Why Dieting Can Make You Gain Weight

There is no denying that the weight loss industry is booming – with  a proliferation of diets, programs and plans available for people looking to lose unwanted kilos.

Many people looking for a quick fix to their weight loss woes, turn to one of the many popular programs which promise quick weight loss. However this may actually give you the opposite effect of what you are after – rebound weight gain. Below I explain why this happens, and why many diets won’t give you sustained weight loss.

Diets feel depriving

The phrase “I’m on a diet” generally conjures up negative feelings for those who are on the diet – you are depraved of the things you enjoy, you have to watch (and worry) about everything you put in your mouth, and are often in a constant state of hunger (due to calorie restriction). Diets are generally not fun and if you don’t enjoy it, it will be hard to stay committed.

Diets focus on the short-term

Many popular weight loss programs fulfil their promise of weight loss in the short-term by restricting certain foods (and in some cases whole food groups). However these restrictions are generally non-sustainable and old eating habits soon return. Also, many of these programs rarely teach people how to maintain healthy eating habits for the long-term, and once old eating habits have returned, so does the unwanted weight.

Diets can lower your metabolism

Many weight loss programs don’t just restrict certain food/food groups, they will generally restrict the total calories that you consume (and sometimes severely restrict calories). When calories are too severely restricted the body will go into “starvation mode” which means that you will burn calories at a reduced rate (i.e. a slower metabolism) as a way for your body to combat the starvation. This often means people will gain even more weight when old eating habits return.

Tips for maintaining a healthy diet for the long-term

There is no single best way for everyone to lose weight and keep it off, but here are some tips to get you on the right track.

  • You must want and be ready to change.
  • Be committed for the long-term. Change your lifestyle (for good) and commit yourself to healthy eating, regular exercise/physical activity and a better outlook about food.
  • Don’t deprive yourself from the things you enjoy – chips, chocolate, cake etc are there to be enjoyed… but not all the time!
  • Monitor yourself. Keeping a food diary has been shown to help change eating behaviour.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Eat only what you need.
  • Don’t skip meals or let yourself get too hungry as you’ll end up binge eating.
  • Be organised and plan your meals for the day.
  • Have healthy snacks available.
  • When eating focus on your food, it will help you to not over eat.
  • Have a glass of water (and stay hydrated). Your body sometimes will confuse thirst with hunger.
  • If you eat for emotional reasons (e.g. stress, boredom) identify what triggers the impulse to eat and devise a plan on how to deal with it e.g. go for a walk.
  • Plan non-food related rewards when you achieve a weight loss goal.
  • Get enough sleep. Feeling tired can lead people to eating foods that give them energy quickly. Also, eat nutritiously throughout the day to avoid afternoon fatigue and maintain energy levels throughout the day.
  • Get advice from your doctor or a dietitian.
  • Join a support group, or surround yourself with supportive people.

Over the next couple of weeks I will review some popular weight loss programs/diets and give you my opinion on their strengths and weaknesses.

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