Every year we get invited to join a diet challenge. It’s an opportunity to mingle with social media friends who have something in common and it sounds like a fun idea. Going on a diet challenge with a group ensures there will be lots of support and there is the possibility that you might have a better chance of losing more weight than you would on your own.
The fact that it’s a diet challenge also has its own special appeal. It gets the competitive juices flowing and it’s easy to get excited about getting rid of the extra weight you put on over the winter season.
But there’s a good reason why you might want to skip getting involved in a diet challenge regardless of how appealing it seems. Why? Because any short term diet that has you cutting back on food portions or carbs is a bad idea and I’ll explain why.
What’s Wrong With A Crash Diet Challenge
There’s a big problem with short term crash dieting. You might lose a few pounds in the short term, but it’s the surest way to gain weight in the end and it will make it harder to lose weight next time around.
Your Famine Survival Mechanism
One of our survival skills as a species is the ability to store excess food in the form of fat. We have evolved this way so we can use the stored fat as a source of energy when food became scarce in winter or during droughts.
Since we don’t run out of food very often in modern society, this fat storage mechanism has become a curse for many people. It’s also the main reason why crash diets don’t lead to lasting weight loss and it’s the reason people experience rebound weight gain when they come off these diets.
1. Your body experiences the dieting process as a form of starvation.
Your cells don’t know that you’re voluntarily restricting your food intake so your body shifts into famine survival mode. Your metabolism slows down and your food cravings escalate.
2. It’s has a compounding effect.
This effect builds with each diet because your body adapts and learns to function on fewer calories with each famine (or diet). This is the underlying mechanism that causes people to gain weight as they come off each diet.
Main Symptoms Of The Famine Survival Mechanism
Hunger – when you start a diet challenge to lose weight, you might not feel very hungry at all. But once you lose a certain amount of weight, you will find that you are still hungry after eating your regular meals. Your famine survival mechanism is pushing you to eat more to help protect you from losing any more fat.
Lethargy – once you’ve lost some weight in your diet challenge and your famine survival mechanism gets activated, you will feel sluggish. It’s as if you have to drag your body around through the day. You’re being slowed down so you don’t waste precious energy and lose any more fat.
Reduced Metabolic Rate – you feel cold and shivery, even in the middle of summer. This is your famine survival mechanism reducing your metabolic rate. It’s one of the reasons you come to a plateau or standstill in your weight loss, even though you are sticking to your diet and exercise plan.
Why A Diet Challenge Is A Bad Idea
Research shows that the changes that accompany the famine reaction don’t stop when you come off the diet. The only way to neutralize this mechanism is to not start a restricted diet in the first place. In other words, eat different – not less.
You have to work with your physiology, not against it. This means eating when you’re hungry. It’s natural to hit plateaus as you lose weight. You simply enter a period of weight maintenance. This is nothing to be concerned about.
This process can take place quite naturally when you hit plateaus in your weight loss journey. Don’t panic or get discouraged when this happens. Most importantly, don’t cut your food intake! Just be careful of what it is you eat. The plateau will come to an end and you will resume losing weight.
Once you understand this, you won’t get disappointed at each plateau you reach. In fact, you should think of it as a necessary step to go through before you shed a few more pounds!
Should You Avoid A Diet Challenge
Not at all. In fact, it’s a great idea to take advantage of group support if it’s available. But choose a diet plan that you can stick to on a permanent basis rather than a temporary diet that will set you up for grief down the road.
Choose a diet plan that you can stick to on a permanent basis rather than a temporary diet.
If you are overweight, and 2 out of 3 people are, you need a permanent solution not short term relief. There’s no reason to resign yourself to yo-yo dieting for the rest of your life. Besides, just as it does with smoking, it’s only going to get worse with time, as your body learns to maintain your current weight with fewer and fewer calories each and every year.
The situation will only get more hopeless with each and every summer diet you go on. And trust me, being thin feels just as good in the winter as it does in the summer.