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Why Dieting Will Make You Gain Weight

Google “top diets of 2020” and you are sure to run across the GOLO diet—probably right after an entry on intermittent fasting, the Noom diet (which really isn’t a diet at all) and the 1200 calories diet.

What do all these diets have in common?

Well, apart from offering a better life (the GOLO for Life® website features a guy with a sweater tied around his neck — if that doesn’t scream champagne brunches and yacht parties, what does?), these diets operate on a fairly simple premise: mainly, they restrict calories.

As the name implies, the 1200 calories diet advocates the consumption of 1,200 calories a day — about 800 less than the USDA recommends for the average man and approximately 300 less than the recommended daily tally for women.

Likewise, despite claims that the secret behind the diet’s success is Release™ — a supplement designed to target “insulin resistance and metabolic health” by “controlling glucose, maintaining healthy insulin levels and eliminating conventional starvation dieting” — GOLO advocates ingesting 1,300-1,800 calories, eliminating processed food altogether (including artificial sweeteners) and exercising at least 15 minutes per day.

Whether Release™ is an elixir from the Gods or just repackaged deer antler spray (remember that nonsense?) — it doesn’t matter. The diet works because, at its core, it’s as basic as using soap in the shower.

This brings up the obvious question: Why do people find these diets so alluring?

Losing Weight Faster

According to author Tom Matt, the diet industry is a $60 billion business. He points out that more Americans than ever are on diets these days, including 20-24 percent of American men and 33-40 percent of American women.

Given this, it’s not surprising that people are looking for an edge in their battles against the bulge. In an era of instant gratification, a sensible dieting strategy stressing long-term success is often viewed as the turtle in that old fable about the tortoise and the hare.

Watch Bertie the Tortoise set a Guinness World Record for speed (from guinnessworldrecords.com).

Many of us want results yesterday, even though trying to speed up the dieting process often has dire consequences.

Yo-Yo Dieting

On Oct. 19, 2004, a reality television show called The Biggest Loser” made its debut on NBC. The two-hour program, which followed the weight-loss journey of morbidly obese contestants (BMIs generally in the 40-50 range) competing for a $250K grand prize, was an instant hit, averaging 10.3 million nightly viewers during its inaugural run and spawning numerous products — cookbooks, fitness DVDs, video games, etc.

However, a 2016 study published in the journal Obesity detailed the huge price that many contestants paid for their smaller waist size.

Researchers followed 14 contestants during and after one season on the “Biggest Loser.” These contestants lost an average of 100 pounds each, yet, by the time the final weigh-in took place, their leptin levels had dropped so precipitously (leptin is a hormone that inhibits appetite) that they were hungry all the time. Worse, their metabolisms had slowed to a crawl.

Hence, not surprisingly, in the six years following their appearance on the show, some of the former contestants gained all the weight back they’d lost — and more!

Season 8 winner Danny Cahill is a great example.

Cahill dropped 239 pounds in his seven months on the show — and kept the weight off for two years. But, eventually, he gained much of it back, despite his “best efforts,” according to the New York Times.

“I was working out two hours a day and riding my bike all over town to go where I was going,” Cahill told ABC News. “Once that stopped, the weight started creeping back on.”

This was undoubtedly due to the fact that, according to doctors, Cahill now burns 800 fewer calories a day than would be expected for a man his size.

In fairness, researchers have observed this phenomenon with other calorie-restrictive diets as well. In an article published in International Journal of Obesity entitled Adaptive thermogenesis in humans,” authors Michael Rosenbaum and Rudolph L. Leibel noted that “in long-term studies of weight-reduced children and adults, 80%-90% return to their previous weight percentiles.”

This is because our bodies are “smart.” They adjust to dietary and environmental changes very quickly and efficiently. So, when we subject them to extreme conditions, e.g. harsh diets and strenuous workout regimens, they eventually adapt. And those adaptions can last a long time, possibly forever. In fact, some studies indicate that severe physical stress and other forms of trauma can even affect one’s children.

Researchers Dora L. Costa, Noelle Yetter, and Heather DeSomer studied Confederate War veterans and found that “the sons of ex-POWs who experienced severe hardship were 1.2 times more likely to die than the sons of non-POWs and ex-POWs who fared better in captivity.” (Interestingly, this effect was not seen among the daughters of ex-POWs.)

“While we cannot rule out fully psychological or cultural effects, our findings are most consistent with an epigenetic explanation,” the authors concluded.

So, now that everybody is feeling thoroughly depressed and disheartened about the prospect of losing weight, let’s talk about some techniques that actually work.

How to Lose Weight Without Dieting

In his soon-to-be-released book, The Bang Anti-Diet, Bang Energy CEO and CSO (chief scientific officer) Jack Owoc outlines a reasonable, sustainable approach to reaching one’s goal weight.

“I recommend slow and gradual weight loss, combined with high protein, resistance exercise, and macronutrient rotations to maintain lean mass while losing body fat,” Owoc says. “We found that rotating macronutrients while keeping protein intake consistently high is an effective strategy to naturally reduce calorie intake and maintain or gain lean mass.”

Owoc points out that losing weight is not the ultimate goal; instead, he favors an approach focused on what he calls “Body Remodeling.”

“The secret to long-term Body Remodeling is to do things differently and consciously avoid losing weight,” Owoc insists. “Dramatic improvements in your appearance and performance will only occur when you lose body fat while building or sparing muscle.”

There are several reasons gaining or maintaining muscle mass is important in achieving one’s weight-loss goals:

  • Muscle is denser than fat, meaning it occupies less space on your body. So, if you’re trying to fit into those jeans you wore in high school, it’s important that you lose primarily fat, not muscle.
  • Muscle is also firmer than fat (obviously), so keeping as much of it as possible helps you maintain a leaner, harder look, even at a greater weight. If you focus solely on losing weight, you run the risk of becoming “skinny fat” — yeah, you can fit into your high school jeans, but you look nothing like the bad ass who single-handedly brought sexy back in those ripped jeans and Von Dutch hat back in the day.
  • Most importantly, muscle requires more energy to maintain than fat. Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, notes that a pound of muscle burns about 6-7 calories a day, compared to the 2-3 calories burnt by fat each day. This might not sound like much, but it adds up.

The old saying, “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” is true, but this doesn’t mean exercise isn’t helpful, particularly resistance exercise (like lifting weights).

By combining a sensible eating plan with exercise, you can keep your body yoked and your metabolism stoked.

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