5 common weight loss ‘tricks’ that actually make you gain more weight

Have you tried different ways to lose weight, only to gain it right back? Or to have the weight-loss method not work at all? Or you might lose weight, but then live in constant fear that it may come back? It could be that you’re investing in strategies that aren’t feasible. Here are five weight loss strategies that just don’t work:

Fasting for Weight Loss

Fasting is a great temporary strategy, if the intention is truly to cleanse and detoxify your system without any ulterior motives. It can give digestive organs a break from processing new foods and toxins, so that they can eliminate some of the old, stored up toxins. This can really reboot someone’s health if they don’t have an eating disorder or other contraindications.

However, for many people, fasting to just lose weight tends to backfire. We may lose water weight, but then a starvation mechanism kicks in and we gain back what we lost, plus some. Tricking the body never really works long-term.

A slow, sustainable weight loss is often what works best for the long-term. That means finding a way of eating that can nourish us on a daily basis. When we eat sustainably, creating daily habits that support overall health, we train our body to handle foods in the right proportions for our bioindividuality. We trust food and our body because we are nourishing the body and it’s capacity to detoxify at a rate that it can handle.

Very Low Calorie Diets

We can sometimes have a machine-like approach to weight loss, and just look at calories in versus calories out. The thought is, “Okay, if I want to lose weight, I just need to decrease my caloric intake.” However, the body is not a machine, it’s intertwined with psyche, soul, heart, and spirit. It’s an organic, dynamic, complex living organism.

Low-calorie diets paradoxically cause the body to go into starvation mode and hang onto body weight because the body thinks it needs to conserve rations. In addition, the body works best similarly to a wood-burning furnace, needing a steady supply of fuel. When we get to a few pieces of kindling, our fire doesn’t burn as bright. Our metabolism slows. A low calorie diet sets us up to feel starving. Then we can overeat or binge-eat in reaction to feeling starved, not knowing when the next meal is coming. It’s best to eat a steady stream of nutritious foods for stable, even energy all day.

Intense Exercise

Whereas movement is a healthy thing for most nourished bodies, intense exercise is not sustainable for many people. Moderate to light movement encourages a sense of playfulness and a parasympathetic nervous system response. Intense exercise, on the other hand, can create a stress response that signals the body to hang on to weight. Intense exercise can backfire once we stop, creating a sense of fear of rest, and leading to more compulsory or addictive forms of exercise.

If you feel like you’re forcing or dragging your body through exercise, chances are it may be too intense for your body at this particular time. You may want to try backing off, or only doing movement that feels like it comes from a place of enjoyment, in order to recalibrate your relationship to exercise.

Diet Pills

There has never ever been any diet pill or prescription drug that is effective for weight loss. Although the companies that market them play off of people’s weight insecurities by offering what seems like a solution, use of this method is not sustainable and usually backfires in weight gain after the initial weight loss. Being addicted to heroine will cause weight loss too, but it’s not really worth the other side effects. It’s a nice dream to think that taking a pill will make problems go away, but it’s not a reality.

What is a reality is moderation with food and exercise and developing a loving relationship with your body. Give your body the rest, nourishment, sleep, love, affection, passion, sex, boundaries, and purpose it requires, and it will be easier to discern physical from emotional hunger.

Hating Your Body

Hating the body into weight loss is a dead-end strategy. The body reacts as a small child. Imagine telling a 5-year-old that they’re “too fat and ugly and need to lose weight.” Besides crushing that poor toddler’s soul, the reaction would be for that child to feel shame and think, “there’s something wrong with me.” When we think there’s something wrong with us, we tend to act out in ways that prove this belief true. Only loving kindness works to change behavior to more workable terms.

Self-loathing is a poor way to motivate or inspire ourselves. Instead of shaming or blaming yourself, try kindness. For example, instead of name-calling or moving toward agitated disappointment in yourself, take a breath and focus on the behavior you’d like to see yourself exhibiting, while affirming your worth. Instead of the shaming statement in the paragraph above, you could try something like, “I know you’re feeling lonely and you blame your body for that, but your body is not the bad guy. It’s simply trying to do its job. Make sure you feed it and also listen to your emotions. You’re worthy of love, just like everyone else.” Being loving to your body, despite being disappointed in how it may currently look, is the first step.

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, our approaches to Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition encourage you to see your body in a holistic way, helping you to get out of the rut of yo-yo dieting, “eat this, don’t eat that” and “my body should look like…” Once you can let go of these old habits that just don’t work, you can enter into a new realm of seeing yourself as more than just a body, but a being with a mind, body, heart, and soul, worthy of love at any size.


Marc David

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