Why Diets Don’t Work

While it’s relatively easy to lose a small amount of weight on almost any diet, keeping the weight off is the tricky part.

“It doesn’t matter what diet you follow – you get the same response every time – weight loss followed by weight regain, and this includes the new fads – such as 5.2, keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting,” says The University of Sydney’s obesity expert Dr Nick Fuller.

This is because evolution has primed us to gain weight quickly, with the past few decades of relative food abundance at odds with the preceding millennia of prolonged food scarcity that our ancestors have had to endure.

“You’re doomed to failure the minute you start a diet because your body doesn’t know any better, it will fight to go back to its start point,” said Fuller. “Your metabolism will lower. Your appetite hormones will change so that you eat more, and everything eventually sees you lose weight, and then your body’s shutting down, and then you climb and crawl back to where you were.”  

Dr Nick Fuller is a leading obesity expert at The University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre

People that have been on diets for large portions of their life have done all kinds of damage to their body, including their metabolism and their appetite signalling system, says Fuller.  

“A really good example comes from a scientist in the US called Kevin Hall, who followed up the contestants from the TV show The Biggest Loser,” said Fuller. “At the start of the competition, their metabolism was about 2600 calories per day. They lost a lot of weight, and their metabolism went down to about 2000 calories per day. You’d expect a drop, because they’ve got less body mass. Then these people were followed up six years later. They’d put the weight back on, but their metabolism was still right down at 1900 calories per day. So they’re not burning as much energy at rest, so the weight keeps going back on. So they end up worse off. They put on more weight and their metabolism hasn’t recovered.”

Fuller believes that diets, in all their various plans, don’t work in the long term. 

“We have discovered that the only way to succeed on your weight loss journey is to follow an interval weight loss plan so your body doesn’t fight itself,” he said. “You re-calibrate your set point at intervals along the way by losing a small amount of weight over a month, then imposing a break and maintaining that weight loss over the second month, then being allowed to go on and lose weight again in the third month, and so on, until you reach your goal weight.”

Fuller has translated this research into the Interval Weight Loss program which he says is the only program scientifically proven to prevent weight regain in the long term.

The program includes six key steps. The first, and most important step, is to impose those necessary weight loss breaks every second month in order to turn off the pathways that cause your body to go into shut-down mode when you diet. The second step is to choose natural foods over processed ones. The third step is to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables so that you get a “full rainbow of colours” into your daily diet. The fourth step is to eat big to small throughout the day — relatively big breakfast, medium lunch, small dinner — and use chopsticks with your evening meal to help reduce overeating. The fifth step is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. And the sixth and final step is to prioritise sleep health by avoiding the blue light emitted from flat screen devices for at least one hour before bedtime.

“For people out there bravely trying to do something about their weight, stop dieting, because it’s not the answer,” said Fuller. “Equip yourself with the right information and you will be able to get back on track. And if you do that, you’ll be able to regain control of not only your weight, but, more importantly, your health. That is the number one priority. Everyone needs to prioritise health, because without it, you have nothing.”

  • Watch as Dr Fuller explains how the Interval Weight Loss program works and how it can help you lose weight and keep it off for the long term:   

For more information on the Interval Weight Loss program and Dr Nick Fuller’s research at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, visit the Interval Weight Loss site: https://www.intervalweightloss.com.au/​ and YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE1P…

Suvi Mahonen is a Surfers Paradise-based journalist. Her work appears in The Australian, the Australian QuarterlyMamamia and other health and lifestyle publications. Follow her on FacebookYouTube and online art-selling platform Redbubble.

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