Dieting FAQ’S

by Jeanne Rhodes

There are many questions about dieting and the following five seem to be the most frequently asked.

Why is it that every time I go on a diet, I lose weight in the beginning but before long I stop losing and sometimes will even gain on the same number of calories?

Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence. To help you understand what is happening, let me first give you some background information.

When you diet, you create an “artificial” food shortage and your body responds automatically by slowing down the metabolism to prevent starvation. During the first weeks of dieting with the metabolism just beginning to slow down you will lose weight because more calories are being burned than the smaller amount eaten. As the metabolism continues its gradual slow-down you will reach a point where calories are burned so slowly that you not only stop losing weight, but also begin to gain back some of the weight you’ve lost. In this instance your body is functioning in a totally normal manner, and has just successfully protected itself from what it interpreted as starvation - a food shortage to the point that weight loss had begun to occur. Not understanding this you become perplexed and wonder what has gone wrong with your diet!

This is an example of the importance of understanding and working with your body, and not at cross purposes, to achieve your desired weight goal. Research studies, even with people of normal weight, show that dieting produces a decrease in metabolism, and at best, will produce only temporary weight loss.

I have dieted several times. At present I have just dieted down to 128 pounds. Why is it that I wear a size larger now than I did two years ago when I weighed exactly the same?

You indicate that you’ve lost weight several times, which means you’ve also gained back the weight several times. Each dieting attempt alters body composition, increasing fat and decreasing lean tissue. Lean tissue is heavier and more compact, taking up less space, while body fat is lighter but takes up much more space. Dieting produces a loss of not only fat but also of lean tissue. When you gain back the weight, you gain only fat. In this manner there is an increase in fat, which takes up more space than the lean tissue that was lost. For this reason, dieting to a previous weight will not necessarily return you to the same previous size. Losing lean tissue and regaining fat is much like replacing one pound of stones with one pound of cotton. While they both weigh one pound, the pound of cotton obviously will take up more space than the pound of stones.

Your body composition now includes more body fat, and as such, you will be larger at any given weight than previously.

I lose weight fast on a high protein diet. Is it really bad for your health?

Absolutely! Cardiac problems are not unusual in those who have gone on high protein diets, not to mention the adverse effects on thyroid activity, which will slow down metabolism. Once again, this is another dieting approach and diets don’t work!
Remember one very important fact about weight loss - “Fast” begins with “F” which stands for Failure! If anything promises extremely “fast” weight loss, you can be assured of subsequent failure!

What is the rationale of slow weight loss being best?

Your body metabolizes an average of 1-2 pounds of fat per week. An extremely fast weight loss beyond the first 3 or 4 weeks when body fluid accounts for part of your weight loss indicates that you’re losing lean tissue, which will spell disaster for keeping the weight off.

Ironic as it may seem, overweight people probably know more about fast weight loss than anyone else. Most of them can tell you several ways to lose it fast because they’ve done it fast many times over! Two things overweight people really need to know is 1) how to continue to lose to reach their goal and 2) how to maintain that goal and not gain back what they’ve lost.

As a fat person the word “fast” used to catch my eye and my attention, quicker than anything else. Luckily I became a little wiser and realized I was already an expert at losing it fast! I changed my point of view and begin looking for a way to lose it permanently.

What do you mean by the statement - “Diets don’t work because they can’t work?

Each dieting attempt decreases lean tissue, increases body fat, decreases metabolism and decreases caloric requirements. Any one of these has the potential of halting weight loss. Dieting precipitates not one, but all of the above simultaneously, which renders continuing or permanent weight loss an impossibility!

The bottom line hasn’t changed - a healthy lifestyle that is convenient and includes food and exercise that you enjoy is the only proven way to achieve permanent weight loss - anything else delivers only temporary weight loss at best! A Wellness Lifestyle Strategist can help you achieve permanent goals!

Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author, Owner and Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.