There are many ways that you can lose weight. I’ll talk about some of the common ones below and you may have even tried some of these!
However, both research and practical experience shows that the long term failure rate of nearly every diet is very high – 85-90% or more of all dieters regain all the weight lost and even more.
This is because of two factors that are overlooked/intentionally ignored by nearly everyone!
Lifestyle factors need to be changed and the fact that nearly all diet plans increase reliance on stress hormones for you to function and therefore depress your metabolism.
Let’s take a look at some of these popular diets:
On this plan, you can eat whatever you like as long as you are heavily restricting calories. Besides the obvious downside of allowing junk food, the fact that this diet relies on calorie deprivation dooms it to fail long term for all but a select few.
Any diet that relies on calorie deprivation drives your metabolism lower and elevates stress hormones. You will lose weight temporarily doing this. But as soon as you return to eating more normally, and you will, your body quickly packs back on the lost fat.
The Zone diet has you eating a very low calorie diet (1500 cals for an adult male, see above) composed of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Every meal and snack has to be in that exact ratio on this diet.
This level of micromanagement at every meal is unsustainable to all but a very few. Trying to plan and control each meal like this adds a lot of stress every time you eat. It’s so difficult to follow that even some of those who are responsible for creating and promoting the diet don’t follow it!
You will lose weight if you can strictly follow this plan, but I challenge you to find anyone, anywhere, who has been able to do this strictly for the long haul.
Just like Weight Watchers, this is a glossed up version of a calorie deprivation diet. The weight is coming back.
The idea here is that carbohydrates are fattening and that fat, in general, is not. While some folks can definitely lose weight for a while on low carbohydrate diets, being on a diet like this long-term causes numerous hormonal imbalances that not only make you chronically fatigued but also effectively age faster.
Carbohydrate restriction mimics the exact same changes seen in the body during semi-starvation. Also, the longer you’re on it, you get worse digestion, more fatigue, and an ever dropping libido. Good times!
Yes, you will lose weight but due to the eventual hormonal imbalance and the stress on the body it incurs, you will plateau and the pounds will creep back up.
Paleo is all the rage. It comes with the same drawbacks as the low carbs diets above, since most people who do paleo are also low carb. While many can lose weight this way, plateaus are the norm.
The reality is, the modern paleo fad diet is vastly different from the real diet of a hunter-gatherer. The natural and low stress (as compared to the go-go-go life we live) lifestyle of hunter-gathers was likely a huge factor in their health – likely more so than what they ate or didn’t eat.
Interestingly, I have observed that the more strict one is with eating paleo, the more likely they lead anything but a relaxed lifestyle.
Paleo definitely works for losing weight – but it comes at the same price of the above low-carb diets. It’ll stop working, and you’ll begin to regain the weight – all while feeling older than your years.
Another modern trend is Fasting or Meal Skipping. Here I see two different camps:
One, you have the people who plan to miss meals intentionally (intermittent fasters – often also paleo and low carb all at the same time) and then two: those who just frequently skip a meal or two because they are both too busy and because they think it’ll lead to weight loss.
I can GUARANTEE chronically not eating will lead to weight loss, but it is also a potent stressor. Chronic exposure to stress primes you for weight gain and drives your metabolism lower and lower. Often, a lot of the weight lost will be muscle. This is clearly not good for physical function, good body composition, or long-term health.
Extreme Exercise (couch to 1/2 marathon, etc)
Some try another approach: don’t change anything about the diet, but instead begin a tough exercise regimen.
The logic is that the big energy demand of the training while not eating anything extra will lead to a big weight loss. Again, it might do that for a short while, but you’ll plateau quickly and will be at a high injury risk.
If you don’t ramp up gradually to the increased exercise, or if you aren’t eating enough to recover from it, you’ll not repair the damage to your muscles/tendons/etc as fast as someone eating enough. If you follow a plan like this, it’s pretty likely that you’ll be sidelined before you reach your goal as your body won’t repair itself fast enough between sessions.
I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of someone who used this approach successfully over the long haul. The stress from excessive training actually promotes fat storage, and nearly everyone gets burnt out or injured eventually!
To review, all these methods work but they also prime you to store fat once you go off the plan. This is true also for those who just think they’ll just stay on the plan until their goal is reached. For the lucky few who actually make their goal, they quickly find their results fading away because the diet primed them to gain fat.
A Different Way – Lose Weight Once
There is a way to long-term, sustainable weight loss. It also does not require extreme or agonizing dietary restrictions. Check it out!