Thursday, 21 August 2014

Why Do Diets Fail ?

I must admit to have only 'been on a diet' four or maybe five times before in my life. Otherwise I have eaten what I wanted. However as like many of you readers I did not get any long term benefit from the diets. Statistics have been flouted about which show how many people either fail or rebound from diets, but of course the people who invent the diets or market them by in large are  not interested in a long term clinical trial. (It has to be mentioned that some diets have been tested in as near to a clinical trial, that is giving statistical proof of efficacy, as is possible ie single blind, compared to a base group and perhaps compared to a different regime in the same study). This rant on proof of not eating the pudding so to speak, put to one side, why do so many of us not continue with a diet or rebound after the diet is over?

Do we set out with good intentions and then just can't break through the 'peckish 9pm' barrier during or after a diet? Do we exit a diet with largerr cravings for food and especially calorie bomb luxuries? Or does our body not like being starved and develop a propensity to lay down more fatty tissue around our middles after being in a 'starvation' diet?

There has not been any really concrete research I can find at least, which has been done around the physiology of starving your body by a calorie controlled diet and then in the long term actually laying down more fat. There are studies from emaciated groups who are then fed and there have been studies on the effects of polar conditions where a net negative calorie result can be experienced : but I remain to find studies which show that a typical calorie controlled 'starvation diet' leads to the body actually laying down more fat when you come off the diet. It would seem to make sense, but let us lay this also to one side until I or one of the readers in the comments below, feel free, points to something conclusive that does not end with "further studies" or " a larger group of subjects would need to be studied " ie not actually proof, just some initial and interesting findings, as in fact 90% of scientific research consists of. (Hence I gave up a promising career boring myself to death as a scientist)

I think the clue to why nearly all diets have such a high long term failure rate is in the very term 'diet'. Calorie controlled diets are far too focused on food! That may sound like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that they focus the person going on the diet onto the food they put in front of themselve. Everything suddenly revolves around food, and denying oneself food, at every mealtime. It becomes a source for stress to anyone who has a large appetite for meals and whom snacks in between meals. We are creatures not only of habit but when there is a move to break habits, particularly core habits , down the Maslovian pyramid, then if we can, we fight back. In a famine or a concentration camp, you cannot fight back and the body burns all its fat and spirals downward into catabolising protein. In the modern world, you make a conscious effort to spite the diet and you either move slowly back to snacking or you just plainl;y pig out. I think in fact that calorie controlled 'starvation' diets work best for people who were not all that bothered about food in the first place, but had gone a long in fact with other people's habits and our general high carbo at point of sale  at every opportunity.

On Atkins dieting in particular I found that much MORE time was spent thinking about food in order to try and both keep to the super low carbo plan, while having some degree of variety. In fact I habituated on my second attempt to a very dull diet with a lot of eggs, salad leaves, asparagus and both fresh and smoked salmon. I did loose about 5 kg or maybe as much as 8kg, but put it all back on within a year. I think I could have continued with the diet without a huge problem, and titrated back in those carbo as you do, and drunk light beer and so on and so on. But I started training on skis and needed the energy and fell completely off the low carbo wagon, going the other way. I was snacking before and after exerciseing an hour to two outdoors. In fact that winter it was so damn cold that I may have actually put my body into storing more fat, which is a proven result of exposure to low temperatures. But the extras crept in, as if I was an athlete training 5-8 hours a day, the sports calorie boosters and replenishments and the sweets, and those salty nuts and chips to get my salt back in....Been there?

Electric Extra Land. Sports food and drink products were fringe stuff until the arrival of Lucozade Sport which was actually pretty healthy and much lower carbs than most other fizzy drinks. Then came things like the power-bar TM and the Cliff BarTM and then bananas got remarketed as a sports product and so on and so on, until now a milkshake with a bit of fancy ingredients and 160 Kcal is sold as an after sport essential before you go eat your dinner.  In fact for anyone just training for fitness and especially those wanting to lose fat, these calorie replenishment or extension products should only be used when doing real endurance exercise, like 3 or more hours cycling or over two hours running. Otherwise they can stand in as a meal substitute in part or whole. Milk race and Tour de france riders get bananas and fancy drinks because they cycle up to 8 hours a day at high rythm and have very little fat to burn in reserve.

What I propose is more successful for the sporty fatty is to forget stressing about main meals. As  I said in the last blog, if you think you maybe eat a lot for your core meals benchmark your calorie intake for them. If they are the 300 -450 -800 breakfast-lunch-dinner then you can forget about all these meals, just eat as you did, ration yourself to very few additional portions, and ration down OJ and sugary drinls. Be careful though that breakfast is not a super sugar bomb. "of Which Sugars" is a good guide for cerials and ready meals for example, and this means that you may be taking too much simple suigar in one go, more on that in a later blog where I will read som up to date. Anyway after a quick benchmark, you can forget your core meals as anything to stress about.

The focus instead for the sporty fatty is something else you have some habitual behaviour establihsed round" training and training quite hard. The target is then to midify established babits by training longer and less intensely, while having a killer insinct on extras. Extras become a focus as the only negativbe thing, and even then you have an allowance, so it is not a cycle of being depressed about all the denial. Instead you get the physiological benefits of longer duration training plus an easy discipline to follow with a logical focus on all that is extra.

I would say for the non sporty fatty., that many people get great benefit from the branded, calorie controlled dietts and some people have reversed their obesity on low carbo diets.Howeever since you are a sporty fatty if you have read this far, and not gone " sod this, 7 hours a week getting sweaty?!!" then the health and long term weight loss benefits coupled to hopefully a lasting self discipline and a physiologically/psychologicallly double hit on your appetite will help you and I keep it off even if we revert to shorter training sessions once we reach our target weight on this regime.



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