“What should I do to jump-start my diet?” my client earnestly inquired. She was ready to get back on track after having gained three pounds over the holidays and was eager to lose that weight plus seven more “quick loss” pounds to get to her "happy weight.”
“Don’t bother jump starting your diet!” I responded. Here’s why:
Dieters who lose weight quickly by severely restricting their calories inevitably regain the weight, if not more. That's because the body overcompensates for extreme dieting (extreme hunger) with overeating. Just as you will gasp for air after having been trapped under water without oxygen, you will devour food after having been denied calories during a crash diet.
Hunger is physiological. Just as your body needs air to breathe, your body also needs fuel to function. Extreme hunger is simply an urgent request for fuel. Crash diets lead to binge eating (also called “blowing your diet”). This overeating has little to do with your "having no willpower" and lots to do with the physiology of hunger.
Yes, you can white-knuckle yourself to stick to your crash diet, but your well-meaning plan to quickly shed some pounds has a high likelihood of exploding into a demoralizing pattern of yoyo dieting. You’ll inevitably end up gaining more weight than you lose. Don't go there.... it’s depressing.
“I just have to get rid of this weight quickly. I can’t stand this uncomfortable stuff around my middle” she complained with disgust while grabbing the flesh at her waist. “I know everyone says to lose weight slowly, but that just won’t work for me... “
My client was clearly uncomfortable with her body and eager to transform her physique. Unfortunately, she failed to recognize that quick weight loss offers only short-term benefits. Quick weight loss inevitably results in long-term fat gain because of the physiology of starvation. That is, when you drastically reduce your food intake, your body’s physiology wants to binge eat to quickly regain all the weight you lost (and likely even more pounds).
As a human, your body requires fuel. The body perceives a strict diet as a famine. When the opportunity to stop the famine presents itself, the drive to eat becomes overwhelming. This overeating has little to do with “will power” and lots of do with the physiological response to extreme hunger. It’s sort of like how you have to breathe rapidly after having spent too long holding your breath. Your body gasps for air, just as it gasps for food after a “famine.”
Depending on your level of discipline, weight regain might not happen for a week, a few months, or a year, but it will inevitably happen. That’s because crash–dieters learn only how to white-knuckle weight loss, but do not learn how to eat appropriately. Inappropriate eating creates your weight problems.
If having excess body fat is an issue, your goal for 2010 needs to be to learn how to manage the overabundant food supply, manage stress and emotions without overeating; manage to find time to exercise, and manage to get enough sleep. Weight reduction has more to do with management of food, stress, sleep, exercise and emotions than it has to do with food…
Your best bet for learning how to chip away at slow but steady weight loss is to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) who can help you develop the skills you need to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life. To find a local sports dietitian, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. Alternatively, my Sports Nutrition Guidebook has a strong section on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise.