There is so much pressure in today’s society to look a certain way to be skinny that we have become completely obsessed with dieting and diets. Have you ever gone on a diet and lost some weight only to find that not too soon after you have put all that weight back on and found yourself back at square one, looking for a new better diet? If you answered yes your not alone this is a very common outcome of dieting. Each failed diet is likely to lead to self blame and beating oneself up for the perceived lack of willpower and inability to lose weight and keep it off. This is an all too common story that I hear when consulting with people. If this story is so common why is that we are blaming ourselves and not the diets?
What does the research say?
The research says that 95% of people that go on a diet and lose weight regain all that weight and often more within 2-5 years. A whopping 95%!!!!! So you have to be dam lucky if you are going to succeed at dieting long term. Can you imagine if you went to the dentist to get a tooth fixed and the dentist said that they would treat you but it would require some pain and suffering (because lets face it going on a diet is painful and we do suffer) but that there would only be a 5% chance that he would be able to fix your problem. That dentist would go out of business!!!!! No one wants to invest time and money in something that only works 5% of the time. But yet this is exactly what we do with diets time and time again.
So why don’t they work?
Diets don’t work for two main reason. Biological and psychological!!!! Biologically when we go on a diet and start to lose weight our body starts to freak out because it has this inbuilt mechanism to maintain balance so in order to maintain balance in the body it tries to stop you from losing weight. Your body very cleverly slows down your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate determines how much energy your body burns when your at rest. When our metabolic rate decreases you start to put on weight. As well as slowing down your metabolic rate weight loss also results in a number of hormonal changes throughout the body that occur to assist in maintaining balance. These hormonal changes trigger increased appetite and hunger signalling to the brain to search for food in your environment. This is why you may have noticed that you become obsessed about food and think about food all the time when your on a diet. Your not going crazy its just your body functioning as it was intended to stop you from starving to death.
On the psychological side of things before we actually even attempt to go on a diet what’s known as the last supper effect gets triggered. This is when we make the decision to start a diet on Monday and our brains realise we are going to be deprived of a lot of foods that we love and potentially might starve. In response to this the brain says better eat as much as you can now before the famine starts on Monday. And that’s exactly what happens we eat as much of the so called ‘bad’ foods before the diet even starts. Because lets face it on Monday your NEVER going to have those foods again (well at least that’s what we think). It’s no wonder we want to have a last farewell with as many of those foods as we can before they are out of our life for good.
What happens next is we start the diet and the reduction in food leads to those hormones being released which makes us preoccupied with food and it becomes difficult to think about anything other than food. The strict food rules that come with dieting leave us feeling deprived which triggers food cravings that eventually lead to us breaking the rules and eating something off the plan. When this happens this triggers the ‘what the hell effect’ where you brain says what the hell you’ve blown it now may as well eat what you want now for tomorrow or next monday you will start the diet again. Often when the what the hell effect is triggered we tend to overeat on the so called ‘bad’ foods and sometimes this can go on for a few hours, days or weeks. Often feelings of guilt and shame accompany this phase and we start to feel even worse about our self and our bodies. So then go in search of the next diet and the cycle repeats itself.