The article in the Times the other morning has certainly stirred up a great deal of sentiment online. Not only did I write about it, but so did the Washington Post and there have been articles in Mother Jones and now this article, once again in the Times, adding more information.
The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.
Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet–MAY 6, 2016
This is an alternate branch of science weighing in. The brain is doing something to change the metabolism of the dieter. According to this article people that never attempt to lower their weight on purpose end up gaining less weight in their lives than people that do so, and the earlier that they attempt to control their weight by starving the more weight they gain over their lives.
Some experts argue that instead of dieting leading to long-term weight gain, the relationship goes in the other direction: People who are genetically prone to gain weight are more likely to diet. To test this idea, in a 2012 study, researchers followed over 4,000 twins aged 16 to 25. Dieters were more likely to gain weight than their non-dieting identical twins, suggesting that dieting does indeed increase weight gain even after accounting for genetic background. The difference in weight gain was even larger between fraternal twins, so dieters may also have a higher genetic tendency to gain. The study found that a single diet increased the odds of becoming overweight by a factor of two in men and three in women. Women who had gone on two or more diets during the study were five times as likely to become overweight.
Statistics drive me crazy. Words like “more likely” can be true but very misleading. The fact that women that have gone on two diets or more are five times as likely to become overweight is almost a silly statistic. How many men or women go on diets if they are not concerned about becoming overweight. Does it matter to this study that now two out of every three adults in the United States is overweight? Does it matter to this study that now vast numbers of grade schoolers in the United States is overweight?
Why would dieting lead to weight gain? First, dieting is stressful. Calorie restriction produces stress hormones, which act on fat cells to increase the amount of abdominal fat. Such fat is associated with medical problems like diabetes and heart disease, regardless of overall weight.
Second, weight anxiety and dieting predict later binge eating, as well as weight gain. Girls who labeled themselves as dieters in early adolescence were three times more likely to become overweight over the next four years. Another study found that adolescent girls who dieted frequently were 12 times more likely than non-dieters to binge two years later.
In this article we have a ‘root of the problem’ and then we have a first and second reason that dieting leads to weight gain. In my mind the root of the problem is on target for how the body cuts back on it’s energy usage when it sees a challenge to it’s fat stores. The brain and endocrine systems are the mechanism by which this occurs. Stress to the mind and the body are the triggers to the brain to take action thru the endocrine system. Binge eating is a different mental process and is usually associated with the defective compulsive behaviors of the addict. When eating becomes and addictive behavior a person can gain weight, this is true, but this is not affecting two out of three Americans.
However, as far as not gaining weight goes, there is only one way to keep the body from making fat out of what we eat, and that is to not eat carbohydrates. If you do not make fat you don’t have to worry about when or if your body will use it. It turns out that starving will not work long-term nor will ‘busting your ass’ exercising. Either of these things ends up changing both your mind and your body to harden it’s resolve to keep fat, and sacrifice everything else to do so. If you want to not gain more weight, quit eating carbs. Don’t eat processed food because it contains hidden sugar and other science based products. Processed foods will have a known affect on your weight, they will make it go up.
Eat real food. Don’t worry about your weight, it will take care of itself. Stressing about weight is counterproductive. Starving is counterproductive. Dieting is counterproductive. There is only one way to lose weight and that is to not put it on. The best diet is No Diet.
I agree with you about the carbs and especially the processed foods. I recently read an article that found fructose actually reacts with and modifies the DNA in our brain, but omega-3 can help block these changes. Another factor is those endo-cannabanoids that are derived from omega-6. I truly believe that is a major factor that allowed me to lose 50 pounds and keep them off. I promise you–I tried for 20 years and like the article said I kept gaining in the end. I do still keep frequent track of my weight and choose lower calorie foods when I need to stop any gain. You can call that a diet, but it is really just a lifestyle change–I do not starve–I eat frequently.
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Your comments are always so spot-on Dr Lores. Thank you for your contributions to the conversation.
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What a fascinating post! Loved it – it makes so much sense, even if counterintuitive sense. Thank you for sharing.
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Thank you for feedback. I believe it quite strongly, as you can tell.
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