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A not very merry go round

Nurturing

VICIOUS CIRCLE Diets that focus on calorie control and restriction can lead to a constant roller-coaster of weight loss and gain.

Health
Paul O'Brien

Many of you may have tried dieting in the past to lose weight. Weight loss and dieting is a big-money industry. Just walk into any city centre-book shop and check out the reams of books on the subject. There’s a diet to fit every lifestyle, blood type and inclination.
Many diets centre around calorie control and restriction. This approach to dieting does not work. Research shows that more than half of those who lose 10 percent or more of their body weight gain it all back within five years. This can lead to yo-yo dieting, a constant roller-coaster of weight loss and gain.

Cha-cha-changes
Your body’s total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is comprised of your basal metabolic rate (BMR) (how many calories you burn daily to just survive and allow all your bodily functions to operate); the amount of energy you burn when eating (thermic effect of food) and the energy you expend through activity.
When you lose a significant amount of weight by restricting a food group, you also lower your body’s BMR. For example, let’s say your BMR before you start dieting is 2,500 calories per day. Then you begin a calorie restriction diet, aiming for 300 calories less per day. Recent research suggests that your BMR will adjust to the new rate (2,200 calories).
The problem is that calorie restriction also sets off metabolic and hormonal changes in our bodies that make keeping the lost weight off much harder. These changes, some of which occur in the brain, prime our bodies to be on the lookout for food. In ancient times, this wasn’t an issue due to food scarcity; humans could survive on less food with a corresponding lower BMR. In modern times, we are exposed to an over-abundance of food, mostly the unhealthy sort. This ‘obesogenic’ environment, coupled with those hormonal changes brought about by calorie restriction, means it’s easier for us to fall back into unhealthy habits.

Doing the sums
The results are usually disastrous. Even if you are still eating well and avoiding junk, you will still struggle to maintain your new weight. Your BMR has now altered and will likely remain that way. You now have an imbalance in the in-out equation. You are back to eating your normal amount of food (2,500 cals) but your BMR is now ticking along at 2,200 calories. Slowly the weight comes back on and six months later you are heavier than when you started and back to square minus one.

The solution
To stop this crazy roller-coast ride that is playing havoc with your body’s metabolism and your overall health. You need to think long-term. Eating nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, quality proteins from legumes and grass-fed meat and fish and good sources of fats will provide the body with fuel it can use. This is in stark contrast to dumping a lot of surplus calories from processed foods into your system, triggering insulin release and fat storage. When changing your diet, focus on quality, not quantity.

What’s the why?
Be clear about your long-term goals. What will abundant health and vitality bring to your life and that of your family, for instance? Ask yourself what one action you could take today to move towards a healthier lifestyle. Think outside your diet. Could you exercise a little more? Could you join a supportive community group that emphasises lifestyle change? You want to develop a long-term lifestyle management plan. The key is long-term planning for sustainable change.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or rofstudio@gmail.com.

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