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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.

Here’s Why:

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.

2017-11-10T21:02:48+00:00

About the Author:

Robert

Robert Lalonde is the author of The ELH Diet – The Easy Way to be Lean & Healthy

19 Comments

  1. Candy October 20, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve found that it helps to find a few people to go on a diet with. I agree though that going on a crash diet and gaining the weight back a few months down the road is not the best way to go.

  2. Agnes October 20, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Agreed. A change in lifestyle is the only way to go.

  3. Cassy October 13, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Yo-yo dieting sucks. All these contests and promotions only encourage more binging after the challenge ends.

  4. Flo October 6, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Crash diets are a complete waste of time. It’s hard to believe people keep doing this over and over.

  5. Ben September 28, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Some people never learn.

  6. Trisha September 24, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Nice article about problems with crash dieting.

  7. Joie August 15, 2015 at 5:24 am

    I’ve been going through this for years. I haven’t been able to keep the weight off for even one year yet.

    • Robert
      Robert August 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Crash diets don’t work Joie, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it.

  8. Delores August 14, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Do you use a software app to keep track of the calories in your diet?

    • Robert
      Robert August 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      The way the ELH DIET works you don’t have to worry about calories Delores. That’s the sort of thing people do on diets like Weight Watchers and you do have to worry about calories on that diet because it allows (even encourages) you to eat junk food.

  9. Dane August 8, 2015 at 4:09 am

    I’ve know many people who get drawn into these types of diets all the time. Not too many of them keep the weight off after they’ve lost it.

  10. Lyle August 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    It seems like you’re ok with some diet challenges at the end of your post. Which ones do you agree with?

    • Robert
      Robert August 7, 2015 at 5:56 pm

      There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people going on a diet together to provide group support and encouragement while going on a good healthy diet plan Lyle. That’s not the same as some contest where it’s a race to see who loses the most weight in a short period of time by going without food, taking pills and/or using whatever method you can to try to win a prize.

  11. Kandy July 19, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    What do you think is the best strategy for someone to follow when starting on a diet Robert?

    • Robert
      Robert July 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      The biggest mistake people make is taking a short term approach to dieting. This is what leads people to try crash diets, diet supplements and very restrictive diets of all kinds.

      Even if they manage to lose weight, 85 percent of them gain it all back in less than a year!

      The best strategy Kandi is to choose a diet that lets you eat a lot of food and looks like something you can stick to long term. If you can eat as much as you want, you won’t go hungry and you won’t put your body in starvation mode metabolism.

      If it’s a diet plan you can stick to long term, you’re not going to gain the weight back a few months later.

  12. Marcelino July 13, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    What do you think of all the diet challenges being put on by book promoters who offer cash prizes to the people who lose the most weight?

    • Robert
      Robert July 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Frankly, it upsets me when I see these so-called competitions or challenges. These contests are used to trick dieters into thinking the contestants lost weight by using the diet that is putting the challenge on.

      Nothing could be further from the truth! Contestants will use supplements and or go on short term crash diets that have nothing to do with the promoters diet to win a cash prize.

      It’s nothing but a scam. Anytime you see a diet that advertises using pictures of people who lost a lot of weight in a short period of time, the promoter is trying to scam you.

      It’s best to stay away from snake oil salesmen.

  13. Dan July 13, 2015 at 1:02 am

    What do you think of supplements like garcinia cambodia for weight loss.

    • Robert
      Robert July 16, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      The first problem with supplements Dan is that they artificially alter your metabolism. The second problem is you can’t keep taking a supplement for a long period of time.

      This sets you up for rebound weight gain down the road. So, while you might lose a bit of weight in the short term, you will gain it all back – and usually a bit more – down the road.

      This only makes your problems worse in the end, and that’s why I recommend people stay away from all these weight loss gimmicks.

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