Want to Lose Weight? Stop Dieting
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I could have titled this one “Want to keep on losing weight? Stop dieting”.
The human body is wise. Back when we were hunters and gatherers, survival depended on food supply. Lack of food leads to death. So the body adapted: when food supply is low, the body’s functions slow down, which reduces the need for energy (and food). That’s how it managed to stay alive during periods of famine. Even when food was available, it never was three meals a day. Our ancestors would hunt, share their loot, the feast for a day or two, and seek food again.
Today, food is abundant. Survival is not an issue. Still, this evolutionary mechanism complicates dieting and weight loss. If your diet non-stop, your body functions slow down, your natural expenditure of energy lowers, and weight loss stops: your body thinks it needs to protect itself from a famine.
How do you get around that?
By alternating periods of weight loss with periods of maintenance or even slight surplus-like what would have happened naturally hundreds of thousands of years ago.
By putting your diet on hold, you give your body a break. Its functions return to normal speed, and soon you’re ready to diet again.
Taking a break also helps on the psychological side-dieting is hard, and after weeks of restriction, getting (partially) reacquainted with your favorite foods is a blessing.
ACTION STEP 1
Think about the last time you’ve dieted. Did you notice a “slowing down” of your metabolism? Symptoms include low energy levels, general unhappiness (or even slight depression i.e. not feeling like doing anything), and lightheadedness… Dieting for an extended period of time is also hard on your immune system: even got a cold after 6-8 weeks into a diet? From now on, take a full week off after 3 weeks of dieting.
ACTION STEP 2
Ask people around you who’ve dieted if they experienced these symptoms.