The Paleo Diet, The HCG Diet, The Dukan Diet, The Atkins Diet, and the list goes on and on and on. What do they all have in common? Aside from the fact that they are all cleverly disguised versions of a low calorie diet, their common denominator is the word ‘DIET’ and its implied limit on the time someone has to follow it to achieve results. While the average American has fallen prey to the fast food mentality and wants immediate results, these ‘diets’ promise those fast results. Unfortunately, even if they do deliver on the short term weight loss, they don’t follow through with lasting results. Low calorie diets, regardless of their disguise as the fad of the moment, all have a flaw in their abilities in that they cause a loss of lean mass along with fat mass. When lean mass is lost, metabolism slows because lean mass burns calories to maintain itself. When there is a lower calorie burn from lower lean mass, it is easier to gain fat if there is any excess intake. When someone goes on a low calorie diet, regardless of its form, they not only lose fat but they also lose muscle and the ability to eat as many calories in the future. Therefore, when they go off the diet in a few weeks, they will rapidly gain the weight back (and possibly more weight), but this time as fat and not as lean mass.
The best strategy for preventing this rebound fat gain after a diet is to not diet. Changes in eating need to be a lifestyle change, not a short term fix. If it can’t be maintained for life, then it is not a healthy change for the body. Cutting out whole food groups, not eating foods because they are ‘bad,’ and cutting too low in calories can all lead to a rebound weight gain because they are changes that will not be maintained for life. When making healthy changes in trying to lose weight, it is better to make small changes like adding exercise, cutting no more than 20% from the total daily calorie need, and adding extra fruits and vegetables. There are numerous calorie counting web sites and apps that can help in determining total daily calorie need. (www.myfitnesspal.com, http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/, etc.) Use them to figure your needs and remember not to go too low with calories. Find a personal trainer with the education to help you design your workout program. Don’t cut out specific food groups. Add extra fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains instead of ‘white’ carbs. Yes, the weight loss may be slower, but you will be more likely to maintain it because instead of dieting, you’ve changed your lifestyle.