Nature

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Quick diets and why they fail

I’m more aware of them, now that I’m trying to lose weight. The advertisements. The shill proclaiming their new product and ONLY their product will help you reach your target weight and stay there.

It’s all bullshit.

Especially the ones where they claim you -yes, you!- can drop an extravagant number of pounds/kilos in an amazingly short time.

What they never tell you is that you -yes, you!- inevitably yo-yo back up again when it’s over. Hell, that’s how they make their money.

Many “fast” diets are simple fasting. Or losing ‘water weight’ aka 'dehydration’ in the medical circles. And what happens is simple to predict - your body makes you, the dieter, obsess about all the many, varied no-no’s until you snap and break down in a frenzy of chocolate and fizzy drinks.

And, of course, you pack on more weight because your body has entered 'famine mode’ and wants to store fat for another such crisis.

A wise writer [Kaz Cooke] once said, “Your body is the ultimate smarty-pants”.

Then there are the “one food” diets. The rice diet. The leek diet. The grapefruit diet. The shittons of chocolate diet. Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. After a few days of the prescribed 'one food’, you start to go completely bonkers. Obsessed with everything else not on your personal menu. Eventually, the dieter binges on everything else but the 'one food’ and rises further above their goal weight.

Then there are what I like to refer to as “math diets”. You can eat the stuff you like, but it’s worth score points. Calories, carb-equivalents… you name it. The dieter in this becomes compelled to evaluate food as a number. Now I admit, some of these math diets work. Or seem to. I keep getting the mental image of someone in a grocer’s with a calculator, not working out what their total is going to be, but working out whether or not they should buy a foodstuff based on its point value.

Lots of math diets are bad - simply because the math is off. If the body fails to get a certain amount of fat intake, it once again goes into starvation mode and prepares to balloon when it encounters what it considers to be the good stuff.

One great scam in the weight loss industry is the pre-prepared-meal diet. The dieter pays a great fee for meals made the way the industry mogul decrees. And they have to keep paying or the meals will stop. This teaches nothing - especially in the cases where they make the dieter’s favourite foods for them.

When the diet goal is accomplished and the dieter steps away from the protective embrace of portioned, balanced meals that look and taste exactly like the real thing… the dieter gains weight with the same bad habits the programme did not curb.

There’s a reason why just about every diet book contains a food pyramid diagram. What follows after that is generally attempting to lead the dieter away from sticking with just the pyramid.

But following the pyramid is not enough. You need to eat less. And in order to feel satisfied with less, you need to eat slowly.

The slower you eat, the fuller you feel. Simple.

And the better you eat, the healthier you get. Also simple.

Getting in to good habits, like regular exercise, are also a great help.

But there is a point in a diet where the weight loss just slows down for no apparent reason. Most will convince you this is some kind of unnatural and sell you more products.

All slower weight loss means is that the body has noticed you losing weight.

Keep the three meals a day. Choose healthier snacks when the need arises to snack. Keep the faith.

If you are still losing weight, then that’s the good thing [I am, of course, assuming anyone reading this is above a healthy weight]. Not the speed.

Permanent weight loss takes time.

Three meals a day - eaten slowly, of course - can help fuel the body through the exercise regime of your choice. They also help prevent the body from entering panic mode and wanting to keep or whack on the weight.

A little fat is not a bad thing.

A lot of fat is.

It’s that simple.

Which is why they never tell you that.