Why is Dieting Making You Fat?
If I were to tell you that the biggest pre-indicator of a person gaining weight in the future, was them being on a diet…Would it be best if I followed that golden nugget of information, by swiftly running for cover? Probably…
Whereas 50% of the people reading this, will be shouting, or at least thinking of some rather colourful expletives, as the opening paragraph of the post starts to compute; the other 50% will have a bemused, slightly confused look on their face. You say what? Unfortunately people, what I say is very true, diets make you fatter. ‘But what about the Atkins? You can’t be dissing Weight Watchers, the Cambridge Diet definitely makes you thin…And the 5 – 2 everyone says it makes sense, it was designed by a nutritionalist….Right?
Here Comes the Science Bit
Now, don’t get me wrong, in the majority of cases, the principles behind many of these diets are completely sound and with the 5-2 diet in particular, the science definitely adds up. However, unless you are a keen reader of the Diet Doctor guru, Ian Marber you will probably be unfamiliar with why the equation of (less calories + more exercise eventually = fatter bum) and the reason for this is, is what is known as the body’s Set Point. This is the exact point at which the number of calories we eat matches the number of calories we expend in any given day and is what keeps our weight stable. As most of us are creatures of habit and are always just needing to lose that extra half a stone, you can assume that if you have been your current weight for a while, this is where your set point sits. Which means, that if you carry on eating and exercising (or not) at the same rate as you are at the moment, you’re still going to need to lose that extra half a stone in 6 months time….Are you still with me? Good! So, what are you going to do? It’s time to get serious right? Slimming World, Slim Fast, The Five Hands? It might feel like a good idea, but no matter how you dress it up, basically all of these roads, lead to Rome, more often than not we’re talking calorie restriction over the long term, or kick starting the weight loss with some kind of extreme….Calorie restriction in the short term. And herein lies the 1st of 2 fundamental problems with diets….
The amazing vessel that is your body, that carry’s you from pillar to post every single day quite literally has a mind of it’s own. Now, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you’ve been on more than a couple of diets in your life time and each time the latest quest begins, it’s all about shifting that last half a stone for once and for all and here’s the rough outline for what happens. After the first week or so of ‘steady(ish) progress….Or the immensely gratifying turbo boosting loss of four pounds in four days that happens when you’re implementing a nil by mouth strategy and taking double sessions in the gym. Our body’s brain says something like this….’Er, hang on a minute, we were eating 2000Kcal a day and expending 2000Kcal a day and that felt pretty darn good, but have you noticed something? For the last week or so, we’ve only been getting 1000Kcal a day and we’ve been expending 25000Kcal and I feel crap….In fact, I think there’s something up, there might even be famine ahead. I tell you what we need to do, have a word with Mr Metabolism and ask him to just sloooooow everything right down – so if we’re only going to be getting 1000Kcal for the foreseeable future, we need to make sure that no matter what activities are going on during the day, we only expend 1000Kcal so we can get the set point back in sync, OK?’
So, after week 2, all of that lovely lot of weight loss you were experiencing has significantly slowed down if not has stopped altogether as the body readjusts to it’s new 1000Kcal set point. So what do you do then? Well, you either step it up another gear – and take the nil by mouth to the next level kick starting the weight loss again for another couple of weeks, or you get hacked off and dive into the chocolate hobnobs. And either way you’re stuffed. Nil by mouth, means that after another week or so you’re body, lowers it’s set point once again and you start feeling really crappy, or if you have opted for the biscuits, even if you only have two or three, anything that takes you over your new 1000Kcal set point is immediately stored as fat, as your body stocks up ready, waiting for the next ‘famine’ period. Meaning, it takes you eating a lot less for you to put on a lot of weight, very easily. Now, where’s the justice in that? I’m not going to lie – there is none.
Now, the very astute of you will have noticed that I made a point of saying that this was the first of two fundamental reasons why diets make you fat…As this might have been a lot to swallow (sorry), stay tuned for a new post outlining the second reason shortly.