Diets Don't Work


You may have read this title and thought, "yes they do -- the _________ diet worked for me." Think back on your experience with that diet. Did you lose weight while you were following the diet, but then regain the weight when you came off? Did your weight go even higher than it was before you started the diet? If so, you're not alone.

So let me rephrase - diets can work for short-term weight loss, but they don't work for long-term weight loss. Here's why.

There are two big pitfalls of most diets. First, while you're on a diet - eating fewer calories, less fat, fewer carbs, paleo, vegan, cabbage soup, etc - you might lose weight. But what kind of weight are you losing? Body fat, muscle mass, or both? On many diets, you are losing both, and loss of muscle mass leads to a lowering your basal metabolic rate (BMR). For example, let's say before you started your diet, your body was burning 1800 calories daily, and you were eating 1800 calories daily, so your weight was higher than your goal, but was relatively stable. After going vegan for 8 weeks, you lose 15 lbs. If you weren't eating enough protein while on your vegan diet, chances are that some of that 15 lbs you lost was muscle. Now, your BMR is 1400 calories daily. This leads to one of two outcomes: your weight will plateau if you are able to maintain your vegan diet; or, your weight will balloon if you return to your normal diet of 1800 calories daily.

Even if you were eating enough protein on your diet, there is still another potential pitfall.  The word "diet" is used to describe transient changes you make to your eating habits. Transient changes don't lead to long-term effects. Your body sees weight loss as unnatural and works against you to put the weight back on. If you don't maintain the changes you've made, your weight will go back to where it was. Even patients who have had weight loss surgery (lap band, gastric bypass, gastric sleeve) regain their lost weight if they return to their old eating habits. So, if you think of "going on a diet" as a short-term means to long-term weight loss, it won't work. Going back to your pre-diet eating habits means going back to your pre-diet weight. You have to think of weight loss in terms of a change to your lifestyle in order to get long-term results.

The bottom line is that diets don't produce lifelong results; only a change in your lifestyle can do this. Eating right, exercising, eating mindfully, and combating emotional eating are all important parts of a lifelong weight loss plan.

You can do it!
Dr. M