The amounts of Diet programs out there are ten a penny. Numerous advices recommend the same number of different strategies to lose “5 kg in 5 days”.
If these diets would be successful on a long run, the weight loss business would crash. But Google search finds 142 Million hits for “weight loss” and 677 Million for “diet”. That doesn’t look like these topics will become unpopular in near future.
Sure thing: starving yourself for a couple of days will lead to weight loss on the scale, just because you eat less calories than you burn and you lose water. But this project has a catch in it:
While eating more calories than needed feels like paradise for our body and it starts to happily save body fat (reservoir for times of starvation), eating less calories than needed (deficit during diet or starvation), the emergency plan is taking over. Our body only knows black or white when it comes to food, that means, starvation is always potentially lethal. It’s not possible to differentiate between self induced starvation (diet) or a life threatening lack of food.
The emergency plan makes sure that we save energy: we feel tired and move less, body temperature decreases, digestion slows down and muscle mass are cut down to be used as energy.
The last one is especially fatal because your muscles burn calories. That’s an easy equation: less muscles = less energy consumption. And it’s even worse, because this condition lasts for a long period of time even after the end of the diet (scientific studies show reduced metabolism for about 1 year after a diet).
On the other hand, transmitting agents in our brain induce ravenous appetite. Without this strong mechanism, our ancestors would have comfortably died of hunger, sitting on the stone in front of their cave because they would have been too lazy to hunt, and the human race would be extinct today. Finally the emergency plan was working out, we are still here, that’s somehow positive.
If you already followed a diet in the past you know when the emergency plan kicked in: You desperately run through your house, checking all drawers for chocolate and after you found it there was a deep-drawn sigh of relieve and you finish it just in seconds. Your body thinks you just escaped starvation.
Ravenous appetite attacks show that there is something wrong, but not about you or your will power, but the kind of nutrition you are practicing is inducing such response and the lack of nutrients is making your body move heaven and earth to secure your survival.
What is coming next? Either you quit your diet, because you already cheated or you try to follow the limited nutrition plan even more seriously.
But what is happening, when your scale shows the weight you desired in your dreams? That’s a reason to celebrate because now you can quit your diet and start to eat “normally” again. Your body will respire, because you survived! But your body is still on energy-saving-mode as a consequence of the described emergency plan. That means you burn less energy than before your diet. As soon as you start to eat “normally” again, your body will save calories to create storage in order to be better prepared in case another period of starvation is coming up. Because next time it might be a lethal starvation, your body just doesn’t know. The created storage is body fat around belly, thighs and hips. This the well known yoyo-effect. Quite soon the pants start to be very tight again, the scale shows weight gain and you to think about starting a diet.
You know the result already. Therefore the saying “diets make you fat” unfortunately is completely right.
The scenario sounds very frustrating. And indeed, it is frustrating for everybody who wants to reduce body fat permanently with dieting. It’s a vicious cycle. The best thing you can do is a diet-prohibition.
Strategies about how to improve your nutrition without diet you will find in my next blog posts, so make sure to follow me! 😉