Everyone knows that dieting is just the worst. We all hate cutting back on our calories and not eating food we want to. It just sucks.
The truth is diets really don’t work.
Dieting just isn’t sustainable. The reason being that the name ‘diet’ implies that it is a temporary change to what you eat instead of truly altering a lifestyle. There is a psychological component that is usually ignored when people go on diets. There is also the issue of how some processed foods are really addictive.
Let’s use sugar and caffeine for this example. Obviously, caffeine is addictive. That’s why you can’t give up the morning coffee. If you do skip the coffee, you get headaches and other symptoms that are similar to that of someone trying to quit drugs or nicotine.
Sugar is the same way. It’s tough to quit sugar because it’s also a fuel source for the body. Usually, we consume sugar in the form of carbohydrates that the body converts to fuel. When there is an excess though, the body will store the fuel up as lipids, or fat.
The other psychological issue is that we associate foods with certain things. In the same way a smell can bring you back to a familiar place in your mind or remind you of a feeling during a specific moment in time, food can do this too. For instance, cake is associated with birthdays, or Gatorade with sporting events. This implies that we have a psychological tie to certain foods.
These psychological aspects must be taken into account when one begins dieting. The sad truth is that it is often ignored. That makes diets so much harder to follow because we will be either literally addicted to the food, or psychologically addicted because of the good feelings we associate with food.
Sometimes, sustainability of diets is more dependent on how restrictive they are.
One such example is the 800-calorie diet. It was popular for a time, and in a most basic sense it will make you lose weight. But nutrition is not about just calorie intake versus calorie output. Yes, by consuming 800 calories when you burn 2500 calories a day you will lose weight. But that is not sustainable in the most literal way because a few days of this style of eating and you will feel weak and run down mentally. A couple weeks of this and your body will catch on to what is happening and when you try to consume more than 800 calories, your body will be thinking that it will only 800 calories and hold on to any excess as fat for the future.
Layne Norton recently talked about a new study on his YouTube channel, that shows the science behind why diets can actually be making you fatter. Basically, he says that you have adipose tissue that will store fat. You start with a specific number, say 20 cells, that are a specific size. Then you cut calories and start running on a deficit. The adipose cells stay the same number, but will shrink in size, resulting in weight loss. Then after the goal weight is reached, or the diet is complete, you binge eat so much because you are hungry, that you create more adipose cells to 30 cells. But all those cells are still of the smaller size, so you still are hungry because the cells want to return to the original size, or at least close to it. But because there are more cells, when they do return to close to their original size, you actually gain more weight than what you started with. But that is what happens when you yo-yo diet, or start a diet then end it repeatedly. This is essentially what happens with bodybuilders and why they all seem to be getting so fat after they retire.
Another issue with diets is that they go through trends. The latest one that is sweeping the nation is the keto diet. First off, the keto diet is just a rework of one of the millions of low carb diets out there. It’s basically the Atkins diet with a new name. Secondarily, low carb diets, like keto, are simply not sustainable because the body operates better on carbohydrates. Yes, the brain does work better running on ketone bodies, which is what the keto diet is supposed to make you do, but it isn’t a sustainable diet for the majority of people in the world.
Sometimes diets are unhealthy actually. They will be based on psuedo-science or have a small basis in science such as the case with the 800-calorie diet. The science of that one is that running on a calorie deficit will make you lose weight. That is a scientific fact, but it isn’t smart or safe. These are the kind of diets that may seem real, but are super unhealthy. This is why dieting is such a dangerous subject.
Do not fret! There is way to be healthy still!
There is the idea of body recompositioning. That is the idea that you alter the composition of your body away from fat and convert it to muscle. This is incredibly difficult, but it can be done. The reason you don’t hear people talk about it very often though is because it takes a long time.
Most people want a quick fix to lose weight and feel better. That is why you hear about bulking and cutting cycles. Though bulking and cutting cycles are easier, a recomp is more sustainable in the long run. It requires you to track your food intake for a while, so it is already slower than a simple 1,500-calorie diet recommendation or something like that.
A total body recomp implies that you have found the perfect caloric and macro window that allows you to build muscle, but not gain fat. This would also require that you need to have your workout routines in check.
Again, this isn’t the only solution!
Instead of dieting, a lifestyle change is in order. Diets don’t work because they have a specific start date and end date. Lifestyle changes work because they only have a start date. That already eliminates the issue of yo-yo dieting.
As for the bulking and cutting cycles, those become easily manipulated in a lifestyle change because your food choices can kind of flow with the seasons more. When it is cold, you eat heavier foods, like beef and potatoes, that will naturally give your body more protein and more calories. This is essentially a bulk. Then as the weather starts warming up, you turn your food choices to lighter foods, like salads and fish, to naturally lean out more.
The important thing to remember with the lifestyle change is that you have to be consistent. It’s a new lifestyle, not a diet. That means its a daily thing, not a monthly deal.
The biggest piece of advice I could give here is this: avoid processed food and turn to more natural whole foods. Instead of a box of dehydrated potatoes, mash your own. Instead of having cereal in the morning, eat a natural breakfast of eggs. It’s really simple actually. The more packaging, generally the worse it is for you. The more ingredients, the worse it is for you.
So, stick to whole natural food and you will be in great shape. Track you food to dial it in and really reach your goals.