Have you noticed how difficult it is to lose weight all over again every time you gain it back? You are not crazy, there is a concrete physiological reason why this is the case! We spoke with Rachel Berman, R.D., director of health at About.com, about why this constant cycle is so detrimental, yet all too common.
”It's encouraging to see results fast and a restrictive diet may lead to more rapid weight loss," she explains. "However, being on too much of a restrictive diet and losing weight quickly impacts your hunger hormones.” This means that not only is it mentally and physically harder to lose weight again, but that your hormones are actually working against you. (Find out about the hormones in food—the good, the bad, and the dangerous.)
”Dramatic calorie restrictions and extreme dieting decreases your levels of leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full, while increasing ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger," Berman explains.
But bad news: this is not only the case while on a diet. Research from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that our hormonal levels persist this way long after your "diet" is over. Therefore, you're not as satisfied as you were before the diet, which means you eat more, then gain more weight. So what can we do about it?
Adjust What It Means to Be on a "Diet”
Avoid cutting out entire food groups unnecessarily, blindly following a plan that worked for your friend or celebrities, and focus on what your body needs. Berman suggests focusing on making small tweaks to your diet over time, not an immediate overhaul. (Check out 5 Reasons Most of Us Should NOT Go Gluten-Free.) Keep moving. ”Exercise can not only boost calories burned, but can help regulate the hunger hormone battle," Berman explains.
Food Can Be Your Friend
When it comes down to it though, this toxic cycle of gaining and losing weight, restriction and overeating, is inextricably tied to an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead of thinking of food as nourishment or as a vehicle for energy and health, "it becomes a pawn in your efforts to lose weight," says Berman. "Any social situations with food becomes stressful and an obsession with what you look like and what you weigh can take control of your life.”
You're Not Alone
Remember to go easy on yourself! If you are prone to this kind of thinking, really take some time to step back and reflect on what you're really after. Is your ultimate goal really those last six stubborn pounds? Or is it to look in the mirror and like what you see? It all boils down to self-worth. No amount of broccoli or cardio interval training can take the place of loving who you are today. (You can be all that bass, and the treble too!) So remember that you are a beautiful human who is more than just your body. Remember your strengths and all you contribute to this world. The second you surround yourself with positive thoughts and supportive people, the weight will fall off.
By Katie McGrath, CPT-ACSM, HHC for DietsInReview.com