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I recently returned from the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE – fence E), the annual meeting for dietitian nutritionists. Along with some 10,000 other members and professionals, I acquired updated information on some of the latest food products and nutrition research. One reminder about weight control came from a speaker in interaction with the audience. I don’t recall the session, but the speaker’s comment reverberated in my brain, “In the long run, weight loss diets can cause greater weight gain.” That’s not the exact quote, but close. How often do we hear about or experience weight loss only to regain pounds and exceed the starting point of the diet?

Our bodies need sufficient calories to accommodate body functions, but when we overindulge and acquire excessive weight, health problems may occur. We often seek remedies through unwise “dieting.” Several older studies confirmed negative results of dieting. Restricting calories increased secretion of the steroid hormone cortisol causing weight gain. Also, monitoring calories increased perceived stress resulting in added weight. Yet, about half of Americans continue to diet. Why?

In her October 2019 article “The ‘Biggest Loser’ returns‒should you watch?” dietitian nutritionist Susan Burke March explored the perils of rapid weight loss. Contestants for the TV show exercised for six to eight hours daily. The starvation diet resulted in failure to meet minimum nutritional needs. The outcome? While participants lost weight during the show over a short period of time, most regained it, and several surpassed their initial weight.

Eat, Food, Remove, Almost Time

What is the message here? Give up? That’s not the solution. We know the dangers of excessive weight. Worldwide projected estimates for diet related expenditures in 2019 expect to reach more than $206 billion even though weight gain seems to occur regardless of the type of weight-loss diet. Extreme diets play havoc with hormones and metabolism causing our bodies to need fewer calories. Our bodies adjust to starvation by lowering our energy needs to a minimal level. When we return to a normal diet with appropriate calories, we tend to gain more weight instead of returning to normal metabolism because our bodies have compensated for lower energy needs.

However there is hope for a healthy weight. Being the biggest loser isn’t the answer, being the biggest winner is. As March said, “Be a winner by making your diet a healthy one.” I have often alluded to this same advice in previous blogs. The perfect diet for us is the one that meets our nutritional needs with adequate calories for appropriate weight. Be a winner.

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