Dieting: Why It Might Make You Overweight
In 2005, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported on the findings of a study that included obese, nonsmoking, chronic dieting, nondiabetic, and generally healthy women. One group (the diet group) received diet, exercise, and general-wellness education, and kept food and weight diaries. The other group (the Healthy at Every Size [HAES] group) was counseled on body acceptance and to live a full life regardless of their body mass index (BMI). Eating behaviors in the HAES group were less restrictive and more intuitive, and the participants were educated on the health effects of certain food choices and behaviors. Both groups received twenty-four 90-minute sessions and follow-up care for 6 months. Thirty-nine participants were assigned to each of the two groups.
The average age for all participants was 41 years, the average weight was 223 pounds (lb), and the average BMI was 36. At 6 months, half of the diet group had dropped out, while less than 10% of the HAES group had dropped out. Body weight and BMI stayed the same in the HAES group, but the members of the diet group averaged an 11-lb loss during the 6-month period, but at the end of the 104-month period, most had only maintained a 3-lb loss.
Participants of both groups had reduced their blood pressure by an average of 3 mm Hg by the end of 6 months. Total cholesterol levels were decreased in the HAES group, but not in the weight-loss group, although low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels were decreased for participants of both groups. A questionnaire showed that 100% of the HAES group participants had better self-esteem at the end of the program, although no such improvement was noted in more than half of the diet group.
The following information may help if you are trying to lose weight or want to manage your current weight:Bad foods: By labeling foods 'bad,' we only are making them more tempting. When we finally give in and indulge in a food that we have so valiantly tried to avoid, we end up kicking ourselves and often calling ourselves all sorts of horrible names. In fact, we become so upset with ourselves that we convince ourselves that we will never lose weight, often giving up completely and going on a binge of sorts-eating all of the tempting 'bad foods' that we can find. Then, the next day, we wake up full of regret and vow to start anew. So the cycle goes, and those of us who have found ourselves on that roller coaster know that weight loss is nearly impossible under these conditions.Dieting: Dieting makes us stop listening to our bodies. We eat when the diet tells us to, what the diet tells us to, and how much the diet tells us to. Children are able to stop eating when they are full, and they generally do not eat unless they are hungry. It does not make any sense that, in this way, adults have much less self-control than children. Take away the diet, which provides the exact instructions for how to eat, and we panic.
Eating like a nondieter: People who are defined as nondieters often are eating like traditional diet books might tell them to, without even knowing this a great deal of the time. Dieting might not make us overweight, as much as the fact that overweight people are the ones who are going on diets; nonoverweight people do not feel the need to. Maybe then, the best advice for all of us is to eat like a nondieter.Weight-loss maintenance: Regaining lost weight is a risk, regardless of the type of diet chosen, if you do not incorporate lifestyle changes. Some of the most popular diets have a 'maintenance stage,' with careful instructions on how to eat for the rest of your life. This is what causes many people to never learn how to regulate their own diets, independent of any "diet guru's" advice. True weight-loss maintenance is an experiment of sorts-a learning of what works for you and what does not work for you - and long-term incorporation of these lessons into your lifestyle. Diet books with a maintenance plan do not take the individuality of each person into consideration.
Muscle loss and reduction in metabolic rate: Any weight loss, no matter the amount or speed with which it is lost, results in muscle loss and a reduction in metabolic rate. In fact, your resting metabolic rate can decrease as much as 15% in the first 2 weeks of beginning a weight-loss diet. The plateaus that result from this decrease in metabolic rate cause many dieters to become discouraged and give up. In addition, exercise burns fewer calories the lighter you are. If you have lost weight, you will need to change your exercise routine in order to burn as many calories as you used to.
Reference and recommended reading
Bacon L, Stern JS, Van Loan, MD, Keim NL. Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese female chronic dieters. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:929-936.
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