Why Diets Don't Work: Really They Don't
I'm willing to bet that if you're reading this you've been on a diet at least once. But chances are, if you're like most North Americans, you've tried more diets than you can remember. And chances are they've worked, for the 2-3 weeks you were on them. Then you've probably gained more weight than what you were before.
Dieting is hard, and even when it does work the benefits are usually very short lived. And usually you are worse off then before the diet. Want to know why? Read on, I'll try and explain.
The average person requires about 2,000 calories to function properly. Obtaining 2,000 calories, in today's society, is extremely easy. Almost any mean at a fast food restaurant will supply you with almost 2,000 calories. And this is just from one meal, most of us eat 3 meals a day. In addition, the body is extremely efficient at using and storing the calories consumed. By the way, one pound of fat is made up of 3,500 calories. Keep this in mind for later.
Want some examples? Lets pick on McDonald's since everyone else does this. But, understand that McDonald's is no different than other fast food joints. Large fries have 570 calories. A Big Mac has 540 calories. A strawberry milk shake has 280 calories. A medium coke has 210 calories. Get the idea? This is a total of 1,600 calories!! So in one meal you've almost consumed all the calories you need for an entire day. By the way, this information is available from McDonald's themselves.
Let's talk about dieting. We already know they don't work. The main reason for this is that they require you to drastically reduce your caloric intake and because of this they are almost impossible to keep up for more than a couple of days. The reason for this are very complicated, but impossible to fight against. Now, let's say that through some miracle and a lot of suffering you manage to lose about 5 pounds. What will you do the day your diet ends? I bet you'd call your friends and go to your favorite restaurants to celebrate your accomplishment. Then you'll go grocery shopping to buy all your favorite junk food. After all, you've earned this reward. And, in about 3-4 days (this happens faster after each diet) you'll gain all the weight you lost, maybe even more, and maybe even have more body fat percentage than before.
Now, I'm sure that some of you will say that you exercise so you can eat whatever you want because you think that exercise burns off tons of calories. Ok, let's see if this is true. Let us say that you like walking. If you walk for 30 minutes you will only burn about 100 calories, and that's if it's a brisk walk. Only 100 calories!!!! What do you have to eat to replace that 100 calories? 2-3 cookies will do it. Remember what we said earlier, that one pound of fat is made up of 3,500 calories? Well, to burn off one pound of fat it means you will need to walk 35 hours! And that's only if you don't replace any of the calories used from walking. So, exercise is an important part of anyone's lifestyle because it maintains muscle mass, bone density, keeps the metabolism up. But, don't expect miracles from it. Another point to remember, if we try to increase our exercise level dramatically our bodies will sense the extra stress and will more likely increase your appetite so you will probably eat more. So, exercise moderately and regularly. Incidentally, running for 30 minutes will burn just over 300 calories. Running seems to be on the higher end of the list for activities that burn more calories.
If you look at scientific studies the claim is that the best way to lose weight (fat) is to do it very slowly and gradually. By these we refer to a goal of about 1 pound every 1-2 weeks. If you aim for more than that then you will probably fail because it is very hard to maintain. Remember, you didn't get fat over night so you will not lose it over night.
What you need is sustainable eating habits and a sustainable exercise regime. If they are not sustainable then they won't work.