The problem with exclusion diets like low carb or low fat

[What does a yo-yo have to do with dieting?]

The number 1 reason people successfully lose weight but then put it back on again (usually plus a little more) is the idea of getting on a diet then getting off the diet.

To lose weight you just need to eat less than your body needs and low carb and low fat diets usually do work in the short term. This is simply due to removing calories from carbs or fats and not fully replacing them, resulting in you eating less each day.

The problem with low carb or low fat style diets

But usually what then happens is either the goal body weight is reached or, more likely, you get bored of being on the diet and re-introduce the missing food. Suddenly those missing carbs or fats bump the calories back up again. Since you missed them so badly there may even be some over-compensation, resulting in much more than your previous normal amounts. That’s where the weight gain comes from – simply over-compensating for removing your favourite foods.

Long term this results in yo-yo dieting, going on a diet, coming off the diet and re-gaining the weight plus more, then starting the cycle over again.

It is much better to think of how you want to eat for the rest of your life. If you are happy never eating carbs again then maybe a low carb diet will suit you. Personally I love carbohydrate foods too much to give them up. Pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, sandwiches, pizza etc are just too tasty!

A low fat diet is something which I’d also advise against. It’s really a fad which should have ended back in the 90’s. Consistently eating a low fat diet results in your hormones getting messed up. A better approach is to look into eating less “unhealthy” fats, such as hydrogenated fats, and more food containing the “healthier” fats like omega 3.

A better dieting solution

Now that I’ve ruled out 2 popular diets what should you do to lose weight?

Again, weight loss is simply about energy – you need to eat less energy (calories) than your body burns each day.

You can either eat less every single day, for instance making sure you go to bed mildly hungry each night, or compress the dieting into 2 days a week using intermittent fasting.

If I have some fat to lose I’d rather just compress the discomfort into 2 days a week rather than all 7, so I choose the intermittent fasting approach.

No matter which method you choose to reduce your calorie intake there will be some discomfort involved. There’s no getting away from that. Your body is essentially consuming it’s energy stores and it doesn’t like to do that. The key is finding a way to lose fat which suits you and makes the discomfort bearable.

After dieting – the maintenance phase

One thing I really like about intermittent fasting is that there is a maintenance phase built in to keep your new lower body fat levels where they are.

You simply take the 2 days a week of fasting and reduce them to 1. This allows you the freedom to eat normally the rest of the week (within reason). If you notice your weight going back up then just throw in a week or two with 2 fast days to bring it down again.

If you chose the non-fasting approach then maintenance is more about portion control and keeping an eye on your weight and/or body fat levels. If you pig out one day then balance it out with a low calorie day.

What about you – which method do you like for dieting and/or maintenance?