In my profession, I run into roller coaster dieters and they all have the same thought after they have lost a significant amount of weight… This time it will be different and the weight will stay off. Trust me, I wish it would but the reality is, most likely weight loss through dieting will not stay off. In fact, if I was in Vegas I would bet my life savings on it because over 9 out of 10 times it doesn’t. The problem with dieting is that restrictive behaviors are 1. near impossible to stick to, and 2. damage metabolism and muscle tissue. When a person diets, they are restricting calories no matter how you look at it. Whether they are doing a low carb diet or a low-calorie diet the end result is the same; large caloric restriction that creates a large daily caloric deficit. Large caloric deficits are very difficult to stick to because your body is looking for something that is missing. Your body wants to at least maintain its weight and when there are not enough calories to do so, it’s going to be hungry looking for them. Your hunger is the first thing you have to deal with. You also have to deal with the psychological aspect of telling yourself you can’t have something that you want. The more you do that, the more you want it. It doesn’t take long for most people to snap in a situation like this. “I’m hungry and I can’t eat what I want” is something that even the strongest willed person can only deal with for so long.
If you do stick to a large caloric deficit diet and lose a significant amount of weight, the true end result is never good. Large caloric deficit leads to large amounts of muscle loss. Unfortunately, when you have a large deficit, all the energy cannot come from body fat alone. Our systems don’t work that way because it needs a carbohydrate base to burn body fat which comes from breaking down muscle tissue in dire situations when calories are not taken in from an outside source. At the same time, our bodies hate to do this and try to compensate by slowing metabolism down and holding on to as much fat as possible. It’s basically preparing for future gaps without enough energy by slowing things down. Roller coaster dieting is a vicious cycle of under eating causing muscle loss and damaging metabolism followed by over eating/potentially binge eating and gaining body fat. The end result over time is actually higher weight gain, not less weight gain! It’s also very difficult to get what your body needs nutritionally daily on low-calorie crash diets which can create nutritional deficiencies that lead to other health problems.
Want to know how to lose weight and keep it off? There’s only one way to do it. Permanent eating habit changes and exercise. Some things never change! To lose and keep weight off, you need to create a small daily caloric deficit so that you maintain your muscle tissue and metabolism on route to your goals. Your caloric intake should lower slowly as you progress. For instance, let’s say you need 2500 calories a day to maintain your weight, you start your weight loss by creating a couple hundred calorie deficit per day. This would result in about a half pound of weight loss per week (nearly all fat; could even gain muscle weight if you add weight training to your routine). After a month or two you may run into a plateau of weight loss. At that point, you have adapted to the deficit and you are most likely ready to drop your caloric intake a little bit more. If you never create a deficit over 500 kcals and you have decent balance with your nutrition, your hunger needs should be relatively manageable. A 500 calorie deficit per day will result in about a pound a week of weight loss. Once you reach a healthy weight, you will consume as many calories a day as you burn and your weight will maintain where it is at. Maintenance is much easier because when you consume as many calories as you burn, you’re not at a deficit looking for something that isn’t there. I find the best way to create deficit is through exercise. That way you are encouraging muscle strength and gains at the same moment as encouraging body fat loss. There also has been a link to exercise curbing hunger which can help you deal with the hunger associated with being at a negative caloric intake (deficit).
Key points to permanent habit changes include eating throughout the day, having a reasonable caloric deficit when weight loss is the goal (around 500 kcals per day when losing trying to lose weight), and most importantly, not dieting but changing your eating habits for good. Most people develop poor habits over years. Take steps towards permanent change and don’t feel like you have to change everything over night. If you keep your habits in check, you will find they evolve over a lifetime. Taking steps in the process of self-improvement is always a positive approach.