Why Dieting Often Leads to Weight Gain
Today I watched the Ted video presentation, Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work, given by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. She explains that dieting actually causes most people to get heavier. They lose weight on the diet, but eventually gain it all back and then some. She ties this in to the function of the hypothalamus–the structure in your brain that “knows” what many, many variables in your body should be, including your weight.
The hypothalamus does all it can to keep your weight within a “set point,” a range of weight that it thinks is best for you. If your weight falls below that range, particularly if you do so quickly, the hypothalamus causes your metabolism to actually slow down. Your metabolic rate is directly tied to the number of calories you burn so you eventually gain the weight you lost back, and then some, even if you are eating less than you did before you started your diet.
Unfortunately, if a person has gained weight, and stayed at that higher weight awhile, the hypothalamus may reset the range of weight it thinks is normal higher than that person may want it to be. This can make it very hard to lose weight. Dr. Aamodt suggests that this person should focus primarily on health instead of weight loss. She cited research that indicates that all people, no matter how heavy they are, drastically reduce their risk of dying within the next seven years by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, not smoking, and avoiding excessive alcohol use.
This is not to say that weight loss is impossible. In fact, Dr. Aamodt suggests one effective strategy in her presentation. I’ll address additional ways to lose weight and keep it off in subsequent posts. In the meantime, though, I think you’ll find Dr. Aamodt’s presentation very interesting.http://ted.com/talks/view/id/1900
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