Written by Mr Filip Koidis for Doctify

Starting a new diet, full of optimism and resolutions, only to crash and burn two weeks later – we’ve all been there. As you slowly regain consciousness and take in the mounds of Pringle tins and pizza boxes strewn across the floor, its easy to give up. But is there a reason diet’s fail other than a simple lack of willpower?

Here to share with us a few insights on weight loss and why diets fail is nutritionist, Mr Filip Koidis.

Why do so many people struggle with weight loss?

The common consensus for weight loss is this: measure how many calories you consume and how many calories you burn. You want to aim for a deficit. However, as many dieters can testify, the reality is not that straightforward nor that simple.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Calorie burn estimates can be hugely imprecise. Online calculators, lifestyle publications and fitness trackers have significant error margins. Even under laboratory conditions, calorie expenditure could be off by as high as 45%. Most common consumer fitness trackers have approximately 30% margin of error.
  • Individuals burn calories uniquely. Factors to take into consideration are:
    • genetics and epigenetics
    • body fat percentage and distribution ( brown vs white matter)
    • sleep efficiency
    • gut microbiome (population of bacteria in our gut affecting the way we respond to food)
    • hormonal cycle ( i.e. differences in resting metabolic rate during menstrual cycle could count up to 100+ calories burnt daily)
  • These factors affect the way we burn calories and could result in vastly different numbers between two people with seemingly similar body composition
  • Being overweight in the past can influence the way you burn calories as well through a process called “adaptive thermogenesis”. Simply put, a previously overweight person will need to reduce her/his caloric intake more than what a “calorie-calculator” would suggest. This is mostly due to their body showing resistance to adapting to a slimmer body composition.
  • Scientific studies have shown that we all have a different adaptive metabolic rate. This means each individual responds differently to the amount of calories ingested. For example, two people of same weight, height and exercise regimen will not put on the exact same weight if fed extra 500 calories/day. Furthermore, different macronutrients (types of food, such as carbohydrates or protein) burn significantly different amounts of calories during digestion. An example would be that a meal of 500kcal that consists mostly of fat will only use up about 20kcal upon digestion. However, a similar meal of mostly protein will use up to 150kcal upon digestion.

Why do diets often fail?

Celebrity diets, diets created by famous doctors like the Atkins or 5:2 or even that diet your friend did and worked a treat for her, are doomed to fail us sooner or later purely because they were not meant for us. They were not designed for us.

We are complex beings and although we might share some common characteristics, we differ in our daily habits, our physiology, our biochemistry and our genetics. When deciding to embark upon a diet, you have to consider all of the above.

Seeking advise from a specialist is one way to go, but also educate yourself. Trust only reliable sources of information with the appropriate credentials, and make sure that you start accumulating healthy habits that don’t have a deadline. You should want to follow them for the rest of your life. And, most importantly, make sure that whichever dietary goals you set, they are yours and they will make you happier and healthier.

Do you have any tips on dieting, for people trying to lose weight?

First and foremost it is important that a realistic lifestyle approach is adopted and not a short-term weight loss fix. The key to a healthy lifestyle lies in individuality. What is healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for another.

In order to maintain a healthy eating plan, you have to be open to constantly educating yourself about food. You also have to be keen to learn how your body works and interacts with food. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as healthy and unhealthy eating, there is just “eating” as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is realistic and flexible, therefore “plan deviations” are acceptable, expected and easy to overcome.

Once you adopt a healthy mindset, there is no such thing as post eating or drinking feelings of guilt or remorse. It is a matter of priorities. For example, eating a big meal and your favourite dessert on your birthday day is perfectly acceptable as, in that instance, you are not prioritising healthy eating. You are enjoying that cake and few glasses of wine with your friends and family. Re-arranging your priorities the day after, putting healthy eating first again for your own personal reasons, will not be a struggle at all.

A good night’s sleep is an imperative priority when it comes to weight management. It’s also a factor which is often overlooked. Poor sleep is associated with poor food choices, choices which are often higher in calories and fat than normal. People suffering from lack of sleep place health goals as low priority. They can also experience hormonal dysregulation, which can contribute to weight gain.

Should I be taking vitamins and supplements?

Up until recently, it was commonly accepted that vitamins are good for you. Even if you don’t necessarily need them, they won’t do you any harm so you might as well take them.

Emerging scientific data over the past five to six years however, suggests that taking multivitamins can cause more harm than good. Comparative studies showed that people taking multivitamins had higher chances of developing certain cancers and increased risk of dying compared to those not taking any.

Another issue with taking unnecessary supplements is that you might be inhibiting the absorption pathways of certain vitamins and minerals. As a result, you could end up malnourished instead of well-nourished and with your liver working unnecessary overtime to get rid of all those supplements.

A supplement should be used exactly for what its meaning suggests, to supplement your dietary intake, to be the tip of the iceberg and not the core of your diet. Take away message: if you can eat it don’t supplement it!

 


 

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If anything mentioned here has affected you and you want to know more, you can book an appointment with Mr Koidis by clicking below.

 

Book an appointment with Dr Filip Koidis