Diets don’t work, but here’s what does
Rapid weight loss diets don’t work in the long run. That’s the message of a recent study that measured metabolic rates and lab results six years after dieters completed a quick weight loss challenge.
Oh, and they were on TV and edited to show highlights for all of America to watch. We often look up to these types of methods, congratulate the people who push themselves beyond pain and exercise the pounds off while starving themselves. And that is all for the sake of “health,” or so we’re told. Somehow spending countless hours in the gym daily, eating far fewer calories than our bodies need, and being shamed into living through the pain is celebrated. No more, let’s blow the lid off of this. We’re being fed lies such as motivation comes from getting screamed at and that weight loss by any means is good.
Again, back to the beginning, six years after drastic weight loss, these subjects’ average metabolic rates were about 500 calories below others who are the same gender, age, weight and height. And guess what, this is not shocking. A resting metabolic rate, which was used to measure their metabolisms in a resting state, shows how many calories it takes to run our bodies’ necessary systems. Extreme exercise and dieting, even if just for a short time, actually does mess with our metabolic rates long term. Instead of returning to normal, this stint of starvation and grueling physical conditions taught their bodies to hold on to extra calories and slow down to preserve themselves.
Then on the other end, the psychological end, popular weight loss motivations weren’t particularly effective either. Yelling, screaming and fear may be motivating in the moment, but with the hopes of developing life-long exercise habits, how far would fear go? It won’t carry you six years out.
Instead, focusing on the following tips is helpful to develop life-long healthy habits:
- How your body feels when it’s moving. It may take a bit to get used to movement or soreness, but eventually you’ll figure it out.
- How you feel after accomplishing something challenging, and getting better at it.
- Having the energy and ability to do physical things that aren’t outright exercise. Like keeping up with your kids, moving furniture, whatever it may be.
- Find enjoyment out of activity. Find activities or exercises that you enjoy, whether it be a dance class, your favorite sport or lifting weights. If you enjoy it, you’re much more likely to stick to it because you enjoy it.
- And finally, consistent moderate-high intensity exercise can reduce depression and symptoms of other mental illnesses.
OK, so rapid weight loss is hard to maintain, and your metabolism can get out of whack if you lose weight too fast, but what works? Honestly it’s different for everyone, but here are a few general tips to lose weight and keep it off:
- Address your personal reasons for overeating. Recognize if you’re an emotional, stress or mindless eater. Not addressing the root problem is a problem that will sneak up and bite you in the rear.
- Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. So simple, but the CDC reported that one-half of Americans weren’t even eating 1 cup of fruit or 1.5 cups of vegetables per day. Since they’re full of water and fiber, fruits and vegetables are a great way to get volume onto your plate and into your belly without taking a huge chunk out of your calorie bank.
- Find enjoyable ways to move. Like going for a walk, a hike, taking dance classes, or going for a jog? The benefits of regular exercise are significant, finding something you look forward to is key to sticking with it.
- Recruit support. Having family or friends who are supportive, and even make changes with you is beneficial. Share why these changes are important to you with those around you
- Don’t be overly restrictive. Do you find your diet stressing you out? Is it too hard to follow, too restrictive? Dieting often leads to overeating and weight gain in the end, so avoid restrictive diets and make small changes along the way to eat better.
As always, seek out the help of a registered dietitian, who has a formal education and the experience to help you safely and effectively lose weight and keep it off.
Also consider seeing a certified personal trainer to help you develop a safe and effective workout program. Always consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program.