This may come as a complete surprise to you, but I talk about food a lot. I mean a LOT – my wife will tell you that it’s my favorite topic of conversation. So, it’s no surprise that I love to explore food’s connection with fitness. I mean, working out and stuffing my face are two of my great joys in life, so why not combine them? But right now, the relationship between food and fitness is in desperate need of some couple’s therapy.
We’ve made huge strides over the last twenty years when it comes to understanding the science of nutrition, but Joe Everyman down the street doesn’t have time to keep up with the latest Stanford paper on the benefits of dietary fat – and I don’t blame him. People have lives, and research takes too long. So it’s really not surprising that the average person still thinks dieting is the best option for losing weight.
Even now someone reading this is probably thinking “it’s not?”
No, faceless, theoretical citizen. It’s not.
Diets are a temporary solution at best, and sometimes an outright scam at worst. Let me tell you five good reasons why diets don’t work.
1. Dieting Changes Your Body
You might think “well yeah, that’s the point, right?” But dieting causes three fundamental changes in your biology that basically set you up for failure.
- Your brain becomes extra responsive to food, and all foods begin to look more appetizing and tempting than they normally would.
- The hormonal composition of your body changes: the hormones that make you feel full decrease in number, while those that make you feel hungry INCREASE in number.
- Your metabolism also changes as your body tries to adjust to the new caloric intake and use those calories as best it can. Your body doesn’t want you to starve – and when you eat less, it stores more food as fat so that you don’t die.
2. Diet Companies Profit From Failure
One-time customers are bad for business – and most companies in the diet industry have to be concerned with maintaining their bottom line. If their entire consumer base consists of a bunch of one-and-dones, before long they’ll start to lose money.
Speaking of money: the “obesity industry” brought in more than 50 BILLION dollars in 2014. It’s only grown since.
Obesity itself costs the US an estimated 300 Billion annually – 3% of our economy.
And nobody holds them accountable. When people gain back the weight they lost, you don’t hear them calling the diet faulty. It’s always “I screwed up. I fell off the wagon. I didn’t have enough willpower.” They’ll assume the diet itself was beyond reproach, and that obviously they’re the problem, and then it’s right back to the diet for New Years.
3. All Diets Have A Honeymoon Phase
Most people know at least one person who was able to lose 20 pounds on a certain diet, or who went down three sizes in six months on another diet. What they don’t tell you is 95% of people who lose weight on restricitve diets gain it ALL back in 1 to 5 years. The remaining 5% are usually only able to do it by devoting their entire life to the diet. Again, the temptation is to blame the people, but such a high margin of failure is pretty tough to just dismiss.
4. Dieting can Lead to Eating Disorders
A 2011 study found that 35% of occasional dieters will eventually progress into pathological dieting, already a form of “disordered eating” – this usually includes cutting out a central food category, like carbs. A further 25% of those will eventually progress into full blown eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia. Anorexia is one of the most lethal psychiatric disorders, with a mortality rate four times higher than major depression.
Destructive and distressful habits of dieting include:
- checking the number on the scale daily or multiple times a day.
- pushing through injuries or fatigue just to burn calories.
- Constantly counting calories and restricting food intake.
- avoiding friends or family for the sake of avoiding temptation.
5. The Number on the Scale Doesn’t Matter
Every person’s body composition is different, and 150 pounds looks totally different on one person that it does on another. What you really want to pay attention to is you Body Mass Index – what percentage of your body weight is fat. Once you adapt a good fitness program, you’ll start to gain muscle, which helps burn fat. However, muscle is heavier than fat, so your weight may actually increase depending on your BMI. The point is, your bodyweight alone can’t really tell you anything – so put the scale in the closet, and keep it there.
Next time – we talk about the alternatives to traditional diets.