What are the long-term effects from dieting (physically)
Diets are all over the media.. With a different one trending every year, be it cutting out carbs, avoiding sugar, eating an insane amount of protein, intermittent fasting, the list goes on and on - what do these all have in common? They aim to restrict our bodies from certain food groups and label foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are full of rules that we ‘must´ follow to reach ‘the perfect body’, but as a matter of fact, 80% of people that go on diets put back on the weight, and if not more. As a registered nutritionist, I must throw in some studies, to back up this evidence. One of the largest studies done was the Women's Health Initiative study, the results showed that there was, on average, no change in weight, and surprisingly, an increase in waist circumference! (measurement of the fat stored around the stomach) (1). Why is this the case you ask? This is because you are restricting your body from what it needs, it’s a bit like telling you not to think about pink elephants, what are you thinking about? That’s right! Diets make us obsessed with food and counting calories, when we are on a diet we are constantly thinking about when and what our next meal will be.
So, how do diets affect our bodies physically? Our bodies naturally burn calories when
carrying out day-to-day bodily functions, this is known as our basal metabolic rate (BMR).
This differs depending on your size, age, weight, or ethnicity. Over a long period of
restricting our bodies from food and drastically cutting down on calories, we go into
starvation mode, our metabolism slows down, meaning our body hangs on for dear life, to every bit of calorie possible! This means that to stay at your ‘desired weight’ you must eat a lot less than before. Alternatively, being able to gain weight becomes a lot easier, leading to faster weight gain, probably your exact opposite intention of going on a diet in the first place.
The cycle continues – you go back on the diet, restrict your body, lose some weight, get
cravings, and end up putting the weight back on again.. Let’s break this cycle! Let's listen to our internal hunger cues and give our body exactly what it needs.
Howard BV, Manson JE, Stefanick ML, Beresford SA, Frank G, Jones B, Rodabough RJ, Snetselaar L, Thomson C, Tinker L, et al: Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA 2006, 295:39-49.