Get out of the ‘feast or famine’ cycle and you will reap the benefits! OK, so you may already know that dieting can lead to weight gain because the brain interprets the diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages. And now new research by the universities of Exeter and Bristol compounds the theory.
They found that people who try low-calorie diets often overeat when not dieting and so don't keep the weight off. By contrast, people who don't diet will learn that food supplies are reliable and they do not need to store so much fat. ‘This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable so there is less need for the insurance of fat store,’ says Dr Andrew Higginson, Senior Lecturer in psychology at the University of Exeter.
With more and more people becoming obese, scientists are looking for evolutionary reasons to explain why many find it hard to resist overeating.
The new study found that the urge to eat increases hugely as a diet goes on, and this urge won't diminish as weight is gained because the brain gets convinced that famines are likely.
"Our simple model shows that weight gain does not mean that people's physiology is malfunctioning or that they are being overwhelmed by unnaturally sweet tastes," says Professor John McNamara, of the University of Bristol's School of Mathematics.
"The brain could be functioning perfectly, but uncertainty about the food supply triggers the evolved response to gain weight."
So how should people try to lose weight?
"The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets," Dr Higginson says.
OK, so this isn’t massively new and ground-breaking stuff. And maybe you’d prefer it if you heard there was a super-duper shortcut to get to the weight you want and there is / are, but they don't last. Slow and steady is the answer: A balanced diet partnered with regular exercise - it's a relentlessly successful partnership.
How to stop life long HIID? (Hight Intensity Interval Dieting)
1. Book in and commit to 3-5 exercise sessions per week ranging from 15 mins to 30 mins. Morning, noon or night... bit of both, doesn't matter right now. Jogs, Dvds, Gym, Classes, PT... Tell yourself: "This is my forever plan, so if I fall off the wagon, I get back on ASAP, and repeat..."
2. Buy / eat fresh, home made food... Go easy on the cream, cheese and chocolate 80% of the time. I personally enjoy a Thai take-away and a pudding on the weekend. (& sometimes-probably a flapjack during the week)
3. Two is in fact the magic number, so there is no No.3!