Why Dieting doesn’t Usually Work?

In the world of consumption, fashion and promotion of a certain body image among people, especially women and girls, dieting has been seen as a good and working instrument to help lose ‘excess’ weight.

In the world of consumption, fashion and promotion of a certain body image among people, especially women and girls, dieting has been seen as a good and working instrument to help lose ‘excess’ weight.

At the same time, the practice of dieting as it is has not been questioned much by common people, who regularly rely on it in hope to become thinner. But scientists state that diets, even if they work at the beginning, always lead to gaining lost weight back in the long run.

So how does our brain sees dieting and why it is far less effective than expected?

It is important to start with stating a simple fact: our weight is being controlled by our brain.

As brain’s primary function is to ensure our physical survival, it considers stable weight level a necessity. Thus, its part called hypothalamus works as a receiver and transmitter of chemical signals responsible for losing or gaining weight. Therefore such factors as metabolism speed, activity level and hunger are all taken into account. The only thing is, they are not taken into account the way someone struggling to lose weight would like them to, or the way fashion and beauty industries who are major promoters and beneficiaries tell.

The thing is, everybody has a so-called ‘set’ that brain considers normal.

And, as neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt says, ‘Set points can go up, but they rarely go down’. While this may seem awfully unfair, this is a proven mechanism of our survival that, in the end, resulted into humanity making it all the way to present days. So, if a person starts dieting, our brain decides that they are starving and reacts by slowing down our metabolism in order to work as efficiently as possible with whatever energy it has left. And while dieting may lead to a loss of some amount of weight, it will in the absolute majority of cases ‘come back’ as soon as our eating habits get back to normal. And therefore a dieter who wants to keep their ‘success’ will have to either eat less on a regular basis for the rest of their life, or gain weight back and pay with normal set changed to bigger scale digits (if a person stays in a big weight long enough, e.g., a few years).

However, the set our brain has inside is actually a range of approximately 10 to 15 pounds.

So healthy weight loss (or gain) is still possible within this range. S. Aamodt differentiates between two approaches that she calls intuitive eating and controlled eating.

The former supposes eating when one is hungry as exactly as much to not feel hungry. Such people are less likely to feel shame and guilt while eating, spend much time thinking about food, to not let themselves small pleasures like a piece of cake or a bar of chocolate and, in the end, they are less likely to become overweight.

Controlled eaters, however, often overeat, are susceptible to advertising and others’ appraisals, live in constant guilt and are very likely to end up with various eating disorders. Moreover, they waste a lot of their willpower to stay concentrated on food, and that causes its lack in other spheres of life, reducing its overall quality.

So why do people (especially women and girls) are so desperate to lose weight at any price? And keep trying diets even despite the fact they actually do not work?

Well, wide-spread promotion of a thin body as an ideal must have been the cornerstone of the issue, especially in the light of the fact that most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. And the problem is very serious. As CBS Seattle state, citing the Keep It Real campaign, 80% of American girls aged 10 have already gone on at least one diet. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) joins with terrifying statistics claiming that between 40 and 60 percent of children ages 6 to 12 are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat, and 70 percent would prefer to be thinner. And it clearly demonstrates that teasing a child about their weight is a very wrong strategy.

It is much more useful to teach everyone that all bodies are beautiful and that it is in fact much easier to prevent gaining weight rather than deal with it later.

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