Many people believe that to lose weight they need to go on a diet. With hundreds of different diets out there and a myriad of magazines and products designed to help you diet there must be something in it, right? And with so much on offer surely it’s just the case of finding the right one.
But people who go on diets tend to spend their whole lives going from one diet to another, their weight yo-yo-ing up and down in a cycle that never ends. Many even end up fatter than when they started. So why don’t diets work, why do so many still waste their time following them, and is there an alternative that works?
Sure dieting can produce short term weight loss. Most people who diet want the quick results promised by trendy diet plans and many do see a dramatic weight loss at the start. But that’s the problem; diets are short term solutions and don’t give a long term results. The mistake is to gauge your success by how much weight you have lost and not by how much fat you have lost. Most of these short term diets will cause you to lose weight from muscle as well as fat. Muscle is much denser than fat, so you only have to lose a bit of muscle to see noticeable weight loss. Diets usually don’t give you enough calories to maintain your muscle mass. Furthermore a highly restricted calorie intake will cause the body to react in a way that is the total opposite of what we would like to achieve. The body goes into a kind of “starvation mode”. It’s a natural defence mechanism we have evolved to get us through hard times, like the ice age. The body actually increases its ability to lay down fat as an energy store. So as soon as you do eat something, whether it’s at the end of the diet or on a binge day, you will be more likely to put on fat than before you started dieting.
Metabolic rate is also an important factor here. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body uses at rest. You need a certain number of calories every day just to stay alive. Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat, so it’s simple to see that the more muscle you have the more calories your body consumes all the time. Start losing that muscle and there’s a surplus of calories in the body… and where does that surplus go? It gets stored as fat!
Conversely increase your muscle mass and you’ll use more of your daily calories to keep the muscle alive. That’s the best way of increasing your metabolic rate, along with regular exercise and daily activity. So increasing muscle size can actually help you lose fat! You may see a slight weight gain at first, as your muscle density increases, but in the long term you will be leaner and healthier.
Why then are we bombarded with advice on this diet or that diet telling us that it’s the best way to lose weight, and that it works fast? The truth is the diet industry doesn’t want you to lose weight for life. If you did you’d stop buying the magazines and the diet products. They’d be doing themselves out of business. Instead they want you to go on a short term diet that helps you lose weight too quickly. When you finish the diet your weight will be sure to increase again. You’ll probably blame yourself and then go buy another magazine, another product and start again. And what do I mean by a short term diet? In my opinion it’s any plan that doesn’t change you lifestyle for good.
With people who want to lose weight I focus on long term lifestyle changes which get them fitter, healthier and slimmer for life. The results will not always be so fast, in fact some people notice an initial weight gain as they improve muscle tone. That’s why I focus on fat loss rather than weight loss. We make small adjustments to the make up of meals, and gradually change portion size. I also take a close look at the time of day people are eating their food and move things around depending on when the activity is. By making small changes and giving the body time to adjust without starving we achieve great results. And the results last forever.