietary choices, and discover how & what types of exercise can help you. It’s definitely worth looking into and working on as a healthy weight means a healthier future with decreased risk of many illnesses and chronic disease states (depression, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, etc…). There's no time like now to start!

Good luck!

Dr. Katarine Holewa ND

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