There are a lot of diets out there. A quick peek into our own kitchen cabinets reveal that we have at least 6 different diet systems hidden in there: The Cambridge Diet, the High Protein diet, the Wellness diet, the Biolife diet, the Soy diet and the Hydroxycut diet. Yes, we have fallen many times for the promise that we can continue eating our favourite foods yet lose weight by just replacing some of our meals with this system or that system. Basically if someone sold us the idea that we should eat the kitchen sink and we’d lose weight, we would. And each time we were defeated.
(Side note: a reader sent us an email earlier asking why do we keep using “we” instead of I? Well, it’s because we are two persons, and we jointly write and manage this blog. When a blogpost is written independently, we will sign it with our individual name at the end.)
So, why diets fail?
Pat Barone sums it in a neat Top-10 style list:
- Severe food restriction causes real hunger.
- A diet is an artificial plan which is different from your lifestyle.
- A diet is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.
- A diet doesn’t take into account your likes and dislikes.
- A one-size-fits-all diet cannot possibly be useful to everyone.
- Cravings are real.
- Diets set up feelings of deprivation and punishment.
- Dieting puts the emphasis only on food.
- Dieting promotes weight loss, not fat loss.
- Dieting leads to new problems or compounds old ones.
(source: 10 Reasons Why Diets Fail by Pat Barone, St. Louis Counseling and Psychologists Referral Network)
Maybe, thought Tracy Bale, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, the problem is stress. Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol, which fuels the blood with energy in the form of sugar, enabling us to flee from potential dangers. Over time, high stress levels lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels that can cause increased appetite and weight gain.
“Dieting is tough because your brain is working against you,” Bale says. Learning better ways to cope with stress may be the key to successful weight loss because “you aren’t prone to have stress drive you to want to consume.” Bale thinks that designing medications to target these stress pathways may help dieters keep off the weight that they worked so hard to lose.
(source: Why Diets Fail by Carrie Arnold, ScienceNOW)
One thing is very clear then – dieting is not and should not be about depriving ourselves from food or replacing them with System A or System B. It is about maintaining a good relationship with food and understanding how your body works, what your body needs and what it craves. Moderation, moderation, moderation.
But… easier said than done, right?