I recently heard a presentation that described what is called the “Diet Cycle”. I’m familiar with the term yo-yo dieting and understand that most diets lead to frustration and failure, but I had never heard the cycle described in this way before and it really resonated with me. I have gained and lost weight numerous times over the years, but have successfully been able to keep it off for over a decade. The “Diet Cycle” that was outlined in the presentation hit home because I saw in it my own journey before I discovered a healthier way of eating.
The Diet Cycle
Typically when people start a diet, they do too much too fast – they restrict calories and being exercising. Our initial enthusiasm carries us through the first week or two and we see some initial weight-loss, and believe the diet is working. However, around days 10-14 our bodies become nutrient deficient. Our restricted diet has been fuelling our bodies well below RDA levels and it is screaming for nutrients. What happens next is we start to crave foods like crazy, we feel irritable and sluggish, and we are likely bone tired and mentally “foggy”. We are asking our bodies to do more with less and that isn’t working. At some point we give in to our cravings – maybe it starts with a small treat or two, but often it escalates into a binge and total abandonment of the diet. The guilt from breaking our diet hits us hard and we give up. Slowly, any weight we lost is regained (if not more) and we remain unhappy with our current situation until we are spurred on by the next fad diet that promises to do the trick. Does this cycle sound familiar?
I’ll admit it. I have tried various diets including Weight Watchers, South Beach, and the Dukan Diet (I heard it worked for Kate Middleton!). And they all worked while I was CONSISTENTLY sticking with the program. However, you can’t eat that way ALL the time and none of them set me up with long-term habits that would sustain my weight-loss. The only thing that DID work was finding the healthy balance that worked for ME. Since 2007 I have been following an 80% Paleo/Whole 30 way of eating. I mainly eat whole, real foods and avoid processed food, chemicals, and sweeteners. I’m still a work in progress and have to keep at it to find that balance, but in general I do pretty well sticking with this style of eating.
Staying Nutrient Sufficient
The key to breaking the diet cycle is to eat a balanced, whole foods diet that meets your body’s nutritional needs. And weight-loss will be a BY-PRODUCT of eating a healthy diet that you can SUSTAIN for a lifetime. A healthy diet will take into consideration the activity or exercise you are doing so you don’t have a too-high calorie deficit. Going for a quick fix or magic pill won’t do it — hard work and the determination to change your habits will.
Even when eating whole foods and making balanced nutrition choices, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that an individual would have to eat an average of 27,575 calories per day (NOT a typo!) in order to become 100% sufficient in all 27 essential micronutrients based on recommended daily intake guidelines. You can check out the research article here. According to the study, when we are deficient in these areas, we find an 80.8% increase in the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese and is scientifically linked to a higher risk of other dangerous and debilitating diseases, including resistance to infection, birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
So how are we to ensure we are getting all the nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy and satisfied? Last year I discovered Shakeology when I was researching ways to return to fitness and lose the lingering baby weight. I have tried my fair share of shakes and drinks over the years as a competitive runner and triathlete and wasn’t expecting to be blown away. But I was. Simply put, Shakeology is a nutrient dense meal replacement that tastes GOOD. It is a whole food powdered shake that you can think of as “dry juicing” – for 160 calories I am getting the nutrient equivalent of 5 plates of salad. In addition, it contains a host of “superfoods” that strengthens my immune system (through adaptogens and phytonutrients) and fights chronic inflammation by countering the free radicals that destroy cells (which is the #1 cause of nearly every disease out there). It also helps with my digestion and ensures that the nutrients in the shake are actually being absorbed.
A conclusion of the study referenced/linked above – “It is the conclusion of this researcher that an individual following a popular diet plan using food alone, has a high likelihood of becoming micronutrient deficient, a condition shown to be scientifically linked to a higher risk of dangerous and debilitating diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, birth defects and overweight/obesity. Based on this study’s findings, the belief that a healthy, balanced diet can consistently deliver, to a typical dieter, all of the essential vitamins and minerals they need, through whole food alone, is in dire need of revision. It would appear that supplementation should be considered as a viable, low cost method to achieve micronutrient sufficiency and reduce the risk for some of today’s most prevalent and devastating health conditions and diseases.”
I found this study interesting as I had previously thought that eating a healthy, whole foods, “clean” diet was covering all my basic needs. But with the way food is grown, transported, and (in some cases) engineered these days I can see how our food today is not as nutrient dense as I once was. An apple flown here from New Zealand will not have the same freshness or nutrients as a hand picked apple in your home town.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Diet Cycle. Does it ring true for your history with weight-loss?