As a "REBEL Registered Dietitian," I will tell you that I do not care about the number on the scale. We all have set points that are comfortable for our individual bodies, pre-determined before birth. I am also a huge believer in the Health at Every Size movement, which simply states "good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors."
That being said, due to societal influences and messages, there is a widespread yearning to achieve "thinness," particularly among athletes, who may have certain weight goals to play their sport or a belief that a certain weight will yield better results. Whatever the reason, certain things you may be doing to achieve an uncomfortable body weight can actually cause you to keep gaining weight!
After just 24 hours on a restricted diet, you can reduce your metabolic rate by 15 to 30 percent! When you go on a restricted diet, your body goes into starvation mode, slowing down your metabolism. This can actually cause you to store extra calories and hold more weight—plus, research shows 95 percent of weight lost through dieting is regained within 2 to 5 years.
A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that traditional restrictive diets are not only ineffective, they can also be counterproductive, promoting psychological distress and unhealthy eating behaviors.
Learn more about how undereating can cause you to gain weight.
Relying on external factors rather than internal hunger and fullness
Again, when we are dieting we usually rely on external cues to tell us when to eat, what meal plan to follow. What everyone else is eating may dictate our day. But the research shows that taking a non-diet approach and following intuitive eating cues help participants improve metabolic fitness and avoid psychological distress.
Cutting out entire food groups and restricting the foods you love
Cutting out your favorite foods only causes you to want them more and can lead to overeating. Fitting in your favorite foods in the right amounts and in the right settings (not stressed, bored or emotional) can help your body stay at its comfortable weight.
In similar fashion, cutting out entire food groups can be harmful to your body. A low-fat diet can leave you hungry and unsatisfied as well as depleted of important vitamins. If you don't get enough carbohydrates, you may experience fatigue, loss of focus, headaches and cravings, because your brain, muscles and nerves turn to carbohydrates first. When you slowly add carbohydrates over time, your body stores them since it has been deprived for so long. This can actually cause you to gain weight more easily—not to mention that you are likely to overeat carbohydrates because you have restricted them. Check out the video above to see how sports dietician Leslie Bonci builds a better plate filled with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables.
Eating processed foods
Don't be fooled by the low-fat, low-calorie foods in the grocery store. Three things make food taste good: salt, sugar and fat. If something is "sugar free," it likely contains artificial ingredients, not to mention more fat and salt to make it taste better. It won't be as satisfying and can leave you wanting more. If you think you are doing good by eating low-fat products, think again. Fat contributes to satiety, and leaving out fat at your meals and snacks only causes you to be hungrier later—and probably overeat.
Lack of self-care
It is important to find happiness and joy in your daily life. If you are running ragged and not getting enough sleep, food can be a source of comfort or relief. When this happens, eating is not as enjoyable, nor does it serve its purpose. A study researching the effects of stress on eating behavior concluded: "The overall increase in snacking during stress was reflected by reports of increased intake of 'snack-type' foods in all respondents, regardless of dieting status. In contrast, intake of 'meal-type' foods (fruit and vegetables, meat and fish) was reported to decrease during stressful periods."
Accept where you are right now. Remember that genetics, social pressures and learned behaviors differ for everyone. In fact, 50 to 80 percent of weight is determined by genes, so it's important to be happy at every size and shape. Do not let life pass you by or put your goals on hold until you reach a certain body weight. Stay positive about what your current body can do for you. Turn negative self-talk into positive affirmations every day. Studies show that intuitive eating also helps improve body satisfaction.
If we can learn to accept our natural shapes and sizes and meet our bodies' need for fuel, we can stay at a weight that is comfortable and healthy.
- Matz, Judith. Beyond the Shadow of a Diet.
- Oliver, Georgina and Wardle, Jane "Perceived Effects of Stress on Food Choice," Physiology and Behavior; May 1999, Vol 6 Number 3, pp. 511-515.
- Pershing, Amy. "First, Do No Harm," Binge Eating Disorder Association.
- Schaefer, Julie; Magnunson, Amy B. "A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues," Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteics; May 2014, Volume 114 Number 5, pp. 634-760.
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