Why diets don’t work.
By Dr. Sergey A. Dzugan
Millions of people seek diets and treatments for being overweight and obese. For most people, weight management is not effective, since the majority of them lose the struggle to reduce weight and blame themselves for the relapse.1 Perhaps the most frequent question that I have been asked over the last 20 years is “How can I lose weight?” In Latin diet (dieta) is a manner of living, not just an arbitrary system of what to eat and not to eat. This is why when people ask me how much and how often to eat or drink; I explain to them the meaning of the word. Though extra weight is an excellent marker of sub-optimal or poor health, just losing it in any way possible is not the proper path to follow. In fact, your entire lifestyle is the most important principle for weight maintenance and loss; any way of losing weight contrary to this is destined to failure and is quite possibly dangerous to the body in the long run. To put it bluntly, diet in the modern sense of the word is a complete disregard concerning the wisdom of how our body works.
We look at weight loss as a complex program which is supposed to support all the physiological aspects of body function. An individual will always pay the “price” if he or she tries to “cheat” the body. In this article we will talk about the dangers of diets and possible physiological approaches to the correction of weight problem.
Depriving the body
Our body is a very smart self-regulating mechanism. It knows how much we need to eat or drink and when we need to do it. We need oxygen, nutrients, and water for cell growth, maintenance, and renewal. When we consume less food than we need, the body will do everything in its power to preserve itself. Regulatory mechanisms will be turned on and the first vital signal will be sent to the brain – that of hunger. A car will not run on an empty tank, and likewise our body needs a constant supply of “fuel” in order to achieve constant performance. Consequently, a highly tuned and active body will not settle on “regular” and a slower and more out of shape body certainly does need “premium” to run; the intake must be in accordance to the need.
What happens when we diet?
The body will slow down metabolism and will burn fewer calories for standard need until normal caloric income is restored. In other words, the body will adjust performance to conform to the shortage of calories. In this way, dieting is simply unnatural and even dangerous.
FURTHERMORE, CALORIES ARE NOT THE ONLY PIECES OF THE PUZZLE TO A NORMAL “DIET.”
Popular low carbohydrate diets deprive our brain of the necessary glucose to operate efficiently and rationally. Also, those who are on such a low carbohydrate diet have increased hunger because of an insufficient brain glucose level. High protein diets overtax our kidneys, which can result in kidney disease and cancer. As stated before, diet is the entire “manner of living”. None of the diets today actually present a way of life, but rather are an attempt to quickly lose weight, which will ultimately reappear.
Mechanisms of diet: Physical and psychological aspects
One of the most important points to be considered about a diet is if the individual undergoing said diet is male or female. Normally, a female’s body has more percent of fat to muscle than a male’s body. More fat means a slower metabolism. Men usually have a high percentage of muscles. More muscle in turn means a faster metabolism. Essentially, since men have a higher muscle mass they can burn calories faster and easier than women can.
What happens when we start to diet?
First of all our body loses water, after which metabolism slows down. Next our body starts to lose muscle, another step of a decreasing metabolism. The last thing that the body loses is fat storage. After loosing weight and resuming a normal eating regimen, we regain fat at a very fast rate, not the muscle that was lost during dieting. In this manner we lose our natural fat-burning component: muscle. In response the body tries to create a “reserve” for a possible future low calorie intake.
Our body cannot see the difference between starvation and diet (artificial starvation) and reacts in a similar fashion – by slowing down metabolism (during dieting) and restoring weight by fat storage (after cessation of the diet). In this case, the so called phenomenon of accelerated fat recovery occurs.2 People who participated in the Arizona biosphere experiment for two years who lost 15% of body weight discovered that their weight gain was almost exclusively fat.2 Basically, when we diet (especially restrictively), we upset out normal metabolism. A diet without exercise is extremely harmful because of the loss of muscle and the consequent regain of fat. Metabolism fluctuations aside, it is not unusual to overeat after a diet. At this time your metabolism is compensating and is in a slowed form because of the diet and low calorie intake. You will have an “excellent opportunity” to regain weight in a speedy manner because of the extremely efficient fat-storing mechanism that will be in effect.
Depression is one of the most vicious side effects of hormonal imbalances. Too often obesity and depression go hand in hand, each reinforcing the other. Depression robs any motivation someone might have to lose weight. Depressed individuals lack the energy to exercise or eat properly. Simply swallowing Prozac™ is not going to solve the problem of depression because of the underlying cause that still exists, largely caused by deficient hormonal levels. Once the dieter has scientifically rebalanced their hormones their feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression will largely disappear.
Some diets (a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet, a low-protein high-carbohydrate diet, an energy-restriction low-carbohydrate diet) showed that they could affect synthesis and metabolism of tryptophan, serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and its metabolite.3,4 Abnormality in neurotransmitters relating to metabolism can lead to psychological disorders. Irritability, anger, anxiety, mood swings etc., are typical for dieters. Also, abnormalities in brain serotonin can put people at risk of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.5
Most studies relating to food deprivation ultimately include any or all of the mental disorders listed above. In one extreme case, an individual performed self mutilation, chopping off 3 of his own fingers because he became so disturbed from food restriction.6 Losing digits on your hand is no price to play for simply going on a diet!
Why have I explained all of this? Because it all comes down to that if we try to play any kind of “tricks” on our body, it will not appreciate this and will attempt to change the overall regulatory “program” accordingly. The goal of our body is survival and any threat to this will be evaluated solely from this viewpoint.
Our approach to the diet program
A “diet” program must be configured to one’s particular needs. Dieters need to understand the true nature of being overweight, and what they need to do for solving their own weight problem. No two people are alike and no two people have the same personal biochemistry. Our program manages people and their weight problems as individuals.
The goal of the program is to permanently reconfigure the body’s weight in way that is beneficial and not harmful to the overall system
The only way to achieve this is via gradual (gradual being the key word) loss of unwanted weight. Dropping 15 pounds in two weeks is too sudden and too dangerous. Though it may make an overweight person suddenly feel and look better, it does great harm to the body and reduces the chance of the individual achieving permanent weight loss. Slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes, and there are steps to follow just as with any program.
The program is unique just as the people that it manages, which require it to have many different parts that work in unison to achieve a positive effect. When speaking of the program in general, there are several facets and goals to consider:
- The restoration of an optimal metabolism (whereas more calories are burned than stored, achieving a healthy equilibrium).
- The use of supplements which show positive results in weight loss and are backed up by studies, not just what we see on TV in the form of “miracle weight loss drugs.”
- Following the physiology-based eating regimens (what your body needs, not a program set in stone in accordance with generalized plans).
- Keeping your mind at peace, not to expect fast weight loss and not becoming paranoid with weighing in.
- Exercise, especially exercise that should be enjoyable and in moderation according to your body’s needs.
When speaking of the eating regimen in specificity, there are certain rules to consider:
- Don’t under eat or over eat, though they are different in concept, one is as dangerous to the body as the other.
- Eat often enough and do not force the body to comply with a strict timed schedule; the body knows when it requires more energy to function properly.
- Do not skip meals, especially breakfast.
- The largest meal should be at lunch, not in the evening. The body’s metabolism is strongest in the morning and weakest towards night, also the reason why you can safely not skimp out on a good breakfast. Furthermore, the last meal of the day should be at least 4 hours before sleep.
- Also to remember is the fact that skipping meals can provoke the storage of fat because the body will try to accumulate fat in response to such a tactic. If the body realizes that it has to undergo long periods of time without food due to fasting, it will naturally build up fat to have adequate energy in the future.
Weight Maintenance Recommendations
- Focus on general health restoration plus weight loss rather then only diet and weight loss. The losing of weight can lead to losing of health.
- You do not need expensive drugs for weight loss. Any intervention which will disrespect physiology can be extremely dangerous.
- Don’t try any diet because it is popular. Try to understand how and why it can help you.
- Eat when you are slightly hungry. Don’t wait when you will be excessively hungry because you will over-eat. Also, don’t eat when your body does not ask for it (when you have no hunger feeling). In both cases you will not use extra calories you will store them! In other words, eat when your body requires it (hunger feeling or craving to specific food will help you). Otherwise your body will slow down metabolism.
- Exercise and take supplements which can prevent muscle loss, support and/or rebuild your muscles. It will help maintain normal metabolism and burn fat instead of muscle. Exercise can be hard work or duty. Find an enjoyable way for moving your body. Exercise can not be seen just as a time for weight loss – it needs to be your daily routine just like brushing your teeth, drinking water and eating food.
The key idea of any weight loss program is to restore internal control necessary to achieve permanent weight loss. When we try to treat only the symptoms (being overweight and obese in this case), we put our body under severe stress and risk. Our body will try to survive in any way because dieting is a threat to life. There is also the old saying to consider, “We eat to live, but we don’t live to eat”. Food is an integral part of life, limiting or taking in excess will only lead to problems.
Until health (your foundation) is restored, there is no sense in trying to focus on weight loss. The simple fact of the matter is that you will fail. You can certainly lose some weight on any diet program, but after resuming your normal lifestyle, (the true “diet”) you will regain much more as your body tries to cope with getting back into normal working level. In fact, in a study conducted on 36 adult males, all of them had regained their lost weight after 5 months of food restrictions and gained on average 10% more weight than what they had originally.6 This seems to be not an exception but a rule when it comes to improper diets.
If your foundation is in order, you can loose weight on any program. Life needs to be enjoyable. There is no real reason to undergo a permanent struggle with weight control and to suffer from major health problems related to it (diabetes type 2, depression, arthritis, etc.). Only the restoration of optimal health can help you achieve a permanent weight change. Once this vital step is out of the way, all that is left to do is spend more calories than those consumed while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
In fact, hormonal imbalances in the body are the leading causes of obesity. With low levels of pregnenolone, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, estrogens, thyroid or serotonin, low or high cortisol we will gain weight in specific areas of the body no matter what we eat or don’t eat. With hormones completely balanced, physical and emotional fatigue fade away and peak energy levels can once again be experienced. Unfortunately, few doctors are aware of the onslaught that our hormonal system goes through on a daily basis. Stress from obesity lowers healthy levels of DHEA and pregnenolone while increasing unhealthy levels of cortisol, sometimes dubbed the “death hormone”.
Unlike other diets that trick the body into temporarily dropping excess weight, our program actually reprograms the cells in your body as well as your brain. The result is that the body will function at its youthful hormonal levels. Your brain and cells will respond to food differently and allocate the nutrients for energy and not for fat storage. Usually, weight gain occurs after the age of 35 when our hormones undergo an aging change. At this time, the frustrating battle with stubborn weight gain begins.
Gaining weight in specific areas of the body (a common cause for quick diets) is caused by specific hormonal deficiencies. In women with estrogen dominance, fat will collect around the buttocks and thighs; in men who are deficient in testosterone, fat will accumulate in the belly even if you work out three times a day and eat little to no carbohydrates. In essence, the reasons for most of the diets today can only be optimally fixed by hormonal restoration, because hormones are the essential chemical messengers that control our body to keep us young and healthy. As we age, hormones begin to decline. The result is that we feel tired, we lose interest and we gain weight, causing us to age quicker than we should. Consequently, age is not a 100% marker for hormonal imbalance. Individuals, as young as 18, with excessive levels of body fat can have dangerously low levels of hormones. Once corrected, their optimal weight returned and they experienced increased energy and permanent weight loss.
Restoration of hormonal balance can help with not only weight loss but also with longevity. Aside from reducing the obvious risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer which are often caused by excess weight, hormonal restoration quickly leads to a healthy cholesterol profile, reduced blood sugar levels, higher levels of energy and a reduction of depression and emotional stress. Our program is based on scientific research and years of medical knowledge. This is more than just a weight loss program. This is a program for the entire rejuvenation of the body, a chance to turn back the clock and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases.
Our program for dieting
The first step to changing your life and your health is a simple blood test, which includes a lipid profile; pregnenolone, DHEA sulfate, total and free testosterone, total estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, serotonin and a thyroid panel.
This needs to be done to determine the overall picture of all of your hormones. This process can be performed at your doctor’s office or in numerous locations in the country where you simply walk in, get your blood drawn and have the results mailed back to you. From this point, dieters can see what hormones need to be supplemented. The amount and timing of specific vitamins and minerals is critical to a successful lifelong program of optimal health and optimal weight. Scientific information on supplementation can be discussed by dieters with our health advisor. An important fact to remember is that hormonal supplementation is greatly aided by following the eating habits outlined earlier. With this in mind, you can start hormonorestorative therapy to restore your hormones to a healthy, youthful level.
The body’s chemistry must also be refined by concentrating on restoring digestive integrity. Without proper digestion, the body will be unable to absorb life-sustaining nutrients essential for a proper metabolism. It is unacceptable for dieters to have constipation because it can be a reflection that the person has poor health and that something is wrong with the digestive system. For optimal health, we must cleanse, restore and maintain peak digestion. Supplements for the restoration of natural intestinal flora and the removal of parasites are helpful to combat this.
The following supplements can be used in addition to hormones, eating regimens and exercise:
- Super CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) blended with Guarana and Sesame Lignans can reduce fat deposits and increase lypolysis in adipocytes, possibly with enhanced fatty-acid oxidation in both muscle cells and adipocytes (because of CLA).7
- Chromium has the ability to increase the sensitivity of insulin, which is vital since many overweight people experience a “numbing” effect on their insulin which impedes the metabolism of sugars. Without being metabolized, these sugars simply turn to fat. A 200 mcg capsule of chromium with each meal will help sugars be absorbed and utilized in a metabolic process instead of being turned straight into fat.
- Magnesium is a substance that, like chromium, is responsible for a balanced level of insulin sensitivity. Magnesium citrate in dose 400-800 mg (at bedtime 400 mg, or 200/400 mg in AM and 400 mg at bedtime) is usually sufficient.
- HCA (hydroxycitric acid) is recommended one 1000 mg capsule taken three times daily before meals because it may be helpful in weight loss in accordance with its effects on metabolism.
- 7-Keto DHEA, taken at 100-200 mg one tablet daily, has been shown to be effective in inducing fat loss.9
- A good probiotic formula which includes: Lactobacillus group (L.rhamnosus A., L.rhamnosus B., L.acidophilus, L.casei, L.bulgaricus) – 3.5 Billion, Bifidobacterium group (B.longum, B.breve) – 1.0 Billion, Streptococcus thermophilus – 0.5 Billion (in the morning on an empty stomach) helps restore intestinal flora and improves absorption.
The final parts of the program are exercise and eating habits.
Exercise should be done for 30-60 minutes 5 days a week; when weight is lost this can be moved down to 3 times a week to keep the weight at its new point. Eating habits are simple to remember because there are 3 main parts to keep in mind: eat a good breakfast, the largest amount of food should be consumed during lunch and food should be eaten about 4 hours before going to sleep.
Remember, when you use diets, you “rape” your brain; you are trying to change your body’s program by trying to “install” unnatural and restrictive eating rules. A normal eating regimen is a way to gain power and protection against any malfunctions or illnesses which could afflict the body. We can over-eat if we are not feeling strong enough for the management of daily tasks. That is why it is extremely important to find another way for dealing with daily problems. “Restoring the foundation”, whereas the body’s hormonal levels are optimized and overall health is good, is the primary method of healthy weight loss. If the level of hormones is optimal, the body will not have to deal with other factors and will not require something such as eating more to cope with stress or other issues.
- Wooley SC, Garner DM. Obesity treatment: the high cost of false hope. J Am Diet Assoc. 1991 Oct;91(10):1248-51.
- Dulloo AG, Jacquet J, Montani JP. Pathways from weight fluctuations to metabolic diseases: focus on maladaptive thermogenesis during catch-up fat. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002 Sep;26 Suppl 2:S46-57.
- Hirose T. Effects of nutritional status on contents of tryptophan, serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in rat brain. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1992 Jun;47(2):627-33.
- Hirose T. Effects of ethanol and low-carbohydrate diet on contents of noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin and their metabolites in rat brain. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1991 Aug;46(3):755-61.
- Kaye WH, Bailer UF, Frank GK, Wagner A, Henry SE. Brain imaging of serotonin after recovery from anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Physiol Behav. 2005 Sep 15;86(1-2):15-7.
- Keys A. The Biology of Human Starvation. Minneapolic, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1950
- Park Y, Albright KJ, Liu W, Storkson JM, Cook ME, Pariza MW. Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on body composition in mice. Lipids. 1997 Aug;32(8):853-8.
- Thom E. Hydroxycitrate (HCA) in the treatment of obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Dsiord. 1996;20(Suppl 4):75.
- Kalman DS, Colker CM, Swain MA, Torina GC, Shi Q. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone in healthy overweight adults. Curr Therap Res. 2000;61(7):435-42.