It’s January, and that means lots of folks are resolving to shed excess pounds for the new year. I try not to talk about dieting and weight loss in this space. I’m a big believer in focusing on overall health rather than any sort of crash diet. A friend recently shared a New York Times piece on dieting, though, that really struck me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. I’d love to hear what you guys think about it, too!
The story was called The Fat Trap, and it was about an Australian researcher who took a look at how folks’ bodies behaved after extreme weight loss. Dieters in the program he studied were on a 500 calorie diet for 8 weeks, and afterwards, the weight always came back. The researcher was surprised to find that despite being a normal, healthy weight, these people’s bodies were clinically in starvation mode.
The article goes on to talk about folks’ struggles with weight loss (including the author’s), and how this researcher’s findings could change how we look at weight and health.
But wait..let’s back this up a little bit. These dieters were eating 500 calories a day for almost 2 months! Most nutritionists will tell you to never dip below 1200 calories a day and that most people need to consume more than that to get adequate nutrition. These people were experiencing starvation mode because they were starving themselves. When they finally started eating adequate calories again, their poor bodies were probably squirreling fat away for the next famine.
I totally get that some folks are predisposed to be bigger than others, but I don’t think that severe calorie restriction is the key to health for anyone. Our bodies need consistency and good nutrition to function well.
Freeing Ourselves from the Fat Trap
I think that what this study shows is that the way to lose weight and maintain it is to skip the whole “dieting” thing and make an actual lifestyle change. Counting calories is fine, if you’re trying to get an idea of where you’re at, but what’s more important is focusing on getting plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains in your diet and staying active.
The Mayo Clinic says that the average person should strength train twice a week and get “at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.”
It’s that combination of healthy food and adequate exercise that is the real key to avoiding the fat trap.
It totally sucks to put all of that effort into getting to a healthy weight and see it slip away, and it feels to me like the take-away from this fat trap study is that crash dieting isn’t part of healthy weight loss. I’ve struggled with my weight in the past, and it’s always when I get back to regular exercise and cut back on the junk food that I look and feel the best. What have your experiences been with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Tobyotter