Regarding nutrition and diet for weight management, whether one wants to shed a few pounds or maintain weight, the most expected weight loss regimen followed is dieting. Dieting can be of many types – like keto diet, low carbs diet, paleo diet, Mediterranean diet and so on. While there’s a higher chance that dieting helps to lose fat or burn calories, there is a 50% chance that dieting can fail to achieve the desired goal.
Falling off the grid
It is advisable to approach a dietician who can draft a diet plan complimenting your pre-existing condition, age, work and schedule. If the meals are properly planned out for every week, it motivates a person to follow that plan regularly.
Planning also allows one to avoid situations like binge-eating. Finding oneself in unconducive environments or situations such as having a bag, filled with junk food or snacks, make dieting more difficult. It is often observed that surroundings have a huge impact on our lives. Hence, it is advisable to stay away from foodstuffs that work against our goal when we are dieting.
Total elimination of carbohydrates and fats
Many people try to limit or avoid carbs during dieting. But what are these “carbs”? Carbohydrates/carbs are a type of macronutrient which consists of sugars, fiber and starch. Carbohydrates can be further divided into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs consist of sugars and they raise the blood glucose levels instantly, providing an instant boost of energy to the body. Complex carbohydrates consist of starch and fibre, which are present in whole foods that tend to be nutritious, like fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts. These raise blood glucose levels in a slow and steady fashion and produce a more lasting elevation in energy. It is important to include healthy carbs in your diet. Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of faeces and softens them. A bulky stool is easier to pass and decreases the chance of constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels and aids in achieving a healthy weight. If one aims for a short-term diet plan to only shed a few kilos, then avoiding sugar altogether can be quite detrimental. As soon as a person discontinues a diet plan and goes back to eating carbs, gaining the lost weight is a possibility. Instead of totally avoiding sugary foods, opt for foods with natural sugars like fruits instead of added sugar like in cakes, processed foods, etc.
It is also necessary to keep a check on the label of packaged foods for added sugar since it only contributes to additional calories. Added sugars have various names like corn syrup/sweetener, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, molecules ending with “ose” like dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, etc.
Binge-eating while dieting
Binge-eating is a condition in which people consume unusually large amounts of food despite not being hungry until they are uncomfortably full, followed by feelings of self disgust or depression due to constant overeating. Binge-eating is seen in stressed individuals or obese people involving several other factors. Binge-eating during dieting could be due to restrictive diets, skipping meals, inadequate food consumption or returning to high calorie diets after completion of restrictive diets. Also, cutting calories too drastically causes metabolic rate to slow down, which is equivalent to the rate at which the body burns calories for energy, leading to calorie restriction. Hence, the body stores incoming calories as it thinks it is starving instead of using them to produce energy, leading to a failed diet.
Hyper/highly palatable foods
Highly palatable foods are excessively appetizing or pleasing for the taste buds and such foods tempt us to eat more, despite being full. Remember how the sight of a chocolate cake or a pack of fries makes our mouth water? Highly or hyper palatable foods are foods that contain high amounts of added sugar or fat combined with salt and a lot of flavorings. These foods are so tempting that they activate the reward centre in the brain called the Hedonic Pathway that increases release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endogenous opioids that enforce a drug addiction. Stimulation of this system also influences memory, learning, and perceptions about food and its pleasure.
This reward pathway is the reason behind why certain foods like chocolate bring temporary relief from the sadness or anxiety that we feel. However, long-term consumption of such foods can induce adaptations similar to drug addiction and could also be the cause of compulsive eating. High sugar and fat activate hunger peptides in the brain, making prolonged eating more likely and the body might take longer time to even recognize that we are full. To lose weight efficiently and avoid overeating in the long term, it is important to manage cravings by understanding the situation or time when we are likely to consume certain foods and identifying the cues that trigger binge-eating. One might eat more if they are just bored, tired, feel demotivated, sad or stressed. Observation is the key to finding the trigger point so as to plan an efficient strategy to curb overeating. For instance, if we are stressed to the point that we are about to indulge in our favourite chocolate, we can instead talk to a friend about this stressful event. One might even opt for a psychologist or a dietician who might provide useful information and give tips to eat in moderation instead of restricting over and over again.
All we need to do is listen to our bodies. It may not be as easy as it sounds. Try to understand how your body functions. May it be one extra piece of potato fries or three extra diced tomato pieces in your salad, the biology behind every morsel will help you to make wiser dietary choices in the future. At the end of the day, you are what you eat, right?
- 5 Reasons Most Diets Fail (and How To Succeed)
- How Palatable Food Disrupts Appetite Regulation
Chitrika is a graduate in Biotechnology from Khalsa College, Mumbai. Her interest lies in stem cells, cancer cells and Immunology.
Co-Founder & Director of Website Development & Logistics at The Science Paradox