By Anna Richardson
Ever been on a diet? I sure have. The second I swear off sweet potato fries, they’re all I can think about. Also, I’ll start getting angry if my stomach isn’t full. Dieting has been around since at least the 1800s in various forms, from low-calorie to high protein to low-carb and everything in between.
In theory, diets are an excellent idea, but they don’t always work out. Dieting can leave individuals with a sense of deprivation, preoccupation with food, and of course, hunger. Diets often lead to bingeing and can change your relationship with food. Making a food forbidden only makes it more appealing!
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles have found that dieting may initially help you lose weight, but you’ll likely gain it back – the majority of people studied will gain it back and even add a few more extra pounds. An analysis of studies following dieters found that most of them would have been better off never going on the diet in the first place – they’d likely weigh what they did before and not put their bodies through the stress of dieting.
A 2010 study by Pankevitch et al. observed the effects of dieting by restricting the caloric intake of mice. Food restriction changes the stress and feeding pathways in the brain and can promote bingeing, particularly of high-fat foods, when stressed.
Studies are consistently finding that those who exercise regularly report the most weight loss. Eating a balanced diet with portion control is the best way to control weight, along with regular physical activity.
Gaining and losing weight repeatedly has negative health effects such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and lowered immune function. Scientists still do not fully understand the potential harm linked to this constant weight fluctuation. One study followed obese dieters and over a two-year period, 83% gained back the weight they had lost, plus more.
Managed to keep off weight you’ve lost? Awesome – you’re in the minority, and maintaining that loss can take a lot of work.
A few notable diets
The grapefruit diet: a 12-day plan, often promising a loss of 10 lbs. Limited food options, very low calorie. Many have reported symptoms of dizziness and fainting.
The Atkins diet: Avoid carbs, but eat all the steak and bacon you want. Robert Atkins, creator, suffered a heart attack a year before his death.
Acai berry diet: Claims that the acai berry’s natural antioxidant power, essential fatty acids, and fibre can boost your metabolism and shed those pounds fast! Science says there is no single food that can help you lose weight. Don’t suspend your common sense!
Tips for eating in moderation (NOT dieting!)
- Eat regularly and keep snacks handy so that you don’t over-eat at mealtimes.
- Protein and fat take longer to digest in the stomach and can help you feel fuller longer. Fibre helps too!
- Keep things like apples, pears, carrots, and nuts around.
- Don’t eat mindlessly. Eating at the computer or in front of the TV can cause you to eat more than you should while you don’t even notice.
- Get enough sleep. Studies show that on nights where people don’t sleep enough, they often eat hundreds of extra calories in compensation.
- Check your emotions. Stressed? Upset? Bored? Emotions are powerful and can shape your eating habits.
- It can take 10 to 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you’re full. Eating slowly can improve digestion and help you feel satiated.