Dieting and other restrictive eating behaviors for weight loss are commonplace yet do not produce the expected results over the long run. Here are five evidence-based reasons to stop dieting now — and to stop recommending diets to your patients, clients, and employees.
A review published in the Journal of Obesity estimated that at best, only 20% of participants maintain weight loss at one year, and the percentage of those maintaining weight loss decreases further by the two-year follow up. The authors suggest that these statistics would be even worse if outcomes for participants who dropped out of the programs and those who had diagnosed comorbidities such as mood disorders or binge eating disorder had been included.
There is significant evidence that the restrictive, weight-focused approach is ineffective at producing sustainable changes in weight or health. In a review of 31 long term studies on dieting, Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer, the authors conclude, “there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.” They found that the majority of individuals are unable to maintain weight loss over the long term and one-third to two-thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost.
There are coordinated metabolic, behavioral, neuroendocrine, and autonomic responses designed to maintain body fat stores at an ideal established by your central nervous system. This is called “adaptive thermogenesis” and results in weight regain in those attempting to sustain reduced body weights. This metabolic adaptation to weight loss is associated with increased hunger sensations.
In a study of The Biggest Loser contestants, their resting metabolic rate was decreased by an average of 610 kcal/day at the end of the competition. Their resting metabolic rate was an average of 704 kcal/day below baseline six years later! Thirteen of the fourteen participants in the study had regained the majority of the weight they had lost.
Restrictive eating behaviors require a significant, and for most people, unsustainable amount of time, energy, and willpower — already in short supply for most people. Some people manage to stick with the rules but develop a Restrictive Eating Cycle in the process. (See the Eating Cycle Assessment to see where your behaviors fall.) They have to become experts at ignoring hunger and/or depriving themselves of foods they love in order to stay in control. This is a significant price to pay since it takes a lot of energy to eat only so called good foods and avoid the “bad” ones. In the Restrictive Eating Cycle, eating leads to conflict and guilt, rather than pleasure and satisfaction that are essential for sustainable changes to one’s eating.
Need more reasons to stop dieting? Stay tuned for five more!
 Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R. A., Burgard, D., Daníelsdóttir, S., Shuman, E., Davis, C., & Calogero, R. M. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of obesity, 2014.
 Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A. M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220.
 Rosenbaum, M., & Leibel, R. L. (2010). Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International journal of obesity, 34, S47-S55.
 Tremblay, A., Royer, M. M., Chaput, J. P., & Doucet, E. (2013). Adaptive thermogenesis can make a difference in the ability of obese individuals to lose body weight. International journal of obesity, 37(6), 759–764.
 Fothergill, E., Guo, J., Howard, L., Kerns, J. C., Knuth, N. D., Brychta, R., … & Hall, K. D. (2016). Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity.
Originally published at amihungry.com.
Originally published at medium.com