Is Dieting Making You Fatter?
You may have experienced something very similar to this in your dieting history: you commit to losing a few pounds, you throw yourself into it, you gain some small results, and the effort burns you out so much that you pull back, and those few pounds come right back. Repeat ad nuaseum. You might think that if you lose five pounds and then gain five pounds over and over again, you’ve had a net gain of zero; you haven’t gotten any better off, but you’re no worse off either. As it turns out, that’s not the case. The constant churn is actually costing you more through the loss of lean muscle tissue–we refer to this as the yo-yo diet cycle.
The yo-yo effect is the loss of muscle (lean tissue) with each round of dieting. Muscle is metabolically active tissue; it is like a furnace that needs calories to exist. When you remove muscle, you reduce the ability to burn calories at rest and during exercise. Every time body weight is reduced while dieting without preserving muscle tissue, through strength training, you must then decrease your base caloric intake to avoid subsequent weight gain. If you increase your caloric intake and re-gain the weight you lost, you will have replaced the muscle loss with fat gain. Strength training is the only way to minimize the loss of muscle tissue while reducing body weight. In fact, productive strength training while reducing caloric intake can reverse the drop in metabolic rate and increase muscle tissue. The increase of muscle tissue can help you get control over your weight, and make maintaining your new figure that much easier.
What Kind of Dieting Does Work?
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a good idea to focus on changing your behavior, not the scale. Obsessing over the numbers is a good way to quickly burn yourself out and get frustrated, causing you to relapse on your good behavior and bounce back up again, restarting the cycle. A better approach is to concentrate on modifying your eating and exercise patterns with moderate, sensible changes rather than drastic but short-lived commitments. For example, don’t promise to never eat another cookie in your life, but instead resolve to only eat one cookie instead of four, and to replace some of those cookies with a handful of almonds. These are sensible changes that are much easier to live with than drastic, fad diets or weight loss programs. Making small healthy lifestyle changes that you can do consistently will be easier to stick to than strict, restrictive diets, and will make a bigger difference in the long term.
When you do weigh yourself, use it as motivation. Even a small weight loss is getting you one step closer to your goal- so congratulate yourself on the achievement rather than beating yourself up for not losing enough quickly enough. And remember that maintaining a weight loss is an achievement as well, even if you haven’t yet lost any more.