Dieting: An Overview

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Dieting: An Overview: Problems with Typical Diets

Man on Scale

Dieting works. Yes, that’s right. In fact most men on any type of diet lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight within the first six months.

HOWEVER… dieting typically only works in the short-term. Most diets fail in the long-term. A vast majority of men who lose weight through dieting gain back that weight, plus some additional weight, within a year. While it is true that caloric restriction generates short-term weight loss, typically one- to two-thirds of lost weight returns within 1 year, and almost all lost weight returns with 5 years!1,2,3

Why the Disparity Between Short-Term Progress and Long-Term Failure?

All diets are fundamentally similar. Diets require an individual to reduce caloric intake such that the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories expended (calories burnt at rest + calories burnt during activity). Anytime the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories expended, weight will be lost. This explains the ability of all diets (if followed properly) to provide at least short-term weight loss.

Weight Loss Formula Dieting graphic 2

However, most diets possess two fundamental flaws. First, most diets are overly restrictive. They promote unsustainably restricted eating regimens that are not realistic to follow over the long-term and may also be unhealthy. This excess restriction commonly leads to diet failure.

Second, many diets actually cause the wrong type of weight loss. The primary goal of basically any type of diet is loss of unwanted fat. However, when calories are restricted, men lose lean muscle in addition to fat. Worse, the more restrictive the diet, the larger the percentage of lean muscle that is lost (potentially up to 80% with fasting-type diets). Also, as muscle weighs more than fat, most of the weight lost in these types of diets is from muscle loss rather than from the fat loss that is desired. This loss in lean muscle reduces the body’s lean body mass and thus reduces the body’s resting metabolism. Over time the reduction in resting metabolism slows weight loss leading to a weight loss plateau or even weight gain. As the rate of weight lost progressively decreases, people generally tire of their diets and simply give up.

Moving Forward

Despite the inherent problems with dieting, long-term weight loss can be successfully achieved with a proper diet and exercise program that focuses on long-term weight management and preservation of muscle mass.

The following diet articles discuss some of the best practices for long-term weight management along with a variety of popular dieting programs. To learn more, read on.

1. Jeffery RW, Drewnowski A, Epstein LH, et al. Long-term maintenance of weight loss: current status. Health Psychol. Jan 2000; 19 (1 Suppl): 5-16.
2. Miller WC. How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug 1999; 31 (8): 1129-1134.
3. Long-term pharmacotherapy on the management of obesity. JAMA. 1996; 276: 1907.