In a society that offers colossal portion sizes and prioritizes fast, convenient meals instead of healthy ones, it’s easy to have difficulty losing weight. Most people who try dieting do lose weight, but maintaining a healthy weight in the long term is much harder than losing a couple of pounds by cutting back for a day, a week, or a month.
The truth is that most diets don’t actually work—at least in the long term. Instead of going on a crash diet to lose five pounds in a week and then gain back ten the next, you might want to focus on developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with the food you eat over time.
The Key to Healthy Weight Loss
Maintaining a healthy weight appears to come down to a simple equation. If you take in more calories than your body uses in a day, you will gain weight. On the other hand, if you take in fewer calories than your body uses in a day, you will lose weight. So, why is losing weight so difficult for so many people?
The truth is that it’s easy to drop pounds when you first start to cut calories, but over time, the process becomes more difficult. You may have noticed that you tend to lose the most during the first week of a diet. In the weeks that follow, you lose less and less, even though you’re taking in the same amount of calories. That’s because when you first start to lose weight, you actually lose water weight, some fat, and some lean tissue. Your metabolism slows down to accommodate the fact that you’re not taking in as much food. As a result, you need to continue to cut calories in order to keep losing weight.
But there’s another reason why cutting back more and more calories doesn’t work. Not every calorie is created equal. One hundred calories from refined sugar, for instance, have a different impact on your body than one hundred calories worth of spinach. Some foods, such as chips or candy, are packed with calories, but they don’t leave you feeling full. Others, like vegetables or legumes, have the same amount of calories, but will actually fill you up.
Finally, losing weight in a healthy way that’s manageable over the long term doesn’t come with the immediate results that going on a crash diet does. Extreme diets might allow you to see results within one week, but they’re also hard to maintain over time. Since your body is literally being starved of calories, you’ll feel hungry, tired, and, irritable. And don’t forget the emotional connection that most of us have to food. Much of the time, eating isn’t simply a matter of satisfying hungry. It’s normal to turn to food to relieve anxiety or deal with negative emotions. But starving yourself can be a way of setting yourself up for failure, as it takes too much willpower.
Of course, how you choose to manage your weight is up to you. The good news is that by making smarter choices and adopting healthy eating habits, you can lose weight and keep it off.