Do diets work? Can you lose weight just by dieting?

801860_39370668We are addicted to diets but that’s no surprise really. There is a massive, powerful industry that wants you to believe that diets do work and that you should buy their diet programme, food product or weight loss pill. It also seems logical that if you eat fewer calories, you’ll automatically lose weight. However, if you starve yourself, your body responds in a surprising way.

Typical diets, which involve massive calorie restrictions, are likely to trigger a ‘starvation response’ because your body thinks there’s a famine. This is what many dieters know as the ‘plateau’.

Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who needed to survive periods of food scarcity. It is thought that we evolved the ability to store body fat (our most valuable energy store) and the ability to slow down our metabolisms during times of famine, so that we need fewer daily calories.

Your body’s main objective is to keep you alive! If it thinks there is a food shortage, it will begin to store your fat reserves until food becomes available again. So while you’re torturing yourself with a boring, restrictive, depressing diet, your body is hanging onto your fat for dear life. You will eventually stop losing weight, get despondent (or just give up altogether because you can’t face another lettuce leaf), open the kitchen cupboard…do you see where I’m going with this? Hello yo-yo dieting.

This is not to say that all diet companies or their programmes are bad. They can be extremely useful in helping kick-start weight loss. However, the long-term success rates of these diets are not great, suggesting that diets are just a short-term solution.

So if have plateaued with your weight loss, then you are likely to be restricting your calories too much. You need to eat more 🙂 Yippee. And you need to get active! A modest calorie restriction which leads to a slow rate of weight loss, along with an increase in physical exercise, is much more likely to lead to successful, long-term fat loss.

And one final thought on exercise – not only is it vital for your long-term health, fitness and weight maintenance, but it will also help to keep you wanting to eat healthy food. You are much more likely to avoid slipping back into bad eating habits if you have physically worked to lose the weight in the first place. 

So what do you think? Do diets work?

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