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Published on January 6th, 2012 | by Becky Striepe


The Fat Trap?

The Fat Trap

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

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

2 Responses to The Fat Trap?

  1. Anita Avalos says:

    I found the “Fat Trap” article extremely depressing. I am a Holistic Health Coach and I work specifically with women and show them how to ditch the diet roller-coaster and release weight effortlessly by coming into a more loving relationship with their bodies and food. I myself have released over 35+ pounds and have kept it off for 6 years. I don’t diet, I don’t spend hours in the gym, I don’t deprive myself, and I don’t believe that my genetics are my fate. When you love yourself, you don’t abuse yourself by over or under-eating. When you start to listen to yourself, you start to get to the truth, to your natural state of wisdom. I never used to do that when I was in dieting hell. I never trusted myself…I trusted the diet industry. I thought that I was doomed to a life that was all about restriction, control, and that in the end, I would never really have a body I loved. Step one was loving myself, truly. Then, I started allowing natural, unprocessed foods into my daily intake more and more, not a bunch of “diet” foods. I stopped working out like a maniac. I started slowing down. And guess what? The weight started to release.
    I just released a free video training series to help women empower their lives without another new year’s diet. I hope that it does just that. We are not doomed by genetics. There is a better way to go about this and it all starts with love.

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