In this “Why Diets Don’t Work” series, I’ve reviewed the reasons why “diets” (as in short term, drastic caloric restriction or some stringent eating plan) don’t work. This includes:
- “diet” products sucking;
- metabolic and hormonal disruption;
- loss of lean body mass (LBM), including muscle; and
- the problem of a simplistic, short-term solution to a complex long-term problem.
The short and sweet conclusion I promised?
- Drastic diets or diets without exercise chew through muscle and lean body mass. Less LBM means lower BMR and more relative bodyfat. Lower BMR means eventually putting on additional bodyfat in the long run.
- Chronic calorie restriction puts your hormones out of whack and disrupts your appetite and eating patterns. It affects your brain chemistry, your gastrointestinal hormones, your cell signaling, and other hormonal factors. Essentially your whole metabolic environment is screwed up, and your body’s natural ability to regulate your intake and output goes offline.
- Constantly “failing” at dieting reinforces dysfunctional eating patterns and your own sense of inadequacy. It also ensures that when the inevitable post-diet binge happens, your body is beautifully primed to store any additional nutrients as fat.
Thus: short-term, drastic caloric restriction is not a good solution for long term weight maintenance and bodyfat loss.
Now that I’ve depressed everyone, let me tell you what DOES work.
What does work is mild, long-term, sane caloric restriction, and the proper combination of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein), combined with weight training and cardiovascular exercise.
While losing fat and getting healthy is simple once you understand the basics, “simple” doesn’t mean “easy”. It’s not a quick fix. If you are overfat, it likely took you a long time to get there, so it will take a while to reduce bodyfat and gain muscle. But that’s OK. Small, slow changes are lasting changes. If you need help with this project, I strongly recommend Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating coaching program, which I designed — so you can be sure it’s not BS.
Make is a commitment to your body and to a change in lifestyle. And quit looking for the magic bullet.