Weight loss diets make us fat

It’s about living not dieting

By Dr Helena Popovic MBBS
Living Well Magazine Winter 2014

Yes, you read correctly. Going on a diet is more likely to make you gain weight than lose weight.  It’s a well-established fact that 95% of people who try to lose weight put it all back on plus some within 12 months of starting any sort of weight loss regime. A detailed review of the medical literature shows that at the end of five years, most dieters have put on 15% more weight than they originally lost. How is this so?

Firstly let me clarify that I am using the word DIET to mean ‘a regulated eating plan that promises WEIGHT LOSS.’ This article does not relate to healing, cleansing or elimination diets.

There are thousands of different weight loss diets on the market but they all  have four ingredients in common:

  • Cutting out certain types of food -sometimes it’s a whole food group e.g. carbohydrates or fats, or sometimes it’s a particular set of foods.
  • Regulating the amount of food consumed. Some foods may be ‘free’ but more than likely, something is restricted.
  • Dictating how or when or in which combinations to eat the food.
  • And often – but not always – a scientific-sounding name and a recently discovered amazing substance that melts away fat or speeds up metabolism.

If followed faithfully, most diets produce short term weight loss. However, not a single diet has been found to produce long term weight loss and ALL diets produce rebound weight gain. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you have not failed the diet. The diet has failed you because all diets have an inbuilt failure mechanism.

How do diets make us fat?

1. As soon as you reduce your food intake by more than 25%, you slow down your metabolic rate so that you need less food just to maintain your weight. That means as soon as you stop the diet, your previous food intake will cause you to gain weight.

2. A loss of more than 1kg per week will trigger your body’s starvation response so that it works overtime to store fat instead of burn fat. These numbers are rough averages because everyone processes food slightly differently.

3. Rapid weight loss changes your body composition resulting in less lean muscle mass and more body fat in the long run. When you shed weight on a diet, you lose water, muscle and fat. When you regain weight after a diet, you regain the weight as fat and water, not muscle – unless you’re pumping heavy weights at the gym on most days.

4. When you are on a weight loss diet, you override your body’s hunger signals and lose touch with your body’s needs. You disconnect from your body because you’re following external rules rather than tuning in and asking yourself “What do I feel like eating now?” “Am I satisfied yet?”

And the list goes on…

So if you aren’t happy with your body weight, what’s the alternative to dieting?

The answer is: LIVING not dieting. What does this statement mean?

Living not dieting means taking three radical steps:
1. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
2. Eat food that you like. Don’t eat what you don’t like.
3. Eat with awareness, not on autopilot. Discover the art of savouring.

Your body is your best guide to what it needs. When you learn to tune in and listen to your body’s signals, you will make healthy choices that lead to attaining and maintaining your ideal body weight. No pills powders, lotions or potions. No calorie counting or deprivation. Just the slim, healthy, vibrant you coming to life through your own inner guidance.

Could it really be that simple? Yes and no.

It would be simple if we always knew when we were hungry. If we regularly  paused throughout the day and checked in with ourselves: “Am I hungry? If yes, I’ll take a break and  eat now. If no, I’ll check in with  myself again later.”

We are often unaware that our driver to eat is the fleeting thought, “It’s midday – time for lunch.” Or “Everyone around me is eating so I’ll join in.”

Get into the habit of asking yourself: “Am I really hungry? Or is it that I want to change how I’m feeling? Or do I simply need a break from what I’m doing?”  Asking yourself these question begins to retrain your brain and body to send you stronger signals about what you need in any given moment.

Giving yourself permission to eat when  you’re hungry sends positive messages to yourself. It communicates self-respect, self-worth and self-reliance. The more you practise pausing and questioning, the better you will become at recognising what is going on for you and what you need.

Be patient with yourself and trust that your body will guide you faithfully.  And above all, enjoy your new-found freedom.

Dr Helena Popovic is a medical doctor, author, international speaker and specialist in how to improve brain function and how our lifestyles impact our health and performance. She is the founder and CEO of Winning at Slimming – thinking the light way. Winning at Slimming is a groundbreaking weight loss program inspiring people to transform their thinking about weight loss and passionately embrace a healthy life. It is founded on the principles of neuroplasticity: how to change the brain to change the body. You can also download her free eBook at: www. winningatslimming.com