Why do so many people go on a diet, to then end up gaining more weight than before? It’s because there are so many misconceptions out there about dieting and weight loss, and the majority of dieters are under-informed. Like most things out there, there is a right way and a wrong way to diet, and it all comes down to the means you use to get to the end. The end being the weight loss.
Arguably the most common method of dieting is counting calories. While it is proven that consuming less calories leads to weight loss, there are other factors to this method that also determine your short-term and long-term results. Let’s take Weight Watchers for example. As a former user of WW, the goal is to stay within your assigned number of daily calories. Let’s say you cave and eat a muffin along with your normal egg breakfast and suddenly realize you are already up to 550 calories and it’s only 8:30am. It looks like you’re skipping lunch to make up for that overindulgence, and by dinner you’re ravenous and can’t resist that second serving. Even if you managed to stay under your daily calorie allotment, this method WILL NOT lead to long-term sustained weight loss.
Skipping meals is not the way to go, and will usually backfire…right back on to your hips. Studies have shown that skipping meals can mess with your metabolism and cause you more trouble; here’s how it works.
When you skip a meal and don’t eat for an extended period of time, your body triggers a famine response, which means that your metabolism slows down in an attempt to preserve energy and your body increases fat storage for survival. The longer you go without eating, the more you are training your body that it must store (rather than burn) fat and calories, because it doesn’t know when the next meal will come. Our bodies are biologically programmed this way for survival.
Inevitably, one day you get off your diet and go back to eating normally. Even if you had temporarily lost weight from the calorie decrease, you’re in for a surprise. With the slower metabolism you have created, every mouthful you take is going to affect you more than it did before the diet. You will likely regain the weight from the fat that your body has learned to store during those starvation periods. And then it was all for what???
While everyone is different, these are scientifically proven processes in your body that many people don’t take into consideration. More frequent eating keeps the metabolism running and active, and prevents the body from using the emergency-like famine responses. If you think that this means your food choices don’t matter and you can eat whatever you want as often as you want, then you need to go back to the basics. Obviously, when you are eating more often (and even when you’re not), you should choose healthy food options, which also will keep your calorie count low.
So, my friends, permission to snack. But put down the Cheetos…