By Andrea Thatcher, C.H.N.
It’s better to NEVER DIET AGAIN. However, the trend is to spend. And that spending amounts to billions of dollars for plans that promote ‘weight loss’. I’m here to tell you, it’s a sham.
The successful ‘dieter’ on the latest ‘insert clever word and celebrity’s name here’ diet loses a lot of water, some lean weight (muscle), and possibly a little fat.
In these typical low calorie diets, the first weight to go is the water stored in your body. This causes your body to think that it’s becoming dehydrated, which will result in your body producing anti-diuretic hormones to make you retain water. Because TWO cups of water equals about ONE pound on the scale, as quickly as you drop the pounds you’ll gain them back when you next hydrate.
Muscle tissue is also lost on low calorie diets. According to recognized expert in nutrition and healthy aging, Dr. Michael Colgan, up to 45% of the weight that you lose on a low-calorie (under 1200 calories a day) diet can be muscle. Your metabolism—the amount of energy your body requires and burns throughout the day—is influenced by your lean weight. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism; when you lose muscle, your metabolism drops.
When you restrict calories and are not taking in enough food energy to give your body the fuel that it needs, your body can’t tell the difference between your ‘choice to starve-diet’ and a ‘real famine’. It responds to the lack of nutrition by burning muscle and fat stores, and by lowering its metabolism to maintain remaining muscle and fat stores.
Let’s look an example to illustrate the points above. Imagine Jane Doe, who is currently 190lbs, is going on a diet, with a goal weight of 150lbs. Take a look at the chart below, and stay with me so I can deliver the epiphany.
Example of the Effects of Weight Loss from Low Calorie Diets
|Jane Doe’s Goal Weight = 150 pounds
|Weight in pounds
|Lean Weight pounds
|Body Fat %
|Body Fat in pounds
|Summary of Pounds Dropped
|Drop of 40 pounds
|Drop of 18 pounds
|Drop of 6%
|Drop of 22 pounds
Chart from In One End & Out The Other (2015) Andrea K. Thatcher.
Look at that. Jane is down 40 pounds. Time to celebrate, right?
- NO. NO.
Take note of the amount of fat and the amount of lean weight Jane dropped: 22 pounds of fat and 18 pounds of muscle. Not so impressive.
Consider the impact of the example—of what typically happens. Don’t think about how long Jane took to lose the weight. Just imagine she was on a restrictive, low calorie diet for the duration of that weight loss. Then come back here: 18 pounds of lean muscle was lost and only 22 pounds of fat in a 40 pound weight loss. It wasn’t the 40 pound weight loss Jane had in mind, was it? And let’s look at what it’s set her body up for.
The scale is down 40 pounds, but because of the nature of a low calorie diet (and the math to demonstrate it) only 22 pounds of the 40 was fat. The other 18 was Jane’s actual lean tissue – calorie burning tissue. That vital calorie burning tissue (which is muscle) will no longer burn at the same rate as when our Jane was 40 pounds heavier.
Jane began at 190 pounds. She lost 40 pounds rapidly with a starvation diet (commercial diet plan) and, due to the low calories, her body cannibalized its muscle tissue for energy, and this resulted in a muscle tissue loss of 18 pounds, a fat loss of 22 pounds for an overall scale weight of 150 pounds.
As with most people, Jane returns to previous eating habits, and likely some binging due to extreme food restriction, and perhaps gains 20 pounds.
But, there’s a catch. Food doesn’t grow muscle. So eating the extra food led to a FAT gain of 20 pounds. In essence, now Jane has a HIGHER amount of body fat even though the scale reads 20 pounds lighter.
With the loss in muscle, it also means Jane now has a lower metabolism.
Want to guess how long this cycle continues? You know the answer to this.
When we diet, we lose. We lose water. We lose muscle. We lose out.
When we live a healthy and active lifestyle, we burn fat. And we have more energy, and feel better about ourselves. Stronger bodies mean more endurance, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower risks of some cancers. We’re less susceptible to injury, have higher sex drives, and sleep better. In addition, we experience less stress, have better immune systems, and become more productive.
If Jane’s predicament rings true for you, the way to overcome the cycle is to make small changes—which signal the body to want to eat the way it was designed: healthier—and NEVER DIET AGAIN.