For all of us who have dieted and for those of you who frequently or occasionally feel tempted to restart a diet, here’s a simple explanation of why most people cannot keep weight off by weight-loss dieting. It makes perfect sense. Your mind might want to be dieting (although most minds sensibly dislike giving up culinary pleasure), while your body inevitably starts to fight back when you deprive it of calories on a regular basis. It’s time to face facts and recognize that learning to be a “normal” eater is the only way to become healthy and fit, establish a comfortable weight for life, and enjoy a positive relationship with food and your body.
Here’s the skinny on why diets don’t keep weight off long-term according to “How Did We Get Here? Explaining the obesity epidemic” by Kevin Hall (Nutrition Action Healthletter, July/August 2018, pp. 3-5). Describing the results of a study on appetite hormones, Hall says, “…we found that when people were losing weight, their appetite increased by about 45 calories a day above baseline for every pound of weight that they lost . . . the number of calories they were burning went down by between 10 and 15 per day for every pound of weight they lost . . . as you lose weight, not only does the number of calories you burn decrease, but the number of calories you want to eat goes up above where it was before you lost weight.”
People gain weight back not because they’re too unmotivated to stick to a diet, don’t care about their health or appearance, or are gluttons. It happens, Hall says, because “. . . as they lose weight, they’re fighting a greater battle against feeling more hungry and burning fewer calories. For the same effort, they see diminishing weight loss returns until they plateau at a lower weight after six to eight months.” We finally give up dieting because restricting calories takes more effort as the reward for restriction diminishes.
Take a minute to let this excellent explanation to sink in. Then consider the takeaway message from it: It’s not your fault that you’ve regained weight lost by dieting. You didn’t know it at the time, but it was inevitable. You know it now, so vow never to diet again. Repeat this statement aloud several times with heartfelt intent: “It’s not my fault that I’ve regained weight from dieting.” No matter what you read or hear to the contrary, It Is Not Your Fault. No matter that people tell you how much weight they’ve lost on whatever diet they’re on, the facts don’t change. No matter what your doctor or health care professional tells you. The more you can wholeheartedly, once and for all put weight-loss dieting behind you, the easier it will be to become a “normal” eater and forge a sane relationship with food that will last the rest of your life.