DIETING doesn't work – in the long-term.
We all know that and yet, loads of us still sign up to plans and embark on restrictive ways of eating.
But if we're serious about losing body fat, then we might want to start off by looking at our mindset.
Because most diets aren't even backed up by science.
At least, that's what behavioural change therapist Dr Healther McKee believes.
She's been telling Healthista that we're constantly being bombarded with messages about how to lose weight.
"It's overwhelming and it's confusing," she says.
"Often these messages are not backed by the science of what is most effective".
She says that in order to lose and sustain weight, you first have to understand why most diets fail.
"When my clients first come to me for habit coaching, they tend to have developed such a negative relationship with food that they are not sure what to or how to eat anymore.
"They are so wrapped up in the dieting mindset, of what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’, they no longer feel they can eat what they want and often avoid certain foods."
She's shared three tips with Healthista for losing weight more effectively – without restriction:
1. Ditch the diet
"80 per cent of diets fail in the first year, and even more in the second," Dr McKee explains.
"After about five years, around 41 per cent of dieters regain more weight than they originally lost. What is interesting is that this effect is strongest in those who started in the normal weight category."
And that's because of something called adaptive thermogenesis.
When you lose weight, your body starts to release hormones to slow down the weight loss reaction because burning fat is hard for the body to do and it takes a lot of energy to do it.
So the body will start to slow down how much energy it burns at rest – slowing down our metabolism.
Thus dieting can cause emotional eating patterns, promote stress and results in long term weight gain
By dieting, our capacity for burning calories slows down and we feel more hungry.
And mentally, dieting can impact on how we view food.
"Dieting itself has been independently linked with chronic psychological stress and cortisol production – two factors that are known to cause weight gain. Thus dieting can cause emotional eating patterns, promote stress and results in long term weight gain."
Dr McKee cites a study which looked at a group of teens who were put on a diet for eight weeks.
"At the end of the trial period, female adolescents had increased binge eating and decreased breakfast consumption. The male adolescents also had increased binge eating and decreased their exercise.
"Ultimately, they found that not only did these teenagers gain back all the weight, but they also reported feeling hungrier and more food obsessed than before they started the diet."
In fact, she says that simply hearing the word "diet" can send our bodies into a frenzy.
"Researchers have found that merely telling people they are going on a diet the following week caused them to overcompensate and eat significantly more than others who were not told that they were going on a diet," she says.
2. Don't fall for "diets in disguise"
Go on Instagram and you'll see "wellness" and "body positive" influencers chat about hating diet culture while promoting the latest detox fad.
That might be celery juice, juicing packages or a new miraculous tea.
But anything that involves restricting calories or consuming special kinds of food to lose weight is actually a diet.
"In reference to juice cleanses, research has shown that even as little as one juice a day is associated with increased risk of type two diabetes and long-term weight gain," says Dr McKee.
Research has shown that even as little as one juice a day is associated with increased risk of type two diabetes and long-term weight gain
"This is because the process of juicing often removes the majority of the insoluble fibre, vitamins and minerals that make fruit healthy, thus you are left with sugars, in high doses and no protein for that full feeling."
We know that there's no real scientific evidence behind fasting or "juice cleansing", because our bodies do all the detoxing necessary.
But you can help your internal detoxifying organs out by drinking plenty of water and eating loads of fibre via fruit and veg and whole grains.
3. Stop weighing yourself
Scales can be a good indicator of what's going on with your body but it's not the only factor.
In fact, you could easily weigh the same – if not more – after a few weeks of eating healthily and working out daily, because you've put on muscle and lost body fat.
"We are led to believe that focusing on numbers on the scale is the key to success," Dr McKee says.
"For some people, regular daily weighing can help them be more at ease with daily fluctuations in their weight.
All this focus on weight loss as the goal is dangerous and can have a negative impact on your long-term success.
"However, for the rest of us focusing on numbers on the scale fosters an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. This mindset has an extremely negative impact on your weight loss success, it can lead to obsessive thoughts about food and weight.
"All this focus on weight loss as the goal is dangerous and can have a negative impact on your long-term success."
In fact, she says that her own research has found that scales barely feature in successful long-term weight maintenance, and that people who managed to shift body fat tended to focus on weight loss as a lifestyle change rather than a diet.
4. Make weight loss a lifestyle
"The evidence has shown that often those who are successful in weight maintenance experience a shift in their identity – rather than feeling restricted or deprived by their weight control practices (such as, through dieting), they feel more liberated, both in their lifestyle and also in how they think and feel about themselves (for example, through focusing on developing healthier habits)," she explains.
"The key factor that these successful weight maintainers from our study had in common was their focus on the process; the daily changes they needed to make consistently for success to occur, rather than the outcome (kg/lbs lost on the scales).
The truth is, she says, weight loss needs to be gradual in order for it to be maintainable and it's only achievable when you break the journey into small, positive, daily changes.
If you've done the same thing repeatedly and not seen any results, it's time to change.
"It's time to let go of this dieting mindset once and for all. It will never work for you."
This article first appeared on Healthista.
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