Finally, an excuse to stop dieting

It has not been a great week for my diet. My birthday has ended up sprawling across several days, partly because my son bought me his body weight in chocolate as a present and partly because I’m so weak willed that any excuse better than “Why not?” is good enough to break the diet open like a pinatta (an apt simile, I feel).
Still, all is not lost, this week has been one upward blip in an otherwise downward trend, so I should be able to get back on track fairly easily, at least until my wedding anniversary in a month or so.

While we’re on the subject of diets, I saw a TED talk yesterday that presented some interesting dieting facts and theories. It was based around an idea that I’ve seen bandied about over the last few years, that your body has a set weight that it believes you should be at and going below that weight is a right pain in the arse (or stomach, I guess); not only do you have to increase your calorie deficit (though exercise or eating less) to get down to the weight you want, but you have to maintain that deficit for the rest of your life in order to stay there.
[Note: The implicit flip side is that going above your body’s set weight is also not going to happen naturally, but it is far easier to do if you’re eating when you’re not hungry.]
This is a rather dismal fact for dieters, assuming that it’s true; although I am trying to lose some weight myself, I am labouring under the hope that once I shift that weight, I’ll be able to return to moderate cake eating and still maintain the loss.

However, whether or not you worry about dieting (and some statistics suggest that doing so is actually counterproductive), one study that the presenter quoted gives hope to everyone. The study looked at the effect of lifestyle choices on death rates in the general population, across different BMI bands (we’ll leave discussing the limitations of BMI for another time… the overal message still holds). As expected, probability of death goes up with your BMI, no surprise there. Also, taking on one of four healthy lifestyle choices (eating plenty of fruit and veg, exercising three times a week, not smoking, drinking moderately) had a positive effect on death rates, again as expected. The interesting result was that, for those individuals who consistently maintain all four choices, weight had zero effect on likelihood of death; as long as you have a healthy lifestyle, losing weight won’t really extend your life (though it will, of course, carry other benefits).

With this in mind, I will be shifting my own focus slightly; although I would still like to lose a little weight (I’m only a few pounds off being at my lowest weight in about three years), I am primarily going to concentrate on doing more exercise, which is the main thing keeping me from that “weight doesn’t matter” group.

For those who are interested and have a spare ten minutes, the TED talk is here – http://www.ted.com/talks/sandra_aamodt_why_dieting_doesn_t_usually_work.html

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