Why does almost all dieting result in yo-yo dieting? There are many reasons. Scientists clearly do not know much about the human set-point or weight regulating mechanism. However, we do know this mechanism exists. There are scads of studies that demonstrate the power of the set-point**. We also know from studies and experience that serial dieting causes increased weight over time. There are many things that effect our weight over which we have no control. But there are also many things that effect our WELL BEING that we can influence. Let's look at how the common choice to focus on weight loss sabotages our self-care.
I had the misfortune of watching a few minutes of Dr. Phil yesterday. He had some guy on with a 14 day plan (or was the magic number 17 days). They said that people who are trying to lose weight always plateau (that is the set-point asserting itself). To break the plateau, this diet monger says we need to change the formula for the way we eat every 17 days. Count calories. Change your count on different days. Some foods are forbidden. Keep track. Focus. Pay close attention to every mouthful (that is the only way to get an accurate calorie count). Excuse me, but this sounds like eating disordered thinking to me. This kind of obsessive playing with food and concentration on rituals often accompanies eating disorders. Indeed, it requires eating disordered thinking to push past the body's set-point. In order to achieve a temporary, cosmetically desirable weight, people will do the darnedest things.
When you focus on weight, it is likely that you will end up eating less than you could maintain long term and exercising more than you could sustain for a lifetime. This Herculean effort can only be sustained for weeks, months, or maybe even years for most people. Then when normal life resumes, the body resumes its normal weight.
There is a better way to improve your health, reduce joint pain, level out blood sugar, improve energy, and feel better about your body. Try focusing on the ACTIONS OF HEALTHY LIVING, instead of the scale. Engage in problem solving so that you build a life that really meets your needs. (Instead of spinning and spinning on the next weight loss scheme.)
When you focus on your nutrition, enjoyable movement, stress reduction, and sleeping better ... all INDEPENDENT OF WEIGHT, you can make choices that are livable. Without the pressure from the scale, you can choose a reasonable amount of exercise and develop quality, tasty nutrition that you can live with for a lifetime. Because your changes will be gentle and doable, you can maintain them even when life stressors happen. And life stressors always happen.
Watching your weight is an ANXIETY, not an action. Self-care is an action that can stay with you for a lifetime. Self-acceptance is a journey that sometimes takes a lifetime. It is worth the trip.
** Studies that show the power of the weight regulating mechanism
Journal of the American Medical Association 295 #1 (2006): 39-49.
Journal of the American Medical Association 297 #9 (2007): 969-77.
NEw England Journal of Medicine 338 #1 (1998): 52-54.
International Journal of Obesity 22 (1998): 89-96.
International Journal of Obesity 20 #1 (1996): 47-55.
International Journal of Obesity 18 (1994): 145-54.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70 (1999): 965-73.
NIH Technology Assessment Conference on Methods for Voluntary Weight Control (1992).