Updated: May 7
Are you tired and frustrated from losing weight and subsequently putting the weight back on?
You are not the only one! Unsustained weight loss is very common with strict dietary regimens and diets which do not have a long-term plan. In this article I aim to help you to understand why diets don’t work and provide you with the essential steps to achieving sustainable weight loss.
There are many different types of diets promoted; low fat, low carb, intermittent fasting… However, despite the initial weight loss associated with these diets, weight regain is common for all. Weight regain occurs when you get bored and tired of a strict dietary pattern and return to old habits. We often feel hungry and tired with restrictive diets which can cause food cravings and result in binging and cessation of a diet before achieving our target weight. Eventually you might start another diet causing a constant cycle of dieting and binging making you feel defeated and preventing a sustained weight loss.
Our bodies favour weight regain. When we starve our bodies, our bodies adapt which causes a change in hunger hormones. This causes increased appetite and increased cravings which is one reason why diets can fail. Our bodies also adapt to lower energy intakes by slowing our metabolic rate making it harder to lose weight because our energy expenditure is lower. This requires a lower energy intake to lose weight which can be more difficult to achieve and maintain.
Of course, when speaking about weight we cannot avoid mentioning the obesogenic environment we are living in. The large portion sizes, the availability of fast foods, the higher cost of fruit and vegetables, marketing of high fat, sugar and salt foods, and the limited access to safe space for exercise all contribute to the risk of weight gain. Therefore, we need to find a way of overcoming these factors if we want to achieve a sustainable weight loss.
So, how can we achieve a sustainable weight loss? Diet, physical activity, and healthy behaviours.
All dieting strategies have the same aim, to achieve negative energy balance. Energy balance is a state where our energy intake is equivalent to our energy expenditure. Achieving negative energy balance allows weight loss to occur. But if all diets result in a level of weight regain, what can we do?
The answer is creating a diet that you can maintain. While very low-calorie diets result in rapid weight loss, reducing caloric intake by 600kcal per day is more achievable and will not leave you feeling hungry and craving foods. A 600kcal deficit for one week will result in weight loss of 1lb (0.5kg). For some this may be too drastic and a 200kcal/day deficit would be more realistic. This deficit is less restrictive and so is less likely to cause diet fatigue making it more sustainable. However if you've spent years chronically dieting and you are currently only taking in <1400kcal, then heck- its time to increase your food intake as your metabolism has actually slowed down by conserving energy from the 'famine' you are putting it in. Dont be afraid to eat good quality proteins, high fiber carbohydrates and unsaturated fats at every meal.
Physical activity helps to increase energy expenditure, the second component of the energy balance equation. Therefore, increases in physical activity can help with weight loss and are particularly important in maintaining weight loss. Before starting a diet, think about how you can increase your physical activity and how it can fit into your day without becoming a chore. Developing a habit and building physical activity into your daily routine can help you to sustain your weight loss.
Sustainable weight loss requires that you consider what factors are causing you to gain weight and find ways to overcome these. Think about your health behaviours, what is contributing to you gaining weight and what is stopping you from altering these? Developing ways to overcome these barriers now will help you to sustain your weight loss in the future.
Weight loss does not occur linearly and there are many barriers which can make it difficult to achieve. However, perseverance and a plan which is not extremely restrictive and helps you to develop healthy habits can help you to achieve a sustainable weight loss. Strict dieting strategies don’t work but with a holistic approach you can achieve a sustainable weight loss.
Developing an appropriate dietary strategy for sustained weight loss can be overwhelming and difficult to achieve on your own but speaking to a Registered Dietitian can help. A Registered Dietitian will guide you to overcome the barriers to weight loss and create a plan that can help you to achieve a healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Ever wondered which guidance you need? At Nutrition and Co , we offer an amazing health coaching pathway that covers ALL aspects of health and wellness. Our 3 month LifeSculpt nutrition and fitness program will solve ALL your weight loss barriers & give you the solution you need for weight loss that stays off.