Do Diets Work to Keep Weight Off?
Have you ever heard someone say the following about a particular diet or diets in general?
“Diets don’t work – you just regain all of the weight after you come off of them.”
This is one of the most maddening things someone who understands weight loss can hear.
I can tell you why you regained weight after your diet
You started eating a shit load of food again!
Let’s see: You were overweight before the diet. You were overweight again at some point after the diet.
When you were dieting, you were losing weight until you reached a weight you were happy with.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like something was wrong before and after the diet. The bit in the middle where weight loss was occurring, was working!
Could it be that you ate too much, and that’s why you needed to diet? Could it be true that maybe your version of “eating normally” is actually “eating too much”?
Here’s what’s really going on here
People who say this, don’t understand how fat loss works.
Also, when they say “diet” they don’t mean “reducing my calories a bit and losing weight steadily”.
What they mean is “following some fad diet that has rigid rules and sees me consume a meagre amount of food that makes me feel miserable”.
They lose a lot of weight, but they don’t truly understand why. They think it works because of the magic of the diet. Something about the special combination of rules and limitations just works.
What they don’t understand is that all weight loss works the same way – because of a calorie deficit.
So they don’t actually learn anything during their diet.
They know the diet is not sustainable and they can’t live on baked white fish and steamed broccoli forever. They know at some point, they will have to go back to “eating normally”.
But because they don’t learn how calories affect their weight, when they go back to eating normally they consume far too many calories again.
It’s also likely that they gain back MORE weight than they lost. This is because they are so desperate to eat the foods they love which they’ve been deprived of. In the first few weeks, they eat even more than they did before, which was already too much.
There’s something else at play which can panic an inexperienced dieter
It’s not unusual to really restrict your calories when you’re trying to lose weight.
You end up eating much smaller amounts of food than usual. The volume of food you’re eating is probably a lot less.
It’s also not unusual to consume much fewer carbohydrates during a diet period.
This is either because you think carbs are evil and the thing that caused weight gain (they’re not), or because you need to reduce calories but you can’t lower your protein or your fat.
It’s also highly likely that you will consume a lot less salt, because there is a lot of salt added to the things you probably eat more of when you’re not dieting.
The point here is this:
During the diet, you have less food inside you. This accounts for some of the difference you see on the scales. You’ve also been eating less carbohydrates and less salt. Eating more of these means you hold more water. When you lower them, you drop water weight.
So when you say “I’ve lost 10 kilograms on my diet!” you haven’t actually lost 10kg of fat. There’s less food and water inside you now too.
What happens when you stop dieting, even if you just eat at maintenance?
Suddenly, there’s more food inside you. You up your intake of carbs again so you gain back all that water weight too. Your salt intake comes up too, and contributes to more water retention.
Within the first few days the scale could move by a couple of kilograms.
People who don’t understand these things say “Diets don’t work, they just make you gain more weight when you come off them.”
You haven’t gained anything in that first week! It takes a calorie surplus of 3,500 to gain a pound of body fat. In order to have gained one mere pound, you would need to be above your maintenance by 500 calories every day for a week. This is possible, but if you see the scale move upwards (which you will) it doesn’t mean the weight gain is fat.
There is a much better way
Learn about maintenance calories.
Understand, for the first time ever, that calories matter and are the be all and end all of weight loss.
Realise that everyone requires a different amount of calories to lose weight.
Everything will then click into place, especially if you track your calories and your weight for a while. Try tracking calories when “eating normally” and then when you’re on the “magic diet”. I guarantee you there will be a significant difference.
Maybe calories are the reason it works after all?
Maybe you were eating too many of them before?
Perhaps you shouldn’t eat so many of them now?