Have you ever wondered how the gluten-free diet works? What about the Atkins diet? What about insert your fad diet of choice here? Are carbs what make you gain weight? Or is it fats? What about protein?
The truth about all weight loss diets that actually work is that they trick you in to eating fewer Calories. I’ll repeat that in a different way: any diet that causes weight loss does so by finding a way to make you eat fewer Calories than you use in a day.
Calories are simply the measure of energy in our food and this energy comes from carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol. Weight loss is a matter of energy balance – energy that we get from food vs energy that our body uses to operate. Another way to look at energy balance is through this simple math problem:
Calories (Energy) in – Calories (Energy) out = Energy Balance (Calories lost or gained)
I will go in to more depth on this equation in the future, but I will give you a brief overview now. “Calories in” is the energy in food we eat and beverages we drink. “Calories out” is the energy that our body uses to maintain homeostasis, keep organs functioning, and contract muscles. Our bodies store calories in the form of body fat, muscles, and liver and muscle glycogen (carobhydrates). When we eat more Calories than we use, our bodies store the energy (mostly as fat if you don’t exercise). When we eat fewer Calories than we use, our bodies break down body fat, muscle, and glycogen.
Now let’s go back to all of the common fad diets out there. To follow one of the common fad diets, you will be required to completely cut out certain foods. For example, following a gluten-free diet will make you cut out all wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Think about how many foods that you eat that have those ingredients in them… it’s a lot right? Well if you cut out all of these foods, then you will be eating fewer Calories if you don’t replace them with other foods. This is how the gluten-free and other fad diet tricks you to eat fewer Calories and lose weight. Again, weight loss is not caused by avoiding gluten, never eating carbs or sugar, cutting out fat, eating fruits and vegetables, juicing, following a detox diet, or drinking Slim Fast. Eat fewer calories than your body uses in a day, even if you get all of your calories from twinkies*, and you will lose weight.
*Note: I am not recommending that you eat a lot of twinkies. It is still important that you eat a variety of healthy foods to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. You should also keep in mind that eating the right foods can help to keep you fuller and make your diet easier. This will be outlined in a future post.
The basic message that I’m getting at here is that no weight loss diet is special. They all work by getting you to eat fewer Calories through unnecessary restrictions in your diet. In fact, these fad diets may be harmful to both your health and weight loss efforts. Most fad diets cut out some healthy foods groups completely just to get you to eat less. Not getting the healthy nutrients that these foods provide may be harmful to you later on. You also need to consider your ability to stick to the diet long-term. If you follow a diet that never lets you eat your favorite foods in moderation, then you will likely not stick to that diet for very long and end up gaining all the weight back. Knowing that Calories are what make us gain and lose weight can help you be more flexible with your diet. You can eat the foods that you want in moderation and still lose weight if you don’t eat too many calories.
What Matters in this Blog Post
1. Weight loss fad diets work by tricking you to eat fewer Calories (energy)
2. Eating fewer Calories than your body uses is what causes weight loss. Energy in – energy out
3. Most weight loss fad diets are not good for your health or weight loss because they often cut out healthy food groups and are too restrictive, causing you to give up and gain the weight back.
4. Knowing that Calories are what make us gain and lose weight can help you be more flexible with your diet. You can eat the less healthy foods that you want occasionally and still lose weight if you don’t eat too many calories.
5. However, it is still important to eat a variety of healthy foods while losing weight to give your body all the nutrients that you need to stay healthy while losing weight.