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The Scientific Reasons that Weight-loss Diets Fail You

I’ve blogged about psychology professor Dr. Traci Mann’s well-researched book, Secrets from the Eating Lab, and recently came across an article summarizing her findings. Honestly, though, she writes so well and with such laugh-out-loud humor, that I recommend reading her entire book. I read it cover to cover when I was delayed at an airport and couldn’t believe how quickly the time past. Her article is entitled “Why do dieters regain weight? Calorie deprivation alters body and mind, overwhelming willpower” (Psychological Science, May 2018, accessed 5/29/18, http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2018/05/calorie-deprivation.aspx).

Here are some excerpts from it. I refer you to the article itself for citations.

• “…weight regain is the typical long-term response to dieting, rather than the exception.”

• “…calorie deprivation leads to changes in hormones, metabolism, and cognitive/attentional functions that make it difficult to enact the behaviors needed to keep weight off.”

• “…after sufficient calorie deprivation, weight is lost, and therefore less energy is needed to ‘run’ the smaller body, and less energy is expended to move the smaller body during exercise…Therefore, to continue losing weight, the individual must consume even fewer calories than during the initial stages of the diet. Dieters who are unaware of this metabolic adaptation and don’t alter their diet accordingly will stop losing weight, may start to regain…”

• “Calorie deprivation also leads to changes in a variety of cognitive and attentional functions such that dieters become preferentially focused on food. A preoccupation with thoughts of food was one of the most pronounced responses to calorie deprivation in a classic study…”

• “…people’s attention is biased toward food stimuli when they are calorie deprived.”

• “…self-control plays some role in weight, but it is also important to appreciate that this role is quite small, explaining from 1 to 4 percent of the variance in BMI in these studies…self-control matters for weight, but not as much as one might expect…With eating, failures of self-control erase prior successes…If an individual resists them [referring to some food] ten times during one evening, but succumbs and eats one on the eleventh encounter, there is nothing to show for the ten successes.”

I encourage you to read Dr. Mann’s impeccably researched article to learn about what she suggests to replace calorie counting in order to improve your eating.

Best,

Karen

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