What’s on TV? Super slimmers: did they keep the weight off?

The diet industry is big business. There’s always a new fad diet making huge claims and a book to go with it. The super slimmers documentary featured on channel 4 gave me the incentive to talk about dieting as I’m constantly discussing it with clients, friends and family!

The show featured six weight loss champions in America and the UK who had lost 80 stone between them. Only one person featured on the show had kept their weight off. This was mainly due to exercising everyday and maintaining focus on food restriction. The show also highlighted that the reason diets fail is that your body’s basal metabolic rate drops whilst you’re on the diet. This is the amount of energy your body expends at rest. Metabolic rate does not recover once you finish the diet and increase your calorie intake. It was estimated that one of the dieters on the show was burning 800 calories less a day than a the average person of the same body composition. However, it is important to know that this is all relative. The less you restrict your calories, the lesser the drop in metabolism.

I want to make it clear, DIETS DON’T WORK! Well, they do, but not in the long term, the majority of dieters regain their weight and many are heavier than when they started. Only 5-10% manage to maintain their loss.

When you lose weight your body immediately wants to replenish the fat stores; we have evolved to do this. The only way to achieve a healthy weight is by throwing the scales away and focusing on eating a whole food diet with adequate exercise and sleep. Making lots of little changes can result in one big change!

Being overweight and obese is extremely complex and involves many factors including emotional health, sleep quality and gut bacteria! Excess fat also disrupts our  hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite. Leptin is produced by fat cells and lets the brain know when we are full. The more fat you have, the more leptin you produce so your brain can recognise when to burn less calories at rest and eat less. The problem is there is now a strong body of research to suggest the brain becomes resistant to leptin when levels are very high, meaning the brains of overweight and obese individuals are still receiving the signal that says fat stores need to increase and metabolic rate needs to drop. In addition, unfortunately this does not appear to correct itself when a person loses weight. Instead, when leptin levels reduce the body receives the starving signal!

The Key message here is this: If you significantly restrict calories, your metabolic rate with plummet. This means that as soon as you relax your diet (even slightly), you will put on all of the weight you have lost, and usually more. If you cut out the processed foods, whilst simultaneously nourishing your body, your body will slowly but surely burn the excess fat, without the major drop in metabolic rate, meaning the weight loss you achieve will not be undone as soon as you deviate from your healthy eating regime.

COMING SOON – my blog on leptin and what current evidence says on the best ways to reduce it!

Sarah is a registered nutritional therapist with a specialist interest in hormones, mental health and cancer. Sarah works with people to help them overcome chronic health concerns by supporting them in breaking bad habits and guiding them with expert advice. Sarah is based in Chelmsford and you can book an appointment with her here.