Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Diet Rebound

Some of my clothes from last summer are just a tad snug. 

I tell myself it's not about the weight, it's about health and fitness and feeling positive about my body. Progress, not perfection. But then something doesn't fit right and I start to panic. Why did I throw caution to the wind and dive into all that wedding, birthday and graduation cake? The three-day holiday weekend didn't help any. I'm mad at the scale and myself and I want to do something drastic.

Like starve myself.

I've been here before. Yes, I'm a recovering diet addict. Like the alcoholic who falls off the wagon, I'm tempted to take that deep dive into  grapefruit or cabbage soup or whatever diet will get me back into my skinny jeans ASAP.

Of course, the thought of that much deprivation is sad and dreary. Crash diets make me  HANGRY, that combination of hungry and angry that results in severe grumpiness. And usually, diets just trigger the desire to Eat. All. The. Cookies.

You've heard that old joke: "My goal this year was to loose ten pounds. Only 15 to go."


I also believe my long tradition of yo-yo crash dieting is what contributes to weight gain. And a recent study of The Biggest Loser contestants seems to back that up. 

Now, I'm not obese - I'm tend to stay within about ten to 15 pounds of what I consider my healthiest weight. But some of the findings from the study resonate with me.

Researchers followed contestants from the reality TV series for six years and the results show just how hard your body fights back when you diet. The study is detailed in a  New York Times article by reporter Gina Kolata, After 'The Biggest Loser,' Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight. What was most disturbing was the change in metabolism that lasted for years after the intense diet and exercise program ended. 

"As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed," writes Kolata, "the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight."

One contestant who had a normal metabolism when he appeared on the show six years ago, now burns 800 calories a day fewer than what is normal for a man his size. A female contestant burns about 437 fewer calories a day.

The reasons behind diet rebound are complicated. But experts point to hormones and metabolism as two culprits that pull you back after you lose weight, whether it's 100 pounds or ten. Your body has a certain weight it can maintain without a lot of effort and when you challenge that, you've got a fight on your hands.

I've never watched The Biggest Loser because I believe extreme diet and exercise is unhealthy and unsustainable. And this study just confirms that belief. As frustrating as it is, slow and steady weight loss is the way to go. Small steps, healthy eating, moderate exercise. 

And information. I'm going to take advantage of a service offered where I work, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The campus recreation center offers a resting metabolic rate assessment along with a nutrition consultation. I'm going to do this and find out science says about my body and how it should be fueled.

I'll let you know what I find out. 

Were you ever a crash diet addict? What do you do now to maintain a healthy weight?