When I started using the phrase “restrictive diets do not work and can even make you fat,” a few years ago, people did not understand. They were frightened, confused, doubted.
One of the first times I said this publicly in an interview was a real boom! Several journalists started calling me to try to understand better who the nutritionist was saying the exact opposite of what everyone had been talking about for so many decades.
I assure you: I was not crazy to say that, so I continue to fight against the culture of restrictive diets. And I did not wake up from day to night thinking like that, but I relied on studies of nutrition, human metabolism, nutrigenomics, and neuroscience of human behavior to confirm what I already suspected when I began to study Nutrition.
At that time, I already thought it was absurd to use just a simple calorie count to help people lose weight. Our body is much more complex than that! I have always believed that deprivation leads to very great stress and even compulsion.
Fortunately, research in this area has been advancing, and today we know that 95% of people on restrictive diets regain weight, sometimes gaining even more weight than they did at first.
In fact there are studies of almost 100 years ago that already spoke this. But today this concept has become more widespread, and it is increasingly clear that our weight is not influenced solely by the calories we ingest and that we burn by exercising. It also involves the metabolic, behavioral, social context, emotional problems, family history, genetic factors, environment and a million other factors.
So, I have put together a list of reasons to help you stop believing in restrictive diets that promise miracles, and instead have a calmer, more pleasurable relationship with food and reach your healthy weight in peace.
Restrictive diets attack the body
Restrictive diets are so aggressive to the body that they can generate side effects for many years, even after a person abandons this type of method. I can list three important changes, from the physical point of view, generated by methods of radical constraints.
- Increases appetite
- Decrease metabolism
- Contribute to the accordion effect
In order for you to understand how this works, I need to explain a bit how the body reacts to a restriction-based diet: be it a fast, a very drastic caloric reduction or even the exclusion of an entire food group (such as low carb diets, example).
Our body needs energy to function, and that energy comes in the form of food. Even when we are sleeping, or standing still, doing absolutely nothing, we need those calories. This is what we call the basal metabolism – which is the minimum amount of energy we need to maintain the vital functions of our body at rest.
When a person starts a restrictive diet, and starts to eat less, the body goes into a state of alert: “opa, danger sign”.
Her brain does not know she’s trying restrictive diets to get into a dress, for example, or to dare put on her bikini in the summer. He only understands this restraint as an aggression! And with that, it increases your appetite, asks for more food, and brings more hunger.
But this food does not come, so it reacts as primitively as possible: keeping energy to protect itself. For this, it lowers the metabolism and starts to spend energy in a very slow, very economic way.
And what happens? The person gets fat again.
Therefore, restrictive diets may even work in the beginning, but in the long run, they end up contributing to the person regaining weight and becoming a victim of the accordion effect.
Restrictive diets mug the mind
From the behavioral point of view, it is worth to understand a little more about the vicious cycle of diets: restriction → desire → exaggeration → guilt. See if you can identify.
- First, there is the restriction: “I can not eat much otherwise I will gain weight.” “Sweet, no way!” “
- This increases desire: “All I wanted now was to eat a candy!” … “What if I eat only a little bit?”
- He ends up exaggerating: he feels that he “already made a mistake”, so he will eat more and more. Even sick!
- Here comes the blame: “Well, life, I’ve failed again. I’m going to have to start another diet even more restrictive next Monday! So I’ll say goodbye and eat a lot, because then I’ll have to shut my mouth! “
Can you understand where I’m going? Yes, it’s an endless cycle. Yes, failure in restrictive diets is the most normal thing in the world.
And this sense of failure fuels an upset relationship with food, which can lead to:
- An exaggerated obsession with food
- An emotional eating
- A higher risk of developing eating disorder
And then? Are you convinced that restrictive diets are not a good weight loss strategy?
So how do you reach a healthy weight?
This is the question everyone asks themselves. If it is not for calorie restriction, how will I lose weight? I always recommend three tips, which are very simple but, when put into practice, have shown satisfactory results.
- Do not diet restrictively.
- Eat more real foods.
- Cook it!
Also, make peace with the food. Food is not your enemy! Stop thinking that certain things get fat and allow yourself to eat the things you like with pleasure and moderation!
These are the three pillars that I advocate with my patients and students from the online Sophie Effect program. But reviewing your beliefs and myths about eating is also important.
So, you who are there on the other side, how about rethinking how your food is? Do you see feeding as a process full of guilt and stress?
The good news is that it is possible to make peace with food and live a quiet (and healthy!) Life. Want to know more? Visit my website and get to know the Sophie Effect online program.
Six weeks of video lessons, assignments and activities online to listen to your body’s signs of hunger and satiety, and review your concepts about healthy eating.