The number one thing I hear from clients is that they’ve tried every diet under the sun in hopes of losing weight or achieving some desirable body image. Those same clients have also gained some, if not all or even more, of their weight back that they’ve lost. This is not only unhealthy, but it is also extremely discouraging and frustrating. If you’re reading this I’m sure you or someone you know has experienced this.
– Losing and then gained weight over and over is known as the yo-yo effect. The risk of dying from heart disease is 70% higher in those with weights that “yo-yo” up and down compared to those whose weights remain stable most of the time.
– 95% of people who lose weight on a diet will sooner or later gain it back.
– One in ten 10-year-old girls in the U.S are on a diet and one in three woman are currently on a diet.
So what is a diet?
In this case, it’s referring to a restriction of calories or a restriction of a certain type of food. People diet for numerous different reasons but the most common reason is for weight loss and achieving that desirable body image.
Being on a diet is restrictive of specific nutrients, calories and food groups. Diets are time sensitive and short-term so they aren’t sustainable. They are often done to accomplish some sort of short-term goal, like going on a trip to Mexico and wanting to look good in little clothing. If a diet is low calorie and restrictive, chances are it will be unbalanced and eliminating one major macronutrient. For example, if someone chooses to go on a low fat diet they will be eliminating the fat macronutrient and depriving their bodies. If we look at the cause or the reason for why people go on diets in the first place it often stems from a negative self-image about oneself. In the grand spectrum, diets can be quite complicated and hard to stick to.
Some popular diet trends are the south beach diet, Atkins diet, weight watchers, cabbage soup diet, low carb diets, detoxes, DASH diets, and meal replacement shakes are only a few of the popular ones. They all have something in common. They are all restrictive in some way and they all have an end point, which our Sherwood Park Personal Training team avoid at all costs.
So what do these diets actually do to us?
They cause the metabolism to decrease if energy intake is low for a long period of time. Cravings occur if calories are low and if restrictions are set in place. This often leads to rebound high calorie snacking. Diets also affect our mood and cause fatigue. The rapid weight loss often happens right at the start of a low calorie diet and it’s usually mostly water that’s lost. What happens to the metabolism on a low calorie diet is it lowers the rate at which it burns energy (calories) so it can save energy. The body is smart; it knows when it’s not being well fed.
For example, if someone goes on a low 1000-calorie diet, initially they will lose some weight because the metabolism is still working at a greater rate. Eventually, the body will know that its not being well fed so the metabolism will start to slow down and store energy (calories). Once the diet is over and they go back to their higher calorie intake, the metabolism is still running at a lower rate from the diet and therefore it cant keep up to burn off as many calories as their taking in. This is where the weight gain happens after the diet. Resulting in guilt and frustration because the purpose of slimming down from a diet just ends up becoming a yo-yo cycle of losing and gaining.
Mindset shift (Calories = Energy)
On a typical 24-hour period the body requires a specific amount of calories just to maintain proper functioning like the heart beating, digestion, cellular communication, and every other process that happens in the body just to keep us alive. The Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR) is what many of you have heard of before. There are formulas and machines that calculate this number out for you based on your height, weight, gender, and age. If an individual’s BMR is calculated out to be 1500 calories, this means that they require a minimum of 1500 calories just to function properly. Of course, this does not account for any extra activity and exercise outside of the day-to-day living. If someone is getting 1000 calories and their BMR is 1500 calories then they aren’t feeding themselves enough energy to maintain proper bodily functions. This can be detrimental to their health and metabolism. An example of this is woman can lose their menstrual cycles because they’re not giving themselves enough energy to maintain developmental functions. I strive to help people change their mindset to believing calories provide energy and well being, rather than calories being the “enemy”.
To expand on this, I want to share my story with you. When I was in junior high in grade 8-9 I began developing this “obsession” with calories in vs. calories out. I was aware of the fact that if I burned more than I took in I would lose weight. I started running and working out excessively for about 2.5 hours almost every night after school just to burn off the amount of calories I ate throughout the day.
Looking back now and having the knowledge I do, this was extremely unhealthy. I developed an eating disorder and body dysmorphia; and through this I developed a negative relationship with food and exercise. I would count the amount of calories I ate throughout the day (usually around 700-1000) and then make sure I burned that much off, if not more, at the end of the day. This went on for a little under a year until I reached grade 10 high school weighing about 118 pounds at five foot nine. My friends and family asked me if I was sick and told me I was too skinny, but I didn’t think so.
In grade 10 gym class I won the beep test (petty much a death test where you run from one end of the gym to the other trying to beat the “beep”). I got to be a great runner from the excessive amounts I was doing. Even in cross country practices and races I put more focus on running for the calorie burning than for the actual competition despite the fact I made it to provincials each year. Something’s wrong with that.
Eventually, I began eating a little more and exercising a little less. I bet you can guess what happened there, yup, I gained weight, and fast.
Through this “obsession” I gained what’s now a healthy relationship and a passion for nutrition and health. I educated myself through resources, going to school and learning about my body. It’s finally starting to balance out and trust me.
Somewhere this eating disorder still exists in me but it’s up to me to listen to him or not, him as in “Ed”.
The reason I wanted to share that story is because I’m living proof that restrictive eating (regardless of how extreme) can be detrimental to health. Don’t think that eating less is better. Change your mindset and flourish your body the nutrients.
The Take Away
• Less is not better
• Diets have expiration; lifestyles last forever.
• Feed the body what it needs to thrive, it will thank you.
• Be consistent, be patient and trust yourself.
Alyssa Muchka, 360 Fitness Personal Trainer