Counting calories might not lead to weight loss

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One of the most well-established phenomena in all of weight loss research is weight regain.

It has been shown that between 80 and 95 per cent of dieters regain their lost weight.

It has also been shown that two-thirds of these people actually end up fatter after the diet than before they started.

Why does this compen-satory weight regain happen?  And is there anything you can do about it?

So is it all really about calories? Is it true that if you eat too many calories and/or use too little, you will gain weight?

Or that if you add in more food and subtract out any exercise, you will gain weight?

If you have been led to believe this is the way to lose weight, then you might be unaware of the law of metabolic compensation.

This law dictates that your metabolism is not like a calculator at all, but more like a thermostat or see-saw.

You eat less and exercise more to burn calories and your body compensates by making you hungrier and decreases the amount of calories you burn at rest. 

We are very much out for a quick fix when it comes to weight loss and we often forget this key fact: a solution that works in the short-term, but fails to work or makes things worse in the long 
run is not a solution that works. 

Low calorie dieting, on average, decreases the amount of calories you burn per day by about 300. 

But that is the average. For some, this effect is much larger and for others less.

So let me explain about why calorie control isn`t always the best way.

Say you decide to follow a low calorie diet but you want to lose weight at a sensible rate so you decide to reduce your calorie intake to 1500 calories per day.

You stick with the plan at first and in a few weeks have lost a few pounds.

However, after this time the metabolism compensates and you will start to feel hungry all the time.

Your energy will begin to suffer and you will crave sweet, salty and fatty foods.

This makes it harder for you to stick with the diet and worse than that, depending on your individual response to the law of metabolic compensation, your metabolism has now put on the brakes, slowing down your daily calorie burn.

If you are really unlucky and have a very large metabolic compensation, then not only will all progress stall, but you may even start gaining weight.

Research shows that the compensatory effects from dieting can last for months and possibly years and may ‘damage’ the metabolism over a longer period.

Research has shown this is not an imaginary issue.

As far back as 1975 researchers published a study in the journal Lancet that looked at the issue of weight loss resistance. 

Twenty-nine women who claimed they could not lose weight were studied. 

The researchers, like many of us, assumed these women simply were not compliant and wanted to test their metabolism by isolating them in a house and controlling all their food and exercise. 

Each woman was put on a strict 1500-calorie a day diet.At the end of the three-week period most of the ended up losing weight.

However, 10 women did not lose any weight and one actually gained weight.

This makes two points very clear. First, metabolism varies from person to person.

Second, compensatory reactions can suppress the metabolism so much that even very low calorie diets are no longer effective.

Next week I will tell you some of the reasons why your metabolism slows down and what you can do to help yourself.

Nikki Caputa is a health and fitness coach who works one-to-one with clients and runs her own fitness camps where she trains groups.

Known as FAB Body Bootcamps, two are based in Fareham and one is in Portsmouth.

Nikki is also an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

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Follow Nikki on Twitter @nikki fitmum1.