Psychological Sustainability of Dieting

It is about time that we add another psychology driven article on this website considering we have seen nothing, but physiology and nutrition science for the past many months; and, albeit important, psychology is one of the largest drivers of success. So, in this article, we will discuss the biggest fault of dieters, a major yet basic physiological point that impacts dieting success, and how to change our mentality on dieting to claim greater success at a smaller cost.

What is Dieting?

Dieting is eating based on restriction of some sort for weight loss [1]. That is one of the official definitions of dieting and while it is not technically wrong, there are several others. However, among all of them there is a commonality and that commonality is the fact that there is a start and an end – this is where we will focus our discussion.

The Role of Metabolism?

Metabolism is simply what occurs in the body, chemically, to maintain life [2]. People impact their metabolism by eating fewer or more calories, as well as the macronutrient and micronutrient content of their food. Metabolism takes what it is given and adapts based on the availability of nutrients and energy; it adapts, because homeostasis (aka, the state of maintaining a constant) is of utmost importance to the body.

So, why are we discussing metabolism, specifically?

It comes down to first realizing that metabolism never goes away (it does, but only after we die). So, the metabolism that you have is the metabolism you will always have; you may increase or decrease your metabolism a small amount, but the metabolism you ended up with when you stopped growing is the vast majority of your metabolism for life. This matters, because people fail to realize this unwavering fact and the failure to realize this fact leads to a lot of stupid, nonsensical diet behavior that needs to be addressed.

We want to lose weight, so millions and millions of people jump on a variety of diet plans to get from their, presumably, unsatisfactory selves to their, presumably, satisfactory goal physique – this happens time and time again from person to person for a large number of reasons. Now, already there is a problem. The idea of dieting implies there is a stop date, which is completely incorrect – once you have started dieting, you may never stop dieting if you would like to maintain the goal physique you have achieved. Now, why is that?

Because of metabolism. Your metabolism will never go away, and therefore any change you enact on your body to see a dramatic difference in your body composition must never go away. If your metabolism stays relatively stable and you lose 10, 20, 30, (insert your weight lost) lbs, and then you “end” your diet – then you will regain the weight, because unless your metabolism changes for the better (“speeds up”), going back to your previous nutrition habits will always, 100% of the time, lead to weight regain.

Sustainability and Success?

So far we have only discussed the bare bones physiology of weight loss, dieting, etc, but the purpose of this article is to discuss some of the psychology behind dieting. If we believe metabolism is relatively stable and we realize dieting is typically characterized as having an “end point”; which, in turn leads to weight regain from the reintroduction of ad libitum consumption, then we should come to one rational conclusion:

We are screwed!

Just kidding, the rational conclusion would be to assume we cannot stop dieting, and even beyond that, we need to restructure our approach to dieting, because among the variety of diets we can choose from, there are few that are sustainable. So, taking this, we can assume that the most important characteristic of the diet you choose, other than its effectiveness, is its sustainability. The question you should be asking yourself first, even before starting the diet, is…

                                                                           “Can I do this for the rest of my life?”

If the answer is “no”, then you will fail to lose and maintain weight loss, regardless of how effective the diet may be. This means that a less effective (but still effective) diet that is sustainable is infinitely superior to a diet that is more effective, but may not be sustainable long term. In one instance, the results may be slower, but once the results are achieved, they will remain; however, in the other, the results may be quicker, but will fail to stick around and may even be eviscerated within a few weeks after months or even years of dieting.

SUMMARY

Having said that, in conclusion, we should be more focused on the sustainability of our diet rather than the effectiveness of our diet, although effectiveness is still equally important as a less effective, but more sustainable nutrition protocol is vastly superior to a more effective, but less sustainable protocol. We know this, because if metabolism remains relatively stable (it actually decreases) throughout, then a diet will be effective so long as that diet forces the metabolism to reduce body fat; however, once the diet is “ended”, ad libitum consumption will cause weight regain. If it took an effort to get to a certain body composition, it will take near the same effort to maintain that body composition.

Writer: Nicolas Verhoeven
Citations


[1] diet - definition of diet in English | Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/diet

[2] metabolism - definition of metabolism in English | Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/metabolism

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