Why Dieting Doesn't Work

Monday, April 02, 2012

Looking at some people you would say to yourself, "wow he looks great that diet worked like a charm I can do it to!" What all of these diet fads ignore is the real life consequences that come from prolonged calorie restriction and over exercising. As I mentioned in previous posts, Obesity is starvation. Your body has become insulin and leptin resistant, your metabolism and thyroid function have slowed down, you have a low body temperature and you might have other health problems to boot. The Last thing you want to do to a starving person is restrict their food and make them exercise more when they have no energy.

"The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, also known as the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment, the Minnesota Starvation-Recovery Experiment and the Starvation Study, was a clinical study performed at the University of Minnesota between November 19, 1944 and December 20, 1945. The investigation was designed to determine the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction and the effectiveness of dietary rehabilitation strategies"

In Ancel Key's study these men were fed a semi-starvation diet according to their metabolic "type" per say so that they would lose 25% of their weight. During this time period the men experienced:

"Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis"

"They described lethargy, irritability, anxiety that approached each time they were to learn how much they were allowed to eat the following week... They had dizziness, cold intolerance (requesting heavy blankets even in the middle of summer), muscle soreness, hair loss, reduced coordination, edema, and ringing in the ears. Some had to withdraw from their university classes because they did not have the capability to concentrate. Their sex drive disappeared. They became obsessed with food, eating with elaborate rituals (which eating disorder patients also do) and adding water to their plates to make the food last longer. Many collected cookbooks and recipes.."

“At equal degrees of weight loss, anorexia nervosa patients are similar to famine victims in numerous respects: the pulse is slow, averaging about 50; the blood pressure is low, rarely above 120 mm. Hg. Systolic; amenorrhea is almost universal. The basal metabolic rate is reduced to an average of -30 per cent, but values down to o-73 per cent have been obtained…The body temperature is low…”

“There was a statistically highly significant increase in scores on the scales of social introversion, depression, and cycloid tendencies (emotional instability) and a decrease in those on the scales of ascendancy (social leadership), self-confidence, and freedom from nervous tenseness.”

“I’m cold… I’m weak…And now I have edema…Social graces, interests, spontaneous activity and responsibility take second place to concerns of food… I don’t like to sit near guests, for then it is necessary to entertain and talk with them… I am one of about three or four who still go out with girls. I fell in love with a girl during the control period but I see her only occasionally now. It’s almost too much trouble to see her even if she visits me at the Lab. It requires effort to hold her hand. Entertainment must be tame. If we see a show, the most interesting part of it is contained in scenes where people are eating. I couldn’t laugh at the funniest picture in the world, and love scenes are completely dull… Now, eight months after the end of starvation, I am fat and healthy although my muscles have not yet returned to their former tone.”

Once the study was concluded the men were allowed to "re-feed" and gained back their fat around their waist extremely quickly and gained more fat then they had before the study had started.

They were eating over 10,000 calories a day and still complained about hunger. They were so physically full that they couldn't eat another bite but still felt hungry.

“In refeeding, especially when the caloric intake is high, fat deposits tend to increase at a faster rate than the ‘active’ tissues.”

It took several months for their lean tissue to come back and it took almost a year for their bodies to come back to a normal weight. Whats interesting is that these men did not go on a special diet to get there body back down to their previous weight. They Just Kept eating and eating until their weight peaked and then started to come back down.

“Anthropometric data support this conclusion and indicate that during rehabilitation the adipose tissue increased in size more rapidly than the muscles. In the highest caloric group the circumferences of the upper arm, calf, and thigh showed an average recovery of 45, 46, and 54 per cent of the starvation decrement, whereas the abdominal circumference exhibited a recovery of 101 per cent [at week 12 of refeeding].”

“The loss of fat produces no untoward symptoms such as accompany the weight loss of normal subjects during semi-starvation. Furthermore, no decrease of the B.M.R. below normal standards has been reported in obese patients during the period of weight reduction.”

This is the reality of dieting except few people are able to stop and usually jump from diet to diet in hopes that one of them will finally work. However we know that dieting and cutting calories is not a long term solution and most people tend to lose weight to a certain extent or they gain all the weight back once they don't have the will power to eat salads 3 times a day.

Dr. Atkins even says in his book: “…remember that prolonged dieting (this one [meaning the Atkins diet], low-fat, low-calorie, or a combination) tends to shut down thyroid function. This is usually not a problem with the thyroid gland (therefore blood tests are likely to be normal) but with the liver, which fails to convert T4 into the more active thyroid principle, T3. The diagnosis is made on clinical ground with the presence of fatigue, sluggishness, dry skin, coarse or falling hair, an elevation in cholesterol, or a low body temperature. I ask my patients to take four temperature readings daily before the three meals and near bedtime. If the average of all these temperatures, taken for at least three days, is below 97.8 degrees F (36.5 C), that is usually low enough to point to this form of thyroid problem; lower readings than that are even more convincing.” - Dr. Atkins

In this study we note that the women had a drop in weight through out the study and a substantial drop in leptin but as time went on the leptin began to rise. You may also note that fat lose stopped and as leptin rose the individuals became hungrier.

This is the type of stuff they don't show you on the infomercials. I lost 20 pounds in 12 weeks but then my hair started to fall out and I cut off three of my fingers from going crazy thinking about food. Ok that was a bit over dramatic but you get the picture.

Here us the link to the study:

Once again to quote TL cleave:"It will be noted that the fundamental difference in the present approach to obesity, from that based on the supposed faulty functioning of an 'appestat' centre in the brain, is that the appetite is not regarded as an enemy here, to be placed in a strait-jacket, but as a normal instinct, to be let loose on foods so naturally diluted by fibre that the instinct is neutralized in a natural manner"

Suppressing your appetite should not be seen as a good thing as you can see from the study with the women on the restricted diet. Yes there leptin fell dramatically but so did there metabolism and body temperature. The body will down regulate even further in times of famine and even though they had stopped losing weight their leptin started to rise as severe hunger set in.

"Almost any doctor who works with the obese will tell you that successful long-term losers are a monomaniacal lot, completely obsessed with their weight. Bruce Schneider, a clinical researcher now at the FDA, was working in Hirsch's lab in the early 1980s when Leibel advertised for people who had maintained a weight loss of 100 pounds for at least a year and a half. 'He got six people,' Schneider recalls, 'and all of them were wacked.' One woman had to – HAD to – jog six miles a day. If she didn't, she becamse extremely upset. Another constantly fantasized about food. 'You were basically dealing with chronic starvation,' Schneider says." - Robert Pool

Your body will regain that fat after your diet as a defense mechanism for the next time you decided to do something stupid like cutting calories and running for hours on the treadmill. The psychological effects from starving yourself are very dangerous and don't reap any rewards.

Here is the original Blog Entry kids enjoy

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Ola Amigo,

    Yes Obviously this is an extreme case and not everyone has the same results but many people do struggle and the evidence from this has really spoken volumes to myself and others.

    I Suggest you read the entire 1,500 page volume as well before jumping to conclusions.

    Eating Less is not the only way. In fact I have lost fat and gained muscle eating MORE, doubling my calorie intake while not jogging at all. This is the problem with mainstream media and why it is important to understand the human body first (hence the biology of human starvation)

    Not to knock on your own results but losing weight doesn't guarantee health in fact there is evidence to show that forced weight lose can be detriment to your health. Many people lose weight and maintain it per se but have done some serious metabolic damage. This is not apparent in the overweight but in those who are already lean the damage becomes very real very quickly.

    “It is interesting that the obese man or woman can be placed on a diet as low as 600, or even 400, calories without loss of body nitrogen or other ill effects and without depression of the basal metabolic rate. In these respects obese persons and persons of normal weight differ strikingly in their response to a low intake of calories.”

    Extreme diets and sometimes not so extreme diets can have the same effects over time: They shut down thyroid function even though the blood tests are normal because the conversion takes place in the liver. Those who are overweight need to get healthy first, then have SPONTANEOUS weight lose. If this is what happened in your case then congrats you have succeeded in fixing your metabolism first and then letting the body burn its fat stores all on its on with out forced intervention to deprive yourself or over-train.

    Objective tests revealed no impairment of visual acuity but many subjects complained of transient visual disturbance such as inability to focus, eye-aches, and ‘spots’ before their eyes. Standard measurements of hearing showed a slight but consistent increase in auditory acuity during the period of semi-starvation. It is difficult to determine whether the frequent complaints that ordinary sounds and noises were disturbing and annoying had a direct physiological basis in the ‘improved’ auditory sensitivity or were primarily signs of an increased irritability. Sensations of ringing in the head were primarily signs of an increased irritability. Sensations of ringing in the head were reported. Except for hunger pains and some decrease in the frequency of bowel movements, gastrointestinal symptoms were rare.

    The marked decreases in pulse rate and basal metabolism may be regarded as critical indicators of a lowering of speed in the automatic functions of the body…

    The marked reduction in strength and endurance was paralleled by a general curtailment of self-initiated, spontaneous activities… They described their increasing weakness, loss of ambition, narrowing of interest, depression, irritability, and loss of libido as a pattern characteristic of ‘growing old…’

    You must also realize the amount of people in ever case study to lose that amount of weight by eating less and then keeping it off is very small, probably less then 10%.

    I'm just keeping it real man, I'm no knocking anyone success story just trying to help those who are struggling and need to know that there is another way besides deprivation and that OVEREATING yup thats right eating to appetite can lead to tremendous health benefits not just weight lose.

    “…insulin resistance leads to weight gain, but most health professionals believe that the opposite is true. If obesity does cause insulin resistance, then we would expect people who are overfed to become more insulin resistant, but that is not the case. Researchers in Indianapolis overfed six slender, active, young adults for several weeks… Five of the six subjects became LESS insulin resistant!”

    My Blog is much more thorough http://theskinnywhitebuddha.blogspo
    2423 days ago
    Strange, I experienced none of this. I lost 70 pounds and improved body composition substantially. I have kept the weight off for almost 2 years now. I would hardly say I'm obsessed. I have found a new love for being physically active and weight training. I realize that's just my single story, not statistically significant.

    But I'm not sure I understand your point that "dieting doesn't work". Citing an extreme case where calories are reduced to 50% of maintenance is ridiculously extreme. Then eating 10,000 calories per day expecting the body to magically repartition them to a favorable body composition is a completely unrealistic expectation. So ya, if you starve yourself, then gorge, this DOES NOT WORK. A reasonable approach of calorie restriction does work. It takes effort and dedication, but it works. Then once you're at maintenance, you can eat like a sane person, stay active and maintain. The big problem is that people go back to eating the way they were and say the diet didn't work. Who failed, the person or the diet? For extremely rigid diets that are tough to stick to, I say the diet fails. If a person decides to go back to eating anything with the word "mountain" in it off the menu, the person failed.

    I do not understand the obsession with overly rigid diets. I've made it a point in my contribution back to SP to simplify things for people as greatly as possible. Unfortunately, there is so much woo out there, the task is nearly impossible. It really is mostly about eating less. You can find a lot of people maintaining successfully over at the "At Goal and Maintaining" group.

    Apologies if I completely missed your point.
    2424 days ago
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