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Surprising Reasons Why

Starvation Diets Don’t Work

See, I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything. And right before I feel I’m going to faint, I eat a cube of cheese.” - Emily, The Devil Wears Prada.


As a nutritionist, I have met many clients who are in a long term war with the voices in their heads, and their weight loss progress. Many seek the miracle solution to drop pounds quickly by starving themselves. On the contrary, this method is unnecessary and ineffective. Dieting does not have to be torture. Let’s begin by testing some assumptions:


Dieting Assumption #1: Fewer calories equals less weight.

Well, yes. If your calorie intake is less than your calorie output, you lose weight. Of course, this happens only after a period of time.


Dieting Assumption #2: Skipping meals equals losing fat.

Not necessarily. This is a flawed theory. This article will uncover the surprising truth about why starving yourself is not a successful method for weight loss. 


The Fat Factory


Fast Fact: Irregular eating builds fat.


For the love of chocolate, why do our bodies naturally build these spare tires? Believe it or not, it is an evolutionary survival mechanism.


If you skipped lunch in order to save your appetite for a big dinner with your friends, how exactly does your body cope with this? In simple terms, fat is an energy reserve. It is exactly like a spare tire because it gets mobilized in dire times of need. In this case, your body breaks down your dinner food to replenish the calories you need and store the extras as fat.


But because your body has been in starvation mode, it’ll come back with a vengeance thinking, “I’m going to store as much fat as possible. We need to keep the fat as an emergency energy supply in case we stay get calorie staved again.”


Of course, this is an oversimplification. That is not to say skipping your meals does not burn any fat. When your body is calorie starved, lipolysis takes place. This is the breakdown of fat cells to mobilize calories for your body to function normally. Although so, there are reasons this method of dieting never works, and below is why.



The Blood Sugar Yoyo


Fast Fact: Constantly erratic blood sugar levels cause weight gain.


After food is digested, it becomes simple sugars that enter your bloodstream. This causes a spike in your blood sugar level. Insulin is the magical gatekeeper that brings blood sugar into your cells so they can live and function normally. It has been proven that blood sugar levels that yoyo causes weight gain due to the coping mechanisms discussed earlier. Over a long period of time, you will realize the more extreme you starve and binge, the more your weight yoyos like the wall street stock exchange. This is one of the reasons why having regular meals is so important in maintaining a stable and successful weight loss.



You Against Yourself


Fast Fact: Skipping meals is likely to result in binging.


“I skipped lunch today for the gym, I’ve been so good I deserve a buffet dinner,” says the little diet devil on your shoulder. This is why starving yourself seldom works. We often magnify our efforts of dieting in our head and reward ourselves with a hefty calorie overload after. This new load usually surpasses the number of calories you skipped during lunch. You also tend to make poorer food choices due to impulses during your hunger phases. This results in either eating unhealthy food to “reward” yourself or eating anything that is available to satisfy your hunger.


Starving yourself is definitely not a healthy way to diet. Your body needs regular nutrition to sustain all its metabolic functions. Swinging back and forth stresses your body out and makes weight loss counterproductive. 



Steady Progress Sticks


Fast Fact: Slow and steady weight loss is proven more successful than fad diets.


“I already ate a chocolate bar. I might as well eat this bag of chips and reset my dieting counter tomorrow,” says that familiar voice in your head. Rather than alternating between guilt eating and starving, channel your weight loss efforts into a long term habit. Don’t beat yourself up with extreme starving. Weight loss shouldn’t just be about a “program”, it should be part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.


Here are some tips on how you can do it:

1) Consciously make healthier choices

Start small, such as choosing a salad over a fast food meal. Then make your way up to your kitchen by substituting your refrigerator with low-fat milk or yogurt instead of full cream.


2) Pace yourself

Stop skipping meals. Aim at keeping your blood sugar levels regular by eating small, frequent meals. Snack healthily. This way, you trick your mind into thinking you’re eating plentiful but are actually keeping control of your intake quantity.


3) Detox your Kitchen

Out of sight out of mind. Throw out all your junk food and avoid the chips lane at the supermarket. Instead, fill your cabinets with healthy snacks such as nuts, fruits, and seeds. Need something fancier? How about some veggie sticks with a healthy dip? Healthy can be yum too.


4) Keep Full

Pick foods that are higher in dietary fiber and low in GI. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking on how slowly food digests and affect your blood sugar. You can pick your list of favorite foods with low GI here. Foods high in dietary fiber keep you full for a longer period of time so you don’t get hungry. They also can help to lower the bad cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) in your body to prevent heart diseases and stroke.


5) Exercise

Yes, it sounds like a drag but it’s the truth. Exercising, especially cardio, is proven to suppress your appetite. It is a good distraction, plus since you’re already making efforts to look and feel better, why not tone your body while you’re at it.



Dieting is a mental game, really. If you stop amplifying the sacrifices in your head with less drastic methods, you will find your weight loss results to be more rewarding. Follow these steps in your quest for your summer beach body.

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