June 10, 2011
Why diets make you
With summer now upon us, you might want to lose those extra pounds for your trip to the beach. So, you go on a “diet.” While you might lose the weight, the diet itself may make you more prone to gain weight. This is what we call the yo-yo diet. And new research into the diet craze shows why diets don’t work.
Tracy Bale is a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania. Her team wanted to find out what causes yo-yo diets. Thinking stress might be a factor, the researchers cut food intake in mice by 25%. They did this for three weeks until the rodents lost from 10-15% of original body weight. (This also works in humans.) Then they exposed the mice to mild forms of stress, such as loud noises. The hungry mice had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. The cortisol also remained around longer than in the controls. The dieting mice were more stressed and took longer to calm down!
Then, the researchers allowed the mice to mimic the human yo-yo of dieting. They returned the mice to their normal level of food intake. After 1 week, they went through a series of mild stress tests to mimic daily ups and downs. The “ex-dieting” mice remained more sensitive to stress than the control mice that didn’t diet. The dieters were more likely to eat large amounts of high-fat food when under stress!
This demonstrates that even relatively mild food reduction resulted in long-term changes in gene expression. The key genes it changed were those related to cortisol release.
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I’ve talked a lot about gene expression (epigenetics) in these pages. Here you see that dieting can have remarkable changes in how you react to stress. These changes can prompt you to eat “comfort foods.” I admit that with my very stressed life as a physician and author, I can be tempted to eat. So, this research was not new in my own experience. However, I beat the problem by eating more salad and fruit and simply bypassing the “comfort” foods.
In my patients, I’ve never found that dieting does much good in the long run. Most people succumb to the presence of food just like the mice in this study. That’s the basis of the failure of all the popular diets out there. The real way to lose weight, permanently, is to gradually alter your eating habits to embrace the Living Foods Diet. You don’t need to be 100% living foods. Start out by making 40-50% of your diet from Living Foods. Then move up to about 80% (if you can). You don’t need to do it overnight. Better to gradually make the transition over several weeks or months. If you’d like more help in doing so, please see my website. I have a great report that gives specific steps on how to make this transition.
By moving slowly toward a different lifestyle, rather than dieting, you can avoid the stress problem and lose weight. More importantly, you’ll keep it off and avoid disease at the same time.