Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Successful Dieting

The informationon how many diets fail and how people of all shapes and sizes do not seem to lose weight is quite disheartening. Yet some people still seem to lose weight. Readers' success stories in magazines have to come from somewhere. Are these dieters in some way different? Are there factors which distinguish failed and successful dieters?

One factor which is a good predictor of weight loss is sex — not how much you have but whether you are male or female. Men have more success at both losing weight and maintaining any losses than women. As one spokeswoman from Slimmer Clubs said, 'Men tend to arrive at the clubs weighing more than most of the women there, they diet, lose weight and leave before most of the women who were there before them.' So why is this?

There are many factors which seem to predict weight loss and these are more likely to be characteristic of men than women.

So what are these factors?

The most obvious is the number 'of previous attempts at weight loss. Men seem to diet only once. They have not spent a lifetime trying to lose weight and this is a good predictor of weight loss. The fewer diets tried, the more likely you are to lose weight. If you diet, lose weight and then regain the weight, further weight loss becomes more difficult. This is because of changes in metabolic rate and the percentage of fat in the body and a process called weight cycling. Men diet once, have a high metabolic rate and a higher percentage of body muscle, and find it easier to lose weight.

Diet Start

Repeated dieting has other detrimental effects. Diets which result in no weight loss or regained lost weight create disillusionment. One of the best predictors of weight loss is believing that you can do it. Men who have never dieted before have not suffered the feelings of failure associated with constant dieting, and are therefore more likely to believe that dieting is easy and that they will succeed. This belief in their own success increases the likelihood that this success will occur.

The availability of food also predicts success or failure in dieting. Men are not usually surrounded by food, they do not have to cook and shop for the family, and are not constantly tempted to eat. When they decide to lose weight they can detach themselves from food and concentrate only on eating less. For women it is a different story. When women decide to diet they still have to cook and shop for the rest of the family and provide high calorie food for everyone else whilst they try to eat less.

Finally, men are not pressurised to be thin to the same degree as women. Men decide to diet at a much higher weight than their female counterparts. They therefore have an additional motivation to lose weight: health.

Of course, not all successful dieters are men and these factors which predict weight loss can also exist in women. Yet men are the embodiment of many of the factors which predict weight loss.

However, there are additional characteristics associated with success in dieting which are not necessarily characteristic of men.

An increase in exercise seems to predict success in weight loss. A recent study carried out in America showed that dieters who exercised were more likely to lose weight than dieters who just reduced their caloric intake. It was originally believed that exercise caused weight loss by using up calories. Exercise does burn up calories but only surprisingly few compared to an average meal. Professor Kelly Brownell has devised a chart to explain how many calories are used up in physical activity. He suggests that for a person who weighs 125 lbs, sleeping for ten minutes uses 10 calories, running at 5.5 miles per hour for ten minutes uses 90 calories and walking upstairs for ten minutes uses 146 calories. The average lunch probably takes about twenty minutes and probably consists of about 400 calories! Until recently it was also believed that exercise could raise your metabolic rate. However, recent evidence suggests that, although the metabolic rate may increase temporarily, this results onlyfrom prolonged and intensive exercise.

However, exercise still seems to predict weight loss, so why isthis?Exercise has many other effects which indirectly influenceweight loss. Primarily, it helps to maintain muscle tissue whilst the body is losing fat. In addition, exercise can be fun and enjoyable and can provide a diversion from the problems of everyday life. Increased self-confidence contributes to a general feeling of self-control and can aid attempts at losing weight.

But for the Majority...

For most people dieting does not work. Whether they are obese, overweight or simply see themselves as being fat dieting does not help them to become thinner. Initial weight loss may occur but this is very often regained, making further weight loss more difficult.

The large majority of dieters are not obese nor are they overweight; they just see themselves as being overweight. And yet they persistently diet with the desire to be thinner. Their own experience of previous attempts at dieting tells them that they won't lose weight and yet we are constantly led to believe that 'this time it will be different'. But for the majority, this time it will be exactly the same.

For the obese and the overweight maybe there are additional reasons to persist, to try out the new programmes and to read the most recent literature, but for the majority of women, why continue doing something that does not work?

... andjoyohoxing