“Last year we were intermittent fasting, this year we’re going carnivorous.”
New Year’s Resolutions can be inspiring; there’s a surge of extra energy that comes in January, and there’s a collective focus to better ourselves, but could starting a new diet actually be a detriment to your health in 2020?
I love a good New Year’s Resolution, but they can imply an all-or-nothing approach, especially when it comes to our diet. It’s a familiar story: we find the newest, strictest diet, with little room for failure, then we inevitably slip up, binge eat, and attempt to get back on the diet on Monday. This is known as weight cycling or more commonly as ‘yo-yo’ dieting. Instead of giving you the results you want, weight cycling can wreak havoc on your body and cause you to end up heavier by the end of the year.
Two studies – one in humans, and one in rats – clearly demonstrate the negative impact that extreme dieting can have on the body.
In the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which was conducted during World War Two, men were put on diets containing roughly 50% of their usual calories. They became depressed, obsessed with food, and experienced a decline in their ability to concentrate and make decisions. Additionally their basal metabolic rate (the calories used for regular body processes, not activity) was drastically reduced, causing drops in body temperature and energy levels.
And when these men could eat freely again, they would binge and overeat until they gradually regained all the weight they lost! So if you’ve ever felt enormous guilt when you break your diet and polish off a bag of chips, you aren’t alone.
This behaviour isn’t limited to humans; rat studies show that animals which have been put on very low-calorie diets end up with higher body fat percentages when they return to their regular weight. They also become more efficient with their calories, meaning they require less food to maintain their weight.
This suggests that every time you start an intense diet, you’re teaching your body that energy is scarce, and you encourage it to become more economical with calories.
This cycle of ‘on again, off again’ dieting gives rise to a gradual weight gain, as every time you go on another crash diet you further decrease your metabolism. This weight cycle can also impact organ function and inflammation levels.
So this year let’s skip the resolutions about eating 100% perfectly, or exercising until we vomit, and teach our community that health isn’t just for January. Let’s get them excited about exercising and eating in a way that energises them, by keeping our goals function-focused and vitality boosting.
Because at the end of the day life isn’t about weighing 5% less, and crash diets aren’t going to get you anywhere but a sad slump and a biscuit binge.
Weight increase over adult lifespan –
Minnesota Starvation experiment –
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