Don't Be a Dry Sponge


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  70 comments   :  25,383 Views

Marketing can be a wonderful thing. It can also cause people to venture away from the truth in favor of false promises. The goal in marketing is to present products, goods, or services in such a way as to be desirable. The marketing process is most effective when a well-defined user or buyer's attention has been adequately captured to the point that new concepts or propositions are enticing. This process is most valuable when doubt about the alternatives have been created as well.

The diet industry has harnessed the power of marketing as well as any Fortune 500 company. People with a great desire to lose weight are willing to throw out long held scientific truths for industry marketing spin. Add to that the hope that desired results can be achieved quickly and easily and you have the fuel necessary to make the spin appealing. When results are not achieved with the first diet-focused product or service, apathy and disappointment pique curiosity in the next proposed option and the dieting cycle is born.

So what does this have to do with being like a sponge? Perhaps not what you think.

Food provides the energy and nutrients necessary for the body to function properly. Unfortunately there are many things the weight-loss industry won't tell you with the biggest being that they are less than truthful. The dieting cycle is equally powerful and under-nourished people are unable to think as clearly as well-nourished. Low calorie diets starve the body and especially the brain of the nutrition necessary for clarity of thought and sound decision-making. I believe restrictive diets were accidently found to be an effective marketing tool years ago. At the same time, people desperate for any easy solution to an increasing national weight problem became entangled in the dieting cycle. Some in the medical community began to use the marketing spin in their weight loss recommendations because of the less than normal results that had been highlighted by the marketers that were trying to promote their product, good or service. Today, restrictive diets are seen as the answer for weight loss. Helping people understand the falseness of this idea is a daily battle for people like me that try to share nutritional truths for good health through education.

Lower and lower calorie restrictions cause your body to become like a dry sponge. If you place a dry sponge in a dish with a half cup of water, what happens? The water will be soaked up VERY quickly, leaving nothing in the dish. However, if you take that same sponge and soak it in water so that it is completely full and THEN put it in a dish with a half cup of water, nothing happens. The cells do not need water because they have what they need so the water in the dish simply sits there waiting to be evaporated. The same is true with our bodies.

The body is a complicated network of tissues, organs and organ systems made of many cells, which must have energy to carry out their individual functions. When a person consumes fifty percent less energy and nutrients than the body needs to function, the cells react, including fat cells, they begin breaking down lean muscle for energy to feed the organ cells. At the same time, the fat-storing and releasing enzymes become involved and many times slightly altered. Therefore, when the body is in an energy depleted dry sponge state, the fat cells quickly soak up and store available energy while breaking down lean muscle for fuel. This is the opposite of what we want to happen for long term weight loss.

When the body is properly nourished with the nutrients and energy it needs, the cells are not interested in soaking up more. Because they have what they need they are content and able to do their jobs. In this saturated state, you are able to increase or decrease weight in a healthy way be slightly altering the energy balance. If you are trying to lose weight from a dry sponge state, you are fighting a losing battle. Make your first goal to achieve the proper energy balance to be a wet sponge. Once you have achieved that goal, then you can begin to focus on small changes in energy balance that begin pulling energy from fat reserves.

Do you struggle with the idea that low calorie, restrictive diets are the only way to reach your weight loss goals? Are you willing to give up those market driven ideas to say good-bye to diets and hello to a healthy lifestyle?

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  • 70
    It has been drilled into my head (and I believed it) that weight loss is all about calories in, calories out. Even now I still can't believe that you can't just lose weight by restricting calories and upping the exercise. But blind faith and many failed attempts and weight loss has prompted me to be sure to eat about 1200 calories a day and not go overboard on exercise. I hope to see some long-term results, but I keep getting frustrated at lack of progress and I tend to back off my calories. Ugh! - 2/6/2013   12:09:47 PM
  • 69
    The hard part for me is to eat enough. This time I started here I have been to restrictive, and I must remember to eat enough. - 8/31/2010   11:33:27 PM
  • 68
    Great analogy! But how do you convince a person who has that 600-700 calorie mindset that they need to eat more? They just won't listen!
    How many years I did that - I just don't care to think about. After 60+ years of "dieting", Spark People taught me the correct way to lose and maintain. Thanks, SP - 8/31/2010   3:02:16 PM
  • 67
    Great blog - thanks!

    Back in 1988 I "went on" one of those doctor supervised, expensive, very low calorie shake 'diets' (500 - 600 cal/day). I lost 90 pounds in a VERY short period of time. I remember that we all had to do a urine stick for ketones; mine was always dark purple, which they said was "great".

    I had an acute gallbladder attack which required emergency surgery and a one month hospital stay because of major complications. I was very sick -- it was a miserable experience. Having an 8" scar was the least of my problems.

    It didn't take long for me to re-gain 70 pounds, so in 1989, I joined again! Of course, I gained the 70 back, plus more. I guess I wanted that weight off, at any cost.

    I haven't used the word "diet" in a long time -- the first 3 letters spell "die". I much prefer a nutrition plan that is a way of life -- not something that you "go on".

    Thanks again : ) - 8/29/2010   3:00:39 PM
    Food for thought! Love the comparison to a sponge. - 8/29/2010   1:30:12 AM
  • 65
    great blog! - 8/28/2010   10:15:50 PM
  • 64
    I am still struggling with the idea that less is better. Thanks for the info to help me with that struggle. I am going to try to remember the sponge whenever I am tempted to eat very little, because I am not hungry on a particular day. - 8/28/2010   7:22:49 AM
    Thank you, this is very applicable to my current situation. I need reminders to not dry myself out completely. I feel tired and drained when I do not get the proper nourishment. I can see why the bad habit of calorie restriction is a no go and self defeating to successful weight loss. - 8/26/2010   1:22:48 PM
  • 62
    Great analogy. Makes it easier to understand. - 8/26/2010   10:58:27 AM
  • 61
    Great analogy! Thanks for putting it that way--makes it visual. - 8/25/2010   11:36:42 AM
  • 60
    I think my current state is dry sponge, my weight just go up and down like waves, the 3 - 5 kg till my dream goal is quite little but seems so far away! But there were times in past when I was a good sponge, just need to get back on what I did right :D - 8/25/2010   4:52:10 AM
  • 59
    Thank you! great blog. I like all the comments from other members too.
    - 8/24/2010   10:06:29 PM
  • 58
    Look at the marketing of "Nutrisystems" for example. Marie Osmond not only lost weight, she grew larger boobs due to that plan...........and how many people will fall for it, seeing all the ads and half hour commercials on tv, even in 2010. Your blog speaks to the power of marketing to the masses for sure. - 8/24/2010   9:39:17 PM
  • 57
    Loving the parallel! Makes sense to me. - 8/24/2010   7:21:36 PM
  • 56
    great illustration! - 8/24/2010   7:18:31 PM
  • 55
    Yes! You put into words how I have felt while restricting my caloric intake.
    Thanks, Great Blog! - 8/24/2010   7:07:03 PM
  • 54
    I feel like a victim of the marketers in so many subtle we have yet another way the outside world can mess up your inside self. Makes you want to move to a desert island and live on mangoes, lol. - 8/24/2010   5:57:49 PM
    Thanks for the great article, I am one of those people who tend to not eat enough calories or over excerise, than wonder why have I gained weight. - 8/24/2010   4:36:54 PM
  • 52
    Wow, this makes so much sense, was never fully explained so that I could understand it! Love this! Thanks so much. Once again, Spark People has explained something to me that I never before have understood! - 8/24/2010   3:48:23 PM
  • CASEYJO200
    The sponge idea does make sense. This is a reminder of why I should tae my multi vitamins. And to get serious about getting in the 8 glasses of water. - 8/24/2010   11:25:20 AM
  • 50
    I have proven this philosophy to myself. Not skipping 3 well balanced meals a day plus a snack......and I lost weight, reached my goals, and feel great. - 8/24/2010   11:05:37 AM
    This analogy really makes sense to me and I think it's a good one. I still struggle with the mindset of believing that I need to restrict my calories more and more to lose weight, but as I've increased my intake of fruits and vegetables, that's changed dramatically. I've found out that you can get a lot more bang for your buck with fruits and vegetables, that is you're able to eat a lot more and their a lot lower in calories than the processed foods that I was previously eating. Great blog, thanks! - 8/24/2010   10:54:38 AM
    Thanks, great blog.... - 8/24/2010   10:20:22 AM
  • 47
    dry sponge great - 8/24/2010   9:55:31 AM
  • 46
    i struggle with body image more than i do caloric intake...we're fed these ideals by society and drug companies to look a certain way, and after a battle with an eating disorder and taking my life out on my body and gaining 90 lbs THAT's when i figured out enough was enough. i know that i've been losing on 1400-1550 cals a day, but i also know that isn't forever, that i've somehow got to make it into a higher calorie bracket and still maintain my weight. its a process. it doesn't come easy - especially when we're not taught the crucial lessons needed to maintain our bodies. sure, i'd see the food pyramid, SEEN it only...for 29 years or so...but no one ever taught me WHY i needed to use it or why i should only eat x-amount of something and not however much of everything i wanted whenever i wanted. i was a string bean through life until i hit 25...and now i'm fighting HBP and PCOS and obstructive sleep apnea as a result of my weight gain. i feel like for as much as society feeds us what looks wrong, what pills we should take to make it right, and how many calories we should eat is all bull-honkey. we're all different. you have to find out what works for you, even if you have to learn it the hard way first...and right now, i feel like for me, the hard way was BETTER! - 8/24/2010   9:50:47 AM
  • LFISH2489
    Thanks for the great analogy. I struggle with this all the time. - 8/24/2010   9:43:47 AM
  • 44
    YES! I still struggle with even the healthy choices because in the past I have only been able to stand being ravenous for a short time before binging. - 8/24/2010   9:41:42 AM
    That's a clear, vivid analogy, Tanya. I used to struggle with very low-calorie diets and all sorts of bizarre, exacting formulas for dropping the pounds. If I didn't lose five pounds every week, I figured I'd failed.

    I wouldn't go back to such lunatic strategies for anything now.

    Thanks for your thoughts! - 8/24/2010   7:48:57 AM
  • 42
    Made me stop and think, good blog - 8/24/2010   4:57:24 AM
  • 41
    I love these articles that explain things clearly. it makes good sense. I think much more now about what goes into my stomach and I love the feeling I get after exercising. SparkPeople rocks. - 8/24/2010   2:29:36 AM
  • 40
    Great article. My responses: no, yes and YES! Thanks fo rthe sponge analogy. I'm going to use itwith my middle school students. - 8/24/2010   1:31:09 AM
    Not ringing true for me. My diet and exercise habits have been healthy for a very long time, but the weight keeps piling on. There's got to be a lot more to it. - 8/24/2010   1:17:07 AM
  • 38
    I have Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X, Pre-diabetes) and I know that a low calorie diet llike South Beach is what I have to have to release pounds, so I take it all in stride. - 8/23/2010   9:57:05 PM
    Thanks, I will not be a dry sponge - 8/23/2010   9:43:31 PM
  • 36
    Do you struggle with the idea that low calorie, restrictive diets are the only way to reach your weight loss goals?
    No! As, for me, successful weight loss is not about restrictions/low calories it is about awareness/control of what is being put into my mouth/body.

    Are you willing to give up those market driven ideas to say good-bye to diets and hello to a healthy lifestyle?
    I am already there...with the help of SparkPeople!

    Do I continually seek more and up-to-date information regarding healthy living and eating?

    Nice article...thank you!
    - 8/23/2010   9:38:39 PM
  • 35
    So so true Many people will point out die is in diet which is further from the trueth. Also so much goes into weight loss and weight gain..look at those who can eat all day anything they want and still don't gain. Unfortunately there are factors that can be beyond our control like medicines. - 8/23/2010   9:20:09 PM
    Losing weight, getting fit, eating healthy - this is all very complex. There are some general guidelines but everybody reacts a little differently. If somebody is exercising til they drop and eating the bare minimum to stay alive, and is not losing weight, maybe s/he needs to eat more or exercise less. Finding that balance can be trial and error and get quite frustrating.
    I seem to do better when I'm at the mid to high end of my calorie range, but I've had my share of plateaus. Usually I got over them by switching up my exercise routine, not so much my eating. For somebody else it's the other way round.
    The main thing is, if you're committed to making a change, don't give up. Don't be afraid to try different things, including eating more maybe for a week and see if it makes a difference. - 8/23/2010   9:10:08 PM
  • 33
    Things seem to change for women at menopause. I've been tweaking my calories in/calories out balance for 3 months now, eating only nutrient rich foods all the while, and I lost nothing for the first 2 months. I've been following the Core Balance Diet plan for almost a month and I'm finally losing weight, but even so I've had to restrict calories to 1200 or so. I just make sure I never get very hungry and eat some protien with every meal or snack. Core Balance addresses what the author, Marcelle Pick, NP, calls "toxic weight" which is the stubborn weight you can't seem to lose no matter what you do. The idea is to heal the long-term stress-overload some (like me) have been under, then the body will adjust and find a healthier balance, no longer needing to hold onto the excess. She advises not to count calories, but I find it helpful to track food on SP. - 8/23/2010   8:31:02 PM
  • 32
    I've always tried to stay at the low end of my calorie range or just below. I've been losing the same couple pounds now for more than a month, up and down. I got a post on my blog that maybe I should try the calorie cycling and see if that helps and I'm reading up on that.
    I keep getting "red" comments on my fitness page that I'm not eating enough calories for the fitness minutes I'm logging in, but I'm not "losing" what I was expecting to lose either :(

    - 8/23/2010   8:11:12 PM
  • 31
    Makes sense to me! - 8/23/2010   7:03:22 PM
  • 30
    My body does not want to retain any muscle mass that I gain. While I never eat too little (nor like I did when I was heavy), if I build my muscle mass either through a lot of aerobic activity or anaerobic challenges I either get hungry, anxious, depressed or irritable. I have to "trick" my body into thinking it wants to get stronger, by concentrating on muscular endurance rather than building strength (despite proscriptions to concentrate on strength building for my age group of over 50). There may be a set point to body fat percentage (as well as with weight), that science doesn't know about yet. I am keeping that sponge moist, neither damp nor wet.

    Tina - 8/23/2010   4:56:15 PM
  • 29
    I wondering how you determine what the optimum number of calories daily for an individual is ... - 8/23/2010   4:49:05 PM
    I am naturally a person who goes long periods of time without food and have not had any weight issues until I gave up smoking in April 2010. I did not eat more than usual, but by body no longer uses calories to repair me overnight. I expect my weight will increase steadily unless I have a permenant lifestyle change. I think it can be as difficult trying to eat more as it is trying to eat less. I have heard so many people say I do not eat enough to lose weight. This sounds bizzare to me but I know it is a learning curve I need to go through. I appreciate this site as it gives information for you to use for knowledge and understanding of yourself, not to try and persuade you in a particular direction dictated by somebody else. Good work Sparkpeople. - 8/23/2010   3:00:06 PM
  • 27
    This article was just what I needed. When I eat too much, don't exercise, etc my instinct is to restrict. The dry sponge analogy makes sook much sense! I have been working on properly feeding my body and dry sponginess totally hit home! - 8/23/2010   2:55:37 PM
  • 26
    I've always been cynical about such products and read enough to know that these things don't work. It's good to see the message going out so strongly. These companies should be held accountable for the damage they do to people's health and bank balances. - 8/23/2010   2:35:15 PM
  • 25
    I agree entirely. However, my problem is "what is the proper amount of calories and nutrients to achieve the 'wet sponge' condition?" I know there are formulas that calculate what one's base calorie range is, but it is so subjective. Do I have a small frame or a medium frame? Does the 30 to 60 minutes of exercise I do each day count as "moderately active" or "active" or am I "sedentary". How efficient is my body at using the calories I eat? I rarely go below 1200 calories per day and occasionally reach 1500, but is this really the range I should be in? I usually loose a net 1 pound per month, it's so frustrating. - 8/23/2010   2:17:40 PM
  • 24
    Good blog - 8/23/2010   2:17:22 PM
  • 23
    very true blog.. but for many difficult to change.. when you go from being taught by nutritionists, to cut calories, cut fat, dont drink soda, no sweets, no sugar, no chocolate, you run out of foods you can eat. it is often easier to stay under the 800 calories.. but we know thta is not healthy.. there has to be a happy mediu fr the body to thrive on. - 8/23/2010   1:52:08 PM
  • 22
    Losing weight and being healthy is different for everyone. There are different paths to reach these goals. Starving is not the way to go. - 8/23/2010   1:14:20 PM
    I drink lots of water. Some days though when I get busy with duties for the day, I forget to drink as I do them. My body gets weak/dizzy/headaches. When this happens, I know that it is time to pay attention to my body. Thank you for the analogy between a dry sponge and a wet one. I will keep this in mind to stay hydrated even when busy. - 8/23/2010   1:11:34 PM

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