It’s the time of year when people tend to eat, drink and be merry, only to wake up on New Year’s Day with a holiday food hangover and a strong desire to shed the pounds they gained since Thanksgiving quickly.
We’re bombarded by ads and marketing gimmicks pitching the latest fad diets that seem to offer a weight loss program that’s faster and easier than ever before. We don’t seem to see many ads telling us to focus on long-term lifestyle changes, which can bring long-lasting health impacts. So, before you think about a 30-day detox, or limiting food groups to see results, I want to share why these fad diets really don’t work and how anything that restricts what, when or how much we eat isn’t a plan that’s sustainable.
Let’s dive into the facts provided by research regarding dieting, and what to expect if you were to start one.
95 percent of diets do not work! This means that the results aren’t likely to last two or more years. The results end when you stop the diet. If you cut out a whole food group or don’t eat anything with sugar for 30 days, do you think you will realistically be able to continue that for the rest of your life? Probably not. I know I couldn’t!
Research shows that most people who lose weight will gain it all back in two to five years. Two-thirds will gain back more than they lost. Our bodies were not made to yo-yo diet. Even if you are consistent with a routine for a long period of time, if it is so restrictive that you couldn’t possibly keep it up for life, research shows the weight will creep back on. That’s when you may hit that point where you say, “I have to go on a diet,” and you start the cycle all over again.
There are no long-term studies showing that a diet or weight loss can be sustained. One study we can take some hints from is called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which was conducted in the 1940s on 36 young, physically and mentally fit male volunteers. The men ate normally for 12 weeks and then were put into a starvation period where their calories were cut in half. What researchers observed was telling. The men were preoccupied by food, thinking about it and fantasizing about high-fat, high-calorie foods. Their moods changed and they got very annoyed, a.k.a. hangry, if their meals were late. When given the opportunity to eat, they binged. Bottom line, when your body and mind feel deprived, cravings take over and can cause you to binge.
There is no scientific research that proves better health outcomes tied to weight loss. When people lose weight, sometimes there are other positive health markers such as lower blood glucose or lower cholesterol levels. More often than not, these changes are due to the healthy lifestyle changes one has made, not the actual weight loss. Maybe a person is eating more vegetables each day, eating out less, or drinking more water. These lifestyle changes are things you can continue throughout life while still being able to eat all foods and things you enjoy in moderation.
The diet and weight loss industry profits more than $60 billion in the United States every year! Yes, you read that right — $60 billion. Diet companies thrive on making money from failed diets. They promise fast results and show pictures of their success stories with happy and thin-looking people. This is especially harmful to younger people who think they can achieve the same body as the model paid to show the products. Instagram actually banned certain diet and weight loss messaging to younger users this past September, so we are moving in the right direction. Just remember, instead of spending all of your hard-earned money on the next fad, think about spending it on healthy foods or even on a few meetings with a registered dietitian in your area to set up a plan that’s sustainable.
See how this cycle works? If you feel restricted, your body will crave what you “can’t have.” That can lead you to feel out of control and eventually you may cave in to overeating. This is why we so often hear about people getting “back on track” on Monday, after a weekend binge. So, instead of buying into the diet industry and worrying about all the bad foods and drinks we need to keep out, why not focus on adding healthy foods and habits into our lives.
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