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Have you fallen into the dieting trap?

Let's be honest, dieting is not fun. By its very definition it means to restrict food intake in order to lose weight, and there is nothing fun about restriction!

But at some point in our lives most of us have, or will likely embark on, a restrictive diet to shift unwanted pounds.

Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with going on a diet — in fact losing some excess weight may be necessary to improve your health — there are so many different ways to approach weight loss. Not all of them are healthy, nor will they necessarily yield the long-term results we desire.

Most typical diets advocate either reducing overall calories (food), or restricting or eliminating certain foods altogether; some of them are more extreme in their methods than others.

As I've discussed before, our bodies are complex things that are always trying to find homeostasis — this is your body's natural balancing or set point where it feels most comfortable to function optimally.

If you go on an extreme diet or an extreme exercise routine, you'll be sending stress signals to your body forcing it into survival mode as it has to work very hard to find that balancing point. If you do this consistently over long periods of time you may end up shifting the point at which your body naturally wants to balance, and this can have a lasting impact on your ability to lose weight or maintain a body composition that you're happy with in the long run.

In other words, if you go on a diet and continue to eat a very low number of calories over time, lower than what you need for maintenance, your body will become used to running off low calories, effectively decreasing the amount of fuel it needs to survive off on a daily basis.

Whilst you may experience some initial success and shed your excess pounds, keeping it off long-term can be hard, and sadly more often than not the weight will creep back on. This is because your have lowered your set point due to extreme calorie restriction, and unless you continue to eat in a caloric deficit, you will find it very hard to maintain your new body weight. This is why unfortunately so many of us struggle to maintain our weight after being on a weight loss plan, because it's hard to consistently stick to the reduced amount of food our bodies had become accustomed to whilst we were dieting.

Another problem with low calorie or very restrictive diets is that you'll likely find your energy levels are also low, meaning you may feel hungry more often and therefore more tempted to binge or ‘fall off the wagon'. We've all been there, you've eaten nothing but cabbage soup all day and suddenly the urge to eat an entire packet of cookies is very real and you're licking crumbs off your fingers! Before you know it you've just blown your entire calorie budget for the day (if not the week).

Your best defence against experiencing the effects of yo-yoing between weight loss and weight gain is to eat a balanced and nutrient-dense diet that is appropriate for your daily energy needs, yet will also help you achieve your weight loss goals. If you are unsure of what this look like, I would highly recommend speaking to an experienced trainer or nutritionist who has proven experience with weight loss clients.

Whilst it is possible to lose weight and keep it off, doing it in an extreme way is rarely the answer. This really is one of those cases where the slow and steady approach is the best for long-term success.

Lastly, I would also advise incorporating resistance training into your routine to help develop lean muscle mass, which in turn will help to increase your metabolism and the rate at which you burn calories and fat for fuel.

Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Becky works at Alchemy Fitness. Contact: becky@alchemy.bm

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Published July 01, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated June 30, 2015 at 8:37 pm)

Have you fallen into the dieting trap?

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