When I was a kid, my Dad went on a diet to care for his heart and lose weight. The entire thing was meticulously planned, and I remember daily checklists of what he could eat (four Saltine crackers, a can of tuna, carrot soup for lunch!) and could not eat, transcribed by him on pieces of paper on the kitchen table. Over the course of a few months, he took off a lot of weight, and everyone was wowed.
And then his diet did what every diet does: it lost its effectiveness.
Little by little, the returns from all his efforts diminished, and soon, slowly but surely, he was gaining weight again. In the end, he put all the weight back on, and eventually, he weighted more than he did when he started.
Do diets work?
The short-term answer is yes. Whether it’s a juice cleanse, Weight Watchers, Atkins, or whatever the diet du jour is, if you restrict the amount of calories, sugar, or fat, you’ll lose weight. But then, there’s a problem: the results curve of all diets is almost standardized. People lose weight within the first six weeks, and then they start to regain the pounds again.
A diet is one of the best ways to guarantee that you will gain weight. Why?
Diets essentially create a stress state for the body by restricting the normally expected access to nutrients and calories. When you’re in a stress state, your body will privilege production of hormones needed to survive in extreme conditions. That means hormones that can lead to fat storage when elevated for long periods of time, like cortisol, rise. At the same time, production of hormones that aren’t tied to immediate survival, but that burn fat and help regulate weight, like testosterone, estrogen, and HGH, are decreased. That means if you ever stop the diet or slip up, you’re going to gain more weight, because dieting shifts your metabolism to store more fat in the future. Even if you stay on a diet long-term, you’re still interfering with hormone production in a negative way, which can have all sorts of unintended consequences for your health.
So what’s the solution?
We want our patients to enjoy eating, not to “diet.” At The Body Well, we’ll help you understand the huge variety of foods that are available to you, and to cast off the residue of outdated dieting science. In the 1950s and 1960s, the typical breakfast was bacon and eggs. Then the fat- and cholesterol-free craze started, and we all began starting our day with cereal, fruit, low-fat cottage cheese, and orange juice. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates all went up. Scientists now largely agree that good quality fat — from sources like grass fed beef, pastured butter and eggs, avocados, etc. — is beneficial. Even though we’ve absorbed some new information (like “don’t overload on carbs”) we’re still stuck in our 1950s “low-fat” mentality. People are left thinking all they can eat is salmon and kale. I enjoy salmon and kale as much as the next guy, but if I were told that was all I could eat, I’d head for the nearest chocolate cake after a few days.
To get a handle on regulating weight, eating well, and enjoying your food choices, contact Dr. Mike Carragher at The Body Well today! We won’t put you on a diet, we’ll help you change your food paradigm!