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Why diets don't work

The modern world in which we live has only been around, in evolutionary terms, for the blink of an eye. We have been slowly evolving and developing for hundreds of millennia, and suddenly along come some smart people who invent things like electricity, cars, supermarkets and restraunts- all in just a few hundred years!
So although we live in a world of plenty, with scrumptious food available at every turn, our body still thinks that we exist in a savage and unpredictable world. A world where, at any moment, there could be a plague, famine, or any number of life threatening situations.

Diets: Just like a famine

In order to survive, we have developed some ingenious ways of overcoming starvation and famine. The problem is that our body interprets dieting not as a temporary self-inflicted way of losing a bit of weight, but as a full-on famine! Even though Sainsburys is just down the road, several clever systems kick in to make sure we will survive when dieting.

The starvation response

The first of these is Starvation Response. As soon as you eat around 1200 calories per day (or less) your body begins to produce an enzyme called Lipoprotein Lipase. This helps you to unload fat into storage, and this fat will only be used in an emergency (imminent death). You are now a super efficient fat-storage machine. Similar to the effect pregnancy has on women, this means that your body will hold on to all fat reserves no matter what. Just to be sure, the Lipoprotein remains in the body for up to 3 months, even after the perceived famine (diet) is over. So as soon as you start eating more food after your diet, your body will send it all straight to storage, making you fatter than before!

Dieting = Losing fat free mass

The second response to dieting is loss of fat free mass. Fat free mass is your muscles, organs and bones, and this part of you needs lots of energy (calories) to maintain a healthy state. Your muscles are constantly refuelling and repairing, your heart is constantly beating and this energy use is your metabolic rate-how many calories you need to keep you healthy while resting each day. If you exercise you will need more energy (food) on top of this.

Low calorie diets

But, when you dip below the magic 1200 calories per day, another emergency system starts. In order to keep fat for emergency use, the body starts to use lean mass (muscles & bones) for energy. Like a clever hybrid car it changes fuel, breaking down these tissues for food. So despite keeping all your fat, you have lost some muscle and bone density, and have lost weight; the diet appears to have been a success. But as you now have less lean muscle, you need fewer calories per day to maintain your new body weight-your metabolic rate has fallen. When food intake returns to normal, the excess calories go on as even more fat! This explains why, after a severe diet, you seem to put on weight faster than before. This loss of lean muscle also has a disastrous effect on the heart (itself a lean muscle) and causes damage. This is why anorexics can suffer heart failure.

The key to weight loss

So diets really don’t work! The key to sustained weight loss is to eat healthy, filling, nutritious food while exercising with CV and resistance training. With enough energy you avoid starvation response, resistance training improves your lean muscle mass, and CV work will keep your heart and lungs healthy. As long as you eat slightly less than you expend, there will be healthy and sustained weight (fat!) loss too!

This article is courtesy of Diets Don't Work

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