April 19, 2009
95% of All Conventional Diets Fail- Why?
Diets Never Work
Let’s begin by defining the word “diet”. A “diet” is any severe restriction of food or calories that’s temporary. Most conventional diet programs call for extremely low calories: 800-1200 or less for women and 1500-1800 or less for men. Any time you restrict calories drastically like this, you will lose weight. So if your only criteria for success is weight loss, and you don’t care where the weight comes from, or how long it stays off, then you could say that “all diets work”.
There are two major problems with this approach: First, the weight loss from very low calorie dieting almost never lasts; 95% of the people who lose weight on conventional diet programs can’t keep it off. The second problem is that most of the weight you lose from low calorie dieting is muscle, not fat. If permanent fat loss without losing muscle is your goal (it should be), then it would be closer to the truth to say “diets never work”.
Statistics prove that diets never work in the long term. If they did work, then how do you explain the huge obesity problem today? Any why is it getting worse? According to the National Institute of Health, there are over 100 million overweight people in the United States. That’s 55% of the adult population! Over 20% of the U.S. adults are clinically obese, which means they are at risk for one or more of over 30 health problems that are associated with excess body fat.
Despite the fact that there are more diet programs and weight loss products available than ever before, obesity has continued to rise. The Center for Disease Control recently announced that the number of people in the United States who are clinically obese (at least 30% over their ideal body weight) increased from one in eight in 1991 to nearly one in five in 1999.
There’s a valid scientific reason why most diets fail dismally. Most people make the classic mistake of trying to “starve” the fat with strict diets. However, because the human body has a complex and infallible series of defense mechanisms to protect you from starvation, it is physiologically impossible to lose fat with very low calorie diets. As soon as your body senses a food shortage, these defense mechanisms start to kick in. The human body is simply too “smart” for the restrictive very low calorie diet approach to ever work.
Why Eating Less Doesn’t Always Work
If you eat more calories than you burn, you will store the excess as body fat. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, then you will lose fat. Simple mathematics, right? Well, not exactly.
If fat loss were as black and white as calories in vs. calories out, then how do you explain why some overweight people eat less than lean people, yet they still can’t lose an ounce? And how is it possible for someone with a 2200-calorie maintenance level to eat only 800 to 1000 calories a day without losing any weight?
Using the strictly mathematical model, if you cut out 1000 calories per day from your maintenance level, that will add up to a 7000-calorie deficit in one week. There are 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat, so cutting out 1000 calories a day should- in theory-produce a weight loss of two pounds per week. Actual real world fat loss rarely works out with such mathematical precision.
Rob Faigin, writing the book “National Hormonal Enhancement”, makes a humorous, but true observation about calorie balance and weight loss. Faigin says, “If there existed an airtight mathematical relationship between caloric intake and weight loss, cutting caloric intake from 3000 to 1000 would result in a 60,000 calorie per year deficit- and would result in a 200 pound weight loss after a year. What if the person began the diet weighing 200 pounds, would he disappear?”
When a calorie deficit is first introduced, weight loss generally occurs rapidly, just as the numbers would dictate, but it never takes long before weight loss slows, and then eventually stops completely. Why does this happen? Why is it that you don’t lose 50 pounds in 25 weeks or 100 pounds in 50 weeks with a 1000-calorie deficit?
The explanation is quite simple: Over thousands of year, human have developed a weight-regulating mechanism that recognizes when there’s a food shortage and decreases energy expenditure to “protect you”. This survival mechanism is known as the “starvation response”.
You can survive for months without food. You’ve probably heard stories about people getting lose in the mountains or wilderness for months with no food at all (only water), or being confined in a prisoner of war camp for years with only tiny amounts of food. What makes surviving under these conditions possible is your body’s remarkable ability to slow down its rate of calorie burning.
When your body senses deprivation it says to itself, “It looks like this is all the food we’re going to be getting for a while, so we’d better stop burning so many calories and start saving our energy. This way we’ll be able to survive longer on the little amount of food we have.”
The starvation response developed largely from exposure to adverse environmental conditions like droughts, natural disasters and food shortages. Furthermore, there were no supermarkets ten thousand years ago- if people wanted to eat, they had to either grow their food or kill it. It’s likely that at times, ancient man didn’t know when the next meal was coming and may have only eaten once or twice a week. The starvation response evolved in humans to ensure the survival of the species.
Your Body Can’t Tell The Difference Between Dieting and Starvation
This wonderful feature of human evolution is a blessing if you’re stranded out in the wilderness with no food. During periods of starvation, the body slowly begins to feed off itself, burning fat stores, muscle and even internal organs for energy. If you continued to burn calories at your normal rate, you limited reserves of store energy would be exhausted quickly and you would die very soon after your food supply was cut off. The starvation response keeps you alive longer.
Unfortunately, this same life-preserving mechanism can work against you when you’re trying to lose weight because your body can’t tell the difference between dieting and starvation!
Sever calorie cutting always sends your body into “starvation mode”. There’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening other than to avoid sever calorie shortages!