The statistics about weight and obesity are alarming. In Britain, according to the NHS figures, 66% of men and 61% of women have a BM1 of over 25.
In the USA, figures tell a similar story with high levels of obesity all over the country. The state of Mississippi tops the US fat chart with over 34% of the population clinically obese. That is a third of the population with a BMI over 30. Figures for the amount of people who live in the state and are just overweight rather than obese are not even available but the real figure is likely to be high.
We never used to be like this. Look at any old film footage shot in the US or the UK and you will see a different story. People used to be thin in general and Americans not really any fatter than anyone else. Today the obese American is a stereotype with the British public and the rest of the western world following not far behind.
Faced with these types of figures it is not surprising that the weight loss industry is booming and it seems that every day there is a new diet on the market. Although it may seem like a no brainer – you are overweight so you need to diet – it is possible that dieting will be part of the same problem.
There are hundreds of diets that you can follow and every week it seems there is a new miracle weight loss method. Losing weight by dieting is something that most of us try and at any time, it is estimated that a whole third of the population is on a diet at any one time.
So How Come we’re Not Thin?
The obvious flaw in the dieting argument is that if dieting really worked, how come so many people are so fat? Surely, if dieting worked then people would lose weight and keep it off permanently.
Instead, most people try dieting and have some success in losing weight only to pile the pounds back on a few months later.
See our earlier investigation on boomerang dieting.
The Pitfalls of Yo Yo Dieting
Losing weight by some method of extreme dieting, finishing the diet and then piling the weight back on until you are back where you started is an extremely common problem. It is easy to do.
Most fad diets will work for weight loss regardless of which one you choose but are unlikely to be a lasting effect.
We have covered many fad diets in previous articles but there are so many that we have only scraped the tip of the iceberg.
Whether you try the 70s classic Cabbage Soup Diet, 5:2 Fasting or 6 weeks to OMG you will lose weight. These diets are extreme and put you into a starvation mode so you can’t really fail to lose weight.
Although 5:2 Fasting has become very popular and is extremely respectable, starving yourself twice a week on 500 calories a day is the way that it works. Never mind the scientific explanation behind it.
The problem is that once any of these diets are over and you feel better and start to relax, the weight will come back on. You cannot live your life in the starvation mode that many of these diets require. You cannot expect to keep thin once you start eating normally, if you have lost drastic amounts of weight by starving yourself.
Medical advice has always been that yo yo dieting is bad for you and actually makes losing weight permanently increasingly more difficult.
Putting your body into starvation mode was believed to have long-term consequences and some medical opinion is that it can have a negative effect on long-term immune function.
Recently, some medical experts have claimed that yo yo dieting does not have a long-term negative effect and that it is better to have lost weight for a while rather than stay at obese levels permanently.
When this theory was tested on mice, researchers found that the mice that shed weight and then put it back on were healthier than those who remained at a constant obese level.
Whatever the truth about the long-term health effects of rapid weight loss followed by rapid weight gain, taking an extreme diet does not result in permanent weight loss. Fad diets will not help you transform your body and become permanently slim and healthy.
Extreme Dieting Sets You Up For Failure
The other problem with following a short-term fad diet is that it sets you up for failure. Following an extreme diet requires extreme will power and it is just not part of normal human behaviour to accept being hungry as a normal part of life. Very low calorie diets will slow your metabolism as your body struggles to cope with perceived starvation and food shortages.
There is some evidence that even thinking about going on a diet can have this metabolism slowing effect!!
As anyone will tell you, following an extreme diet can make you fixate on food. A long period of self-denial can be undone by a few minutes of weakness where you crack and then binge eat.
How About A Diet That Cuts Out Food Groups?
Quick fix fad diets might be undoable for most of us, so what about going on a long-term diet or eating plan?
Some types of diet require you to cut out certain food groups in order to lose weight and that way you can eat what you like, more or less, without counting calories or paying attention to details.
One group of such diets are the low carbohydrate diets such as the Adkins diet or the Dukan diet. Both of these have been very popular and although they are not the same, there are similarities. You have to avoid carbs (or eat in strict moderation) and even monitor your vegetable intake whereas steak and protein rich ingredients are allowed.
According to an extensive study funded by Swedish Research Council and Swedish Cancer society, low carb high protein diets increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
The study was carried out over 15 years and followed 43,762 women. The researchers’ analysis found that both high-protein and low-carbohydrate scores were significantly associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular events.
There have been real medical concerns about these types of diets. All medical advice is to keep to a balanced diet and eat from all the groups of food. Restricting your intake of carbohydrates, which our bodies need for energy, is potentially dangerous. Putting your body into Ketosis – where your body raids fat reserves for energy is potentially dangerous.
What about Calorie Counting?
On a basic level calorie counting can be a good way of losing weight. Essentially losing weight is all about eating the correct amount or in other words eating enough food to power your bodily functions without being stored as fat. You can count calories on a random day-to-day basis rather than following the strict confines of a diet but it is not advisable.
The problem with calorie counting is that it doesn’t take into consideration nutritional content and fats. You could follow a calorie counting diet and still be unhealthy. Although calories are all the same the nutritional content of food is not.
So What is The Solution?
It might seem like a cliché but the best way to lose weight permanently is to make lifestyle changes and adopt a healthier eating plan that you can live with. Making some dietary changes and bringing some order and rules into your diet cannot fail to help you lose weight and is good for your long-term health as well.
You may know your problems and food triggers already.
Do you eat a lot of fast food or takeaways? Do you often eat out as part of your daily routine? The average takeaway – a kebab for example contains around 2000 calories so doing this even on an occasional basis will affect your waistline.
Many restaurant meals are equally high fat with high calorie content too. Cutting these out if you do it too often, will show up favourably on the scales. Many restaurants have healthy options on offer so if you are watching your weight and health; these are the ones to choose.
Maybe you just eat too much? Maybe it is cakes and biscuits which are your weakness? Maybe it is portion sizes? We all have our different triggers, which are dictated by our lifestyles, and the only way we can lose weight without dieting is to make some positive changes.
Watching Your Weight Not Dieting!
There are lots of common sense tips that can help you lose weight and although none of them may seem to be an immediate way to get thin, adopting a sensible eating policy will help. Every change that you make will help and losing weight by changing your lifestyle is the way to success. Think about your own habits and weight gain and come up with some of your own.
You are not dieting but watching your weight. It is a way to live and does not require any drastic measures.
- Get your five fruit and vegetable portions per day. This is great for losing weight as well. After all, the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less room you will have for the unhealthy stuff, which is fattening.
- Make some rules about how and when you eat. Don’t eat standing up. It will encourage you to pick from the fridge and eat leftovers. When you have leftovers, put them straight into the freezer so you will not be tempted to eat them next time you open the fridge.
- Think about what you can eat rather than what you cannot. Use the opportunity to try new foods and add some variety to your normal diet.
- Don’t give up if you slip up. It’s okay to give into the temptation of biscuits or eating too much now and then. Tomorrow is another day.
- Eat more fish. It is good for health and good for your waistline.
- Cook with healthy ingredients. Grill don’t fry and cut the fat off the meat.
- Try reducing your plate size. Eating from a smaller plate will help you feel satisfied with less. Plate portion sizes should be in thirds and divided evenly between proteins, vegetables or fruit and carbohydrates.
- Don’t eat absent mindedly in front of the TV. Ploughing through chocolate bars or a packet of crisps or biscuits is easy to do. Try eating fruit in front of the TV.
- Try a weight loss supplement which contains a range of healthy ingredients and vitamins. Boosting your antioxidant levels will help keep you fit and healthy while you make changes to your lifestyle. Some people report that the act of taking a supplement makes them remember they are making lifestyle changes.
With the high number of people who are overweight, it seems that the idea of dieting is never going to go away. The problem is that for most people a strict diet does not actually work and only causes feelings of disappointment and failure. Dieting is not easy because we are not programmed to deprive ourselves of food. After all most of human history has had to deal with facing hunger and not obesity.
The problem can be laid at the doors of the food industry. The supermarket shelves are stacked with such a wide variety of fattening and tempting foodstuffs it can be hard to simply say no.
Rather than going on a diet, cutting out some of these fattening unhealthy foods is one of the only options that will really work long term.