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It doesn’t matter whether you are 10-years-old or part of the 100 club; dieting is something that is engraved into our minds.
The situation regarding the former age group is actually quite scary, but the sad fact is that even children feel as though they have to diet to maintain an “acceptable” weight.
Most of the time this revolves around females, but that’s not to say men can’t be affected as well – we can all be victim to the dieting “craze”.
One could pen a whole dissertation based on just why dieting is so in fashion. You could say that the media are largely to blame, with their coverage of celebrities not exactly doing us any favours in relation to our own body image.
However, in truth, there are countless reasons why. We’re all just becoming too bothered about how we look and most of the time, our weight is central to this.
Of course, if dieting was easy, there would be no need for this article. Unfortunately, it’s not – it’s something that takes an incredible amount of work and willpower and a lot of the time, the pounds will just return eventually anyway. In other words, over the long-term, it’s just not successful.
If we look at this from a scientific perspective, it’s really not surprising. Our hunger and energy levels are controlled by the brain and most of the time, this is without you being aware.
You don’t have to consciously think when you are hungry – it just happens.
Most of us are completely comfortable with the above, it’s something that we know and understand. Something that is a little bit more scientific is the fact that our brain has a set point – which is the brain’s sense of what your weight should be.
Experts believe that it can vary as much as 15 pounds so it’s not completely set in stone, but it’s there or thereabouts.
Our weight will often alter between those ranges, with lifestyle ranges usually to blame. When it comes to venturing outside of it, it becomes much harder (which again leads us back to the problems with dieting).
A certain part of the brain, named the hypothalamus, is charged with regulating our body’s weight around the set point. There are a dozen signals that will tell your body to gain weight and another dozen to tell your body to lose it.
She refers to the system as thermostat-like, with the brain responding to the body’s signals through life to adjust our hunger levels and metabolism to deal with the changes accordingly.
As such, your brain will always be looking to push your body back to that set point, by altering factors such as the above.
From a dieting perspective this obviously doesn’t read well. When your brain does realise that you are not eating as much as you are used to, it will act to respond to the weight loss by slowing down your metabolism, making you hungrier and so forth.
The above can be proven by a scientific study that was conducted by Columbia University. It was found that dieters who had lost 10 percent of their body weight burned much fewer calories (between 250 and 400 to be precise) than a typical person. This is because the brain had adjusted their metabolisms so it works more slowly.
This will last indefinitely; so in order to maintain their new weight, they will have to eat exactly how they have been doing via their diet. Again, it’s further evidence of why diets just don’t work.
This is perhaps the harshest part of the whole conundrum. While our set point will never decrease, if you do gain weight and fail to lose it in an adequate amount of time, there’s a high probability that this will be considered your new set point.
It means that your body will act accordingly and adjust your hunger levels and metabolic rate for your new, bigger self.
If you’ve read the entire article up to this point, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering just how you can get around this impossible situation.
For some people the set point will work wonders (think those that can eat anything and still stay thin), but for others it seems to indicate that we have to be satisfied with our natural weight.
We’re again going to refer to Sandra Aamodt’s discussion on Ted, and showcase one of the methods that she recommends.
She says that there are two types of “eater”; the one who relies on their hunger signals and the other who attempts to control this hunger through their own willpower. The latter, unsurprisingly, focusses around most dieters.
She claims that the first group, the people who rely on their hunger, are actually less likely to be overweight. This is because they only think about food when their brain “decides” it’s the time to do so; they don’t have to be tuned into the situation 24/7 like most dieters.
Psychologists believe that the secondary group, the willpower people, are more inclined to respond to forms of advertising and anything that can trigger a food-related thought.
Bearing the above in mind, the only solution to combat set points and dieting drawbacks is mindfulness. This means you need to stop consciously thinking about eating, and let your body and brain do it for you. You need to understand exactly when you really are full and to stop eating when you are not hungry.
Of course, this is easier said than done – and this isn’t something which is going to change overnight. It’s all about finding out just when your body feels satisfied after eating – which should be an indication to stop.
In reference to Sandra Aamodt, it took her around a year to master this so again, it’s no small task. However, in doing so, she was able to forget about food as her brain has been trained to only react when it really has to.
Has it allowed her to lose a lot of weight? No. However, as the science we discussed earlier showed, there are suggestions that long-term weight loss is impossible. The above method will at least stop you gaining weight and keep you at the level which your body feels is natural.