A Weight Loss Myth Debunked
“I’m sorry this article is late; I was going to have it ready yesterday, but the computer crashed and I ran out of toner so I decided to email it, but wouldn’t you know; the internet was down. You know how it is…”
From the time we can first speak, we make excuses. Whether it’s because we’re afraid to appear wrong; don’t want to change; really didn’t plan on doing what we said; any of the above or all of the above; it’s just an annoying fact of the human condition.
There are unimaginative justifications, such as “I was stuck in traffic” or “My alarm didn’t go off.”
There are I-really-don’t-want-to-go-to-work excuses (referred to as “calling in sick”). By the way, should you be in need of an all-around pretext, there’s always, “I’ve got that thing that’s going around.” (Not that I’m advocating dishonesty mind you…) The cool thing is there is always “that thing that’s going around.” Call in any day, any time of year, make use of that ploy (cough and sneeze for emphasis), and the person on the other end will most assuredly reply, “Oh, yeah, my brother/uncle/husband had that thing. It’s awful; it hung on for weeks.” No one ever knows what IT is; yet we all know IT, and fear we will get it.
Diet excuses are the most common. As example “I had to go to a restaurant so I didn’t know what I could have,” implying I therefore ate everything I could. At year’s end, “I’ll wait until the holidays are over before I start my diet,” becomes the conventional understanding. This of course, ignores the fact that the holidays have been going on for about 2,000 years and show no sign of ending any time soon. Yet, we accept the rationale.
Among career dieters, there is the oxymoronic, “I gained because I’m not eating enough,” appearing to make as much sense as “I’m wealthy because I didn’t earn anything.”
To be fair, this is based on a well-worn dietary concept called “set points.” Roughly stated, the theory claims that if we drop too much weight too quickly, or lower our caloric intake below a certain level, our bodies react in primitive fashion, shifting into “starvation mode” as a protection against a perceived famine. This causes our metabolism to slow, allowing us to store energy (fat) for the expected rough times ahead. Therefore weight loss suffers. It does appear to make good sense, and it also provides cover for those few extra chocolate cookies. Beyond that, it’s a great scapegoat when we believe that we’re really working hard with minimal results. Alas, it has recently been debunked.
It is true that cutting one’s caloric intake drastically (never a healthy method to lose weight) makes the body more efficient and causes it to lower its metabolism. However the upshot is slower weight loss, not a reversal of it. (Upon achieving a healthy weight, our metabolism returns to its previous state.) While there is no biologic evidence to support the “starvation mode” myth, there do appear to be behavioral explanations as to why weight loss stops from extreme dieting. Over-restriction of calorie intake, known as “high dietary restraint,” has been found to be tied to periods of overeating, which of course get in the way of successful weight loss. In effect, we become so ravenous, we pretty much eat anything — and then rationalize the indulgence by the periods of deprivation.
If we focus on long-term health rather than quick-loss diets, not only might we actually drop a few pounds, but a whole lot of excuses too.