Losing weight is hard. But it’s nothing compared to the challenge of losing weight
then keeping it off
almost everyone who loses weight gains it back within a few years, if not within months — and that people usually
weight than they lost
University of Sydney obesity researcher
Dr Nick Fuller
believes he’s identified the cause of this phenomenon: “We’ve been brainwashed with the dieting mentality.”
Dieting mentality dictates that the best way to lose weight is by restricting your energy intake (that is, eating less), then keeping it low until you get down to your target. This continued restriction is the foundation of pretty much every popular diet — Paleo, keto, intermittent fasting, whatever the Kardashians are currently on.
But according to Fuller, staying on a diet ultimately guarantees weight
because it’s fundamentally at odds with human biology.
Why you’ll lose more weight by taking a break from your diet than sticking to it forever
On an evolutionary timescale, the concept of “weight loss” is a new one. If our ancestors lost weight, it wasn’t because they wanted to improve their health or look better at their cousin’s wedding. It was because they were facing a famine, or some other threat to their survival.
So their bodies evolved sophisticated programming to hold their weight at a preferred “set point”. You inherited that programming from them — but while it was essential for caveman times, it’s poorly adapted to the 21st century. When you diet, your body thinks you’re starving to death and blindly executes its millennia-old programs to keep you alive.
“All of these biological protections come into play to make sure that we go back to our set point,” explains Fuller.
Those protections include a slowed-down metabolism, so you burn less energy at rest. Hormones for hunger rev up, while those for fullness are quelled. Your brain is rewired to seek out high-fat, high-sugar (and high-calorie) foods.
And if you keep following ever-more restrictive and unsustainable diets, your body just turns those protections up a few more notches. It doesn’t know you
to lose weight — it thinks it’s doing you a favour.
“You can’t fight or beat the body … weight will always be protected,” Fuller says, and there is a
of hard science backing him up (
, for example).
“We now know regardless of what diet or weight-loss program you follow, that if you go on a continuous plan, you’re doomed for failure every time.”
That sounds doom-and-gloom, but Fuller isn’t saying it’s pointless to try to lose weight — just that we need a smarter way to do it.
He provides one in his new book
Interval Weight Loss for Life
, which builds on the practical and science-backed strategy in his 2017 bestseller
Interval Weight Loss
The premise of interval weight loss (IWL) is straightforward: The first month, you aim to lose up to 2kg. The second month, you only work to maintain your new weight and “impose the diet brakes,” says Fuller — in fact, losing more during this period is forbidden. Then repeat that cycle until you hit your (relatively modest) goal weight.
In a post-
era where we’re coached to believe weight-loss success means losing huge amounts of it as fast as possible, IWL’s stop-and-start approach feels… almost shocking. It’s small, and slow, and the proclamation not to lose
weight for a month is heretical.
But Fuller insists it’s the only weight-loss method that recalibrates your set point, thereby reassuring your body you’re not underfed and deactivating its defensive adaptations.
“It seems very slow at the start,” he concedes. “But the body doesn’t then start to regain three months or six months later. So you end up losing a hell of a lot more.”
This brilliant infographic will change how you think about dieting
Fuller says many people are initially resistant to IWL — but they’re often the same people who have tried scores of fad diets, and keep returning to the same failed ones hoping maybe
time they’ll succeed.
“You can’t just keep going to do the same thing you’ve always done,” he says. “If you keep going on those diets and you keep imposing continuous weight losses, you’ll just keep going back to the same point.”
can lose weight — no matter how little willpower you think you have, or how bad your think your genes are — by abandoning quick-fix diets and instead “thinking in the long term”.
“Let go of that dieting mentality. Let go of that messaging that you’ve been brainwashed to believe,” he says. “It’s not true. You know it’s not true. It doesn’t work.”
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