I’m excited to share a few last thoughts about weight loss and body image as National Eating Disorder Awareness Month is coming to a close. Check out a few other posts on issues surrounding our weight and health:
- If you think you’re going to be happy with your body after you lose weight, you’re wrong
- 5 Reasons Why Dieting Sucks
- What are you Teaching your Daughter about Loving her Body?
The recent study on 6 “Biggest Loser” contestants shed some light on the long-term effects of rapid weight loss, and tell me better than almost anything else that weight loss won’t stick or keep you healthy if it’s not accompanied with deep behavior change AND enjoyment. Which is crazy right? If someone can lose 100s of pounds to reduce their chronic disease risk, their quality of life, and their self-esteem, the quicker the better, right? That’s not what this particular study or my own experience working with clients says. I mean, if Oprah can’t lose weight and successfully keep it off long term, can anyone? Ok, maybe, but the odds are ever not in your favor! What was discovered about these previous contestants was that even though they lost an average of 129 pounds, 6 years later their metabolic rates were about 500 calories lower than others their same age, height, and weight. By that rapid weight loss, excessive exercise, and whatever else they went through during and after the competition, their bodies rebelled in a major 500 calorie a day way.
I talk to people about the effects of low calorie diets all the time at work. After performing a resting metabolic rate test on a client, we always discuss our bodies reactions to caloric restrictions. We each have an individualized number of calories that our bodies need just to function at a basic level. In order for our hearts to pump blood, our lungs to filter oxygen, and our other organs to perform their duties, they need energy to do so, ie: they need calories to work. If your body doesn’t get enough calories to function, it will start slowing down. Think about yourself when you’re hungry, you don’t think as clearly, you get tired, sluggish, etc. That’s because your body has gone into preservation mode, where all your energy or calories are going toward the most important functions. Over time, your body as amazing as it is, adapts to that consistent caloric deficit and slows down. This is a common problem among extreme dieters, they lose a lot of weight at first, then hit an ugly plateau, because their bodies have slowed down to compensate for that lack of energy coming in. That is no good! And that’s what happens, and I’m assuming happened to these contestants.
Aside from insufficient calories for functions, what I understand about rapid weight loss programs is that deprivation, shame, guilt, and insane amounts of exercise are used, willpower is questioned and eating healthy and exercise can easily turn into punishments instead of promoters of health and wellbeing. Let me pose a question, if you feel like you have to exercise and eat clean or perfectly or miserably or whatever, how likely are you to want to do it after your diet is over? Here’s my answer, not even 1 minute past quitting time.
I tried to be reasonable and calm starting out in preparing this. Until I saw Jillian Michael’s response article in People magazine, saying that “eating right and exercising will never, ever, f$*# with your diet” first of all, Jillian I’d consider myself a good reader of context yet I have NO idea what exactly you’re saying. Are you calling into question the objective data from this recent study? You think they manipulated or misinterpreted the results? It’s very possible, but after hearing anecdotal reports from past participants and seeing their physical changes over the years, your claims and all this data just don’t add up. You point your finger throw in colorful language, but your rant is completely without any sort of base, Ms Michaels. You’re standing on unstable ground.
Although Ms Michaels couldn’t come up with a better plan or any defense, he co-trainer, Bob Harper proposed that participants follow the diet that helped them achieve their weight loss or an intermittent fasting type of diet for those who have more weight to lose. The problem with his first suggestion is that the whole point of diet is to lose weight, you need to modify that diet once you reach your goal weight to avoid excess weight loss, which can be detrimental to health. Where’s that point, Bob? On the intermittent fasting diet, they can eat whatever they want within a 10 hour window, fast for 14 hours (including sleeping) then eat 2 meals the next day. He pretty much promotes skipping meals to lose weight. I would never encourage my clients to skip meals for weight management reasons, skipping meals intentionally can lead to feeling ravenous by allowable mealtime, which opens the door to overeating, which is not encouraged, and since that’s not encouraged, that can lead to guilt and utilizing negative coping mechanisms such as all or nothing thinking, where you think that you’ve messed up and continue to go down that path. By this point all eating is emotional, and not solving the root of the problem, but only making it worse. Besides, having a basic understanding of the body’s homeostatic mechanisms and survival mechanisms would solve the question as to the metabolic changes. C’mon! And for you, Mr Harper all this talk of intermittent fasting & comparing it to our Paleolithic ancestors, do you have to forage & hunt down your own food? Outside of that time I forgot to pack enough food on a hiking adventure, I haven’t been in a position where I couldn’t get food. Instead I am constantly having to decide between the McDonalds, Papa Murphys, grocery store, and Little Caesar’s within 5 minutes walking distance from my house, and what I have in my fridge on a daily basis. No lack of access to food around, and I’d say the same is to go for a majority of people around who have sufficient funds to purchase any type of food.
Unlike them, I have something reasonable to add to all of this. Instead of starvation diets and obscene amounts of exercise, identifying the root causes for overeating, making small changes to food choices, and finding enjoyable ways to move is a great start to making the lifestyle changes to improve health. I’ve got a few free resources for you- click here to download my list of favorite healthy foods to keep on hand that actually cut down on your cooking time!
Diets suck and make your life suck, let’s acknowledge this and find something better.
What will this look like?
- Try new foods
- Eat more vegetables
- Follow intuitive eating practices
- Appreciate your body for what it allows you to do, not what it looks like
- Stop depriving yourself of foods you love, instead be mindful and enjoy eating them in moderation