You would often hear some people who keep saying “I’d better eat less, as I’m on a diet”, “I’m skipping this meal, as I’m on a diet”, or anything along those lines. They repeat the same thing year after year, but curiously, they never seem to be able to actually lose weight!
Have you ever thought about why that happened?
This is due to the fact that these people on diet have bad eating habits to begin with–skipping meals often, eating little at one meal but binging at their next, replacing regular meals with snacks, consuming little proteins and keep themselves full on carbohydrates instead, and so on. In short, these people have skewed perceptions of the meaning and use of dieting.
So what is dieting? Dieting, in itself, is to control one’s eating habits instead of mere food intake reduction. It means that you should control your intake of calories to the best of your ability in regular meals, especially fatty foods (such as fried chicken, burgers, fried rice) and high GI foods (carbohydrates that rapidly increases your blood sugar level, such as heat-treated potatoes, pastries, biscuits). If you have been eating little of these foods to begin with, then dieting will not be able to do much for you.
Those who have had habits of eating snacks and other fattening foods, will also find little results even after a period of going on a diet. The reasoning behind this is simple; if you do not exercise and rely solely on dieting for a short period, your body fat percentage will not decrease. You will only see decrease in your body fat percentage after prolonged periods (for example, 3 months) of dieting. Stopping for short periods and then continuing will not make any noticeable, positive changes to your body at a fundamental level. Worse still, doing so might cause you to gain weight instead.
Let us clarify “weight loss” from a traditional point of view. “Weight” in weight loss specifically means the weight of the total amount of fat in your body, instead of your overall body weight. As such, despite its namesake, the aim of weight loss is to reduce the amount of fat in your body, as opposed to reducing mere body weight in general. As such, please keep a simple definition of weight loss in mind, which is to have you spend more calories than you consume every day.
Again, please keep this in mind. The definition of weight loss is to have you spend more calories than you consume every day.
Everybody spends a certain amount of energy even just sitting around every day, and this is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Women usually have BMR between 1100-1400 kcal per day, while men usually have BMR between 1600-2000 kcal per day. Someone who relies on dieting without exercising will have make sure that that their caloric intake every day is below their BMR, in order to achieve the goal of “reducing body fat”. 1kg of body fat contains about 9000 kcal, and as such, you will need to control your food intake strictly, limiting it to 600 kcal (2.5 cups of rice / two large drumsticks / two bags of potato chips) below your own BMR for at least 15 days, before you can shed 1kg of fat.
Is it possible to do so? Most can hardly last a week eating like that. Furthermore, there are also the following problems that come with relying solely on dieting to lose weight.
- Dieting leads to energy shortage in the body, which would protect itself by lowering metabolism. Assuming that your body has a BMR of 1200 kcal, it might be lowered to about 700 kcal as your body goes on to protect itself from energy shortage. As such, your body spends 500 kcal less than it would have been able to, which equals to about 40 minutes of jogging. It is important to note that if you do a lot of exercises at this period, your metabolism will be increased instead, which is why food intake control should be paired with exercising. It goes without saying that you will get the opposite effect should you exercise while not eating at all. If your food intake is too low, you will probably collapse before you get to exercise much. Your body might have considerable BMR to begin with, which you probably will never regain it again regardless of how much time you spent in doing aerobics later, if it gets decreased.
- Blood sugar levels of the human body increases easily after long hours of dieting, which means that your body will absorb food eaten easier, which in turn means that your body turns food eaten to fat easier.
- If you lose weight by dieting for prolonged periods, the quality of your body degrades considerably due to severe loss of protein. About 10 percent of the human body’s daily energy expenditure comes from proteins, and these proteins are continuously spent in metabolic processes as well as during exercise. Proteins are spent as glycogen is spent, and the same happens when fat is spent as well, although at a lower ratio. This is due to the body requiring a certain amount of amino acids every day, which are gained by breaking down the body or proteins within food eaten. If you go on a diet for prolonged periods, you will eventually lose fat as well. However, it comes at the price of having the quality of your body lowered. Weight loss through dieting leads to protein loss, causing muscle volume to lower, which in turn leads to lowered amount of exercise your body can handle, causing chronic laziness and increase of body fat, which in turn leads to continuous use of dieting to achieve weight loss–the vicious cycle continues.
- Dieting causes you stress, which persists even after you stop, resulting in heightened in high-calorie foods.
In conclusion, it is inefficient to achieve weight loss solely through dieting, and will eventually results only in wasted effort. With that said, is there any need to go on a diet? Of course there is! However, it is not to say that you need to continuously starve yourself, and consume less snacks and fried foods.
The principle to dieting is to control your food intake, as opposed to rejecting food altogether. As such, please refrain from equating ‘dieting’ with ‘fasting’ or ‘going on a hunger strike’. Please ensure that your daily food intake is a healthy and regular one.