So if you’re here at The Unedit on a regular enough basis, you may already know about our stance on diet culture. To put it simply, diets don’t work. Whilst yes, we can find ourselves losing weight, the results are rarely ever permanent, with most people regaining the original weight that they’d shed, and in lots of cases, even some extra poundage on top of that. And all the while, magazines, TV shows and diet companies encourage you to strive for bodily perfection. Where does that leave you? More often than not, just trapped in a vicious cycle… and broke. But when you’re handing over your money to slimming clubs and ‘magic’ weight loss concoctions, are any of them actually telling you what happens on the inside whilst you’re watching your waistline shrink? Of course they’re not. So, with the help from Dr Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (if you haven’t read it by now, you really should), we’re going to tell you everything that your Fat Fighters consultant won’t.
1. Dieting reduces your energy levels
Think of your iPhone battery — when it’s running out of juice, you go to Settings and put it on Low Power Mode, right? That’s what your body is doing. It doesn’t want to waste precious energy if it doesn’t know where its next meal is coming from, or how much energy that meal is going to provide. Low Power Mode = hello, grouchy.
2. Your metabolism goes bye-bye
Your body doesn’t like dieting. In fact, your body finds it such an unnatural concept that gradually various metabolic processes are taken down a few notches. With that, it significantly slows down the rate at which calories are burnt by your body, therefore making it harder to shift the weight, and it certainly does you no favours post-diet.
3. Your appetite goes through the roof
Our bodies produce a hormone called leptin, which is essentially our own built-in appetite suppressant. When we go on a diet, our leptin production levels drop, therefore kickstarting your appetite. The further down the rabbit hole of yoyo dieting you are, the less responsive your leptin production becomes, and eventually it’s done with you and your on/off dieting. So what happens? Your leptin levels remain permanently low, and in exchange, your appetite stays up, until the weight is regained to what is seen as acceptable for your set point (more on that another time).
4. You crave foods with a high fat content
Lots of the diet studies that have allowed professionals to understand what goes on when we adapt our diets have been done with the help of rats. (Whilst we don’t stand with animal testing in any capacity, HAES uses these rat trials to back up the facts.) According to studies, yoyo dieting rats are more inclined to choose foods that are higher in fat — and it’s believed that it correlates with us humans, too, due to our genetic similarities. Which would make sense really, because if your body's purposefully running your energy levels down low to preserve it, the more fat it can manage to store, the better.
5. Your muscle mass gets a direct hit
When you diet, you can often work your body so hard with your ‘programme’ that, yes, you lose weight, but not the weight you want to be losing. Rather than shifting fat cells, people can lose muscle mass. And that’s only what you’re doing to your body. On the inside, your body is desperately clutching on to as much body fat as possible (due to its current starvation mode), and your muscles are the ones to suffer. It’s also important to remember that the less muscle you have, your calorie burning decreases even more — muscle burns more calories than fat.
6. You get cold
Nobody likes being cold at the best of times, but your body’s autopilot emergency response also includes dropping your body temperature to preserve as much energy as possible. So you’re grumpy, tired, and chilly? Who wants that?
7. Your body finds it easier to use up calories from food
Pre-dieting, your body was pretty confident when it comes to how to use energy from food, and with that, food we ate lasted us longer. But with dieting, it becomes easier for your body to use up calories and turn our food into energy faster. Whilst that might sound like a good thing, this actually means that you digest food quicker, and as a result, you’re left feeling hungrier sooner after eating.
8. Your enzymes get messed up
The enzymes in our body do a lot of hard work for us. When it comes to weight regulation, enzymes play an important part: there’s lipoprotein lipase, which is a fat-storage enzyme, and another lipase enzyme that’s fat-releasing. When are leptin levels drop, our lipoprotein lipase levels increase, meaning that we hold on to more fat.
9. Your hunger cues lose their efficacy
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that will be the first to let you know if you’re feeling a bit peckish. It works alongside the previously mentioned hormone leptin and another hormone called ghrelin; the hormones offer your hypothalamus the information it needs about your nutritional status, and all together they offer a start/stop button-like situation when it comes to you and your hunger. Once you’ve messed up your leptin levels, your hypothalamus isn’t receiving the right signals and it starts to question whether you’re hungry or full. As your hunger signals become more unreliable, it becomes really easy to mistake your emotional needs for hunger, and eat when you don’t need to. Sound familiar?
So, there you have it: your body hates it when you diet. Why put yourself — or your insides — through it?