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12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 2 – The Dangers of Dieting

December 11, 2017 0 Comments

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

You know what? I don’t like diets. They are highly ineffective for long-term weight loss, yet one in four people start a new diet every year. Of these people, only 20% of them will succeed at losing weight and keeping it off. But what about the other 80 percent? Do they just stay at the same weight? Nope. The majority of them actually lose a little bit of weight at the beginning. Then, they not only regain their weight, they end up gaining even more weight than when they started. So why do the majority of people gain weight when they diet? The answer is quite simple – muscle loss.

The Wrong Path

When we talk about diets, we’re talking about any temporary change to your eating patterns. The idea of “going on a diet” infers that you’ll be returning to your old eating habits once you’re done. What does the anatomy of a diet look like:

  • low calories
  • reduced energy and intensity in the gym
  • fewer nutrients due to fewer calories
  • quick (but short-lived) weight loss
  • slowed metabolism
  • increased cravings

All of these things create the perfect storm for muscle loss. They also create a spring-loaded rebound effect once you start eating “normal” again. Even losing just 5 pounds of lean body mass can slow your metabolism enough that your old calorie intake is now too much. Combine that with a slowed metabolism from hormone down-regulation and add in some binge eating behavior, and you have a perfect recipe for weight gain.
Each time you diet again you dig yourself deeper into a hole. This is the main reason why people diet their entire lives yet continue to gain weight. If you want to stop the cycle you have to put the diet mentality behind you. Focus your efforts on creating healthy eating habits.

Time Works Against You

Diets all have end dates. They last for 4, 8, or maybe 12 weeks and then they’re over. What then? Do you have any idea how to eat once your diet is over? Most likely, you will be returning to old eating habits and then starting all over again months down the road once your weight creeps back up. We want time on our side. When we stick an artificial end date in the future, time crawls to a still. Compare that to a lifestyle change where there is no end date. You might think that the short time period of a diet makes things easier, but this is a common illusion. We want to lift the burden of time. We don’t want to think about it at all. We want to move beyond the day to day intricacies of eating, and instead make our eating habits second nature. Once we do that, we’re just eating. Weight loss goes on autopilot and becomes an involuntary side effect. When you’re not always thinking about your next meal or your next cheat meal break, you can distract yourself from the weight loss process. You put more trust into healthy eating and believe that your healthy habits will take you to where you want to go. Your thinking goes from “if I can just make it the next 2 months eating this way” to “I’m just eating, and 2 months is going to pass one way or another”.

They Don’t Hold You Accountable

Diets give us something to blame when we don’t get results. It’s easy to say a particular diet didn’t work for you. Rationalizing your failure by passing the blame to an inanimate object is the natural thing to do. But was it really the diet that was to blame? Because we never learned along the way about our own relationship with food, and about what works for our individual metabolism, we end up placing all of our faith in our diet. When that diet doesn’t work, it’s on to trying the next one. We must hold ourselves accountable for our actions if we want to succeed. You can’t reach your weight loss goals until you accept complete responsibility for your current lifestyle habits. You are in complete control of your life. That doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult circumstances, but how we choose to react to those situations will determine our ultimate outcome. Weight loss is not a straight and narrow line from beginning to end. There will be a lot of detours. You will need to learn how to react in those moments, and diets won’t show you how. One of the biggest dieting fallacies is that there’s a blueprint you can follow for success. There isn’t.

They Teach You Very Little About Yourself

While diets will teach you what to do, they teach you very little about why you’re doing it. Learning the why’s behind your actions are what create sustainable long-term weight loss. Blindly following a diet or meal plan might seem easier, but no diet goes 100% as planned. If you don’t take the time to understand the purpose behind what you’re doing, you will be easily discouraged when times get tough. When losing weight you spend a lot of time in uncharted territory. You have to make tough decisions on whether you should increase or decrease calories, how many meals you should eat, whether cheat meals are OK, how to recover from a slip up, protein and carbohydrate adjustments, and 100 more unique circumstances. Diets won’t teach you how to navigate off the beaten path, and that’s where success is ultimately determined. If you want long-term sustainable weight loss, you must start educating yourself on the details of a healthy lifestyle.

Say goodbye to your dieting mentality. Stop searching for the next diet to try. Chances are it hasn’t worked out for you so far, and it’s highly unlikely anything will change that outcome in the future. Instead, work daily at creating new healthy habits that will build the foundation for long-term weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise

Filed in: Nutrition, Weight Loss • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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