Repair the metabolism we destroy after dieting

Many changes in hormonal, brain and body composition are triggered by a restrictive diet. Permanent weight loss, however, is not one of them.

In the 90s it was the Diet of the Apple, the Air Force or the Moon. In the 2000s the Mediterranean, the Genotype or the Grez Method. All food restriction formulas that prohibited the consumption of specific foods were different in each case, but each promised the same thing: losing weight quickly and without going hungry. Although some of these restrictive diets, especially in recent years, have been reformulated to present themselves as food programs or lifestyles that can be maintained over time, the reality that probably anyone who has experienced any of these strategies has been verified in the first person that the only thing that can be sustained over time is the vicious circle of one and the other different restriction. For many women, for years the lifestyle or diet has been about eating again and again.

In the current context, talking about diets is a subject that generally generates rejection. Most of them have verified that, in fact, none of the food plans that we see in magazines, on television, on the Internet, and that are shared among friends, really keep their promises. But this does not mean that with diets nothing is achieved. In fact, many hormonal, brain, and body changes are triggered by a restrictive diet. Permanent weight loss, however, is not one of them.

A study of participants in North America’s The Biggest Loser program — which tracked overweight people who underwent severe calorie restriction and intense exercise to lose weight quickly — showed that, even years after calorie counting ended, the effects of the diet on the body continued and were completely contrary to the original purpose. And it is that, one of the elements that is first altered during caloric restriction, but which is not easy to visualize because it occurs at the cellular level, is the metabolism.

Daniela Muñoz is a nutritionist and in her consultations with patients she does not provide diets or guidelines, but seeks to help those who need to improve their relationship with food in a holistic way. The specialist explains that it is common to see women over the age of 25 go on their first diet as teenagers and who continue to jump from one diet to another to this day because they do not feel good about themselves. body. “These are people who have tried all kinds of diets, shakes, fasts to lose weight and they can’t. Many have suffered the rebound effect and their current weight is higher than the weight they were when ‘they went on their first diet,’ he explains.

He adds that the problem is not a particular regime but the dynamic generated by the restriction. comment that Even patients who don’t follow any specific diet but make sure to eat low calories or avoid certain foods see the adverse effects of dieting after a while. “They feel a deep fear of gaining weight and losing control over food,” he says. Katherine Figueroa, also a nutritionist but with specialized training in fitness and sports nutrition, says she constantly sees patients who “live on a diet” or who, without following a fad diet, “spend much of their time to restrict their daily caloric intake, especially with foods high in carbohydrates due to a fear of them.

The specialist explains that after a while, when the person has restricted their food intake, the effects they usually see on the physical level – weight loss – seem encouraging. But the changes that occur at the metabolic level are usually extremely negative. “The basal metabolic rate becomes slower, due to a general adaptation that the human body creates. This means that all biological functions performed by the body are adapted to expend fewer calories when performing them,” he explains. -he.

It is a product of this metabolic adaptation that participants in the Biggest Loser program who were part of the follow-up study showed a reduced baseline calorie requirement at the end of competition. “Weight loss is accompanied by a decrease in basal metabolic rate that is usually greater than expected based on changes in body composition,” the researchers explain. Publication in the scientific journal The obesity society clarifies that this adaptation of the participants’ metabolism occurred despite the fact that many managed to preserve their muscle mass in a relative way. He also explains that changes were observed not only with regard to the values ​​at the start and end of the competition, but also that the damage was maintained over time, even up to six years after this first period of restriction.

Despite these data, Katherine Figueroa explains that the most appropriate is to speak of a change in metabolism and not necessarily of damage. “More than damage, it’s a metabolic adaptation,” he explains. The specialist maintains that this process is completely reversible, and that with adequate strategies, it is possible to return to a state in which the body does not use the minimum calories, but rather those necessary for each biological process. “That’s the beauty of the human body. In most cases, it adapts to changes,” he explains.

Go back

Although it is not possible to travel in the past and modify the actions that gave rise to metabolic adaptation, nutritionist Daniela Muñoz explains that there are studies that speak of the possibility of reversing this situation. But it’s not a magical process. “There are factors that influence the degree of metabolic adaptation, such as the amount of weight that has been lost or the time that this loss has been maintained,” he comments. “Therefore, the level of adaptation and the recovery time of the metabolism will depend on each situation”, clarifies.

And although the studies are not conclusive and there are new publications based on the follow-up that has been made of the patients of the television contest to lose weight, such as that of the American doctor Kevin Hall, they would indicate that in the long term term, metabolic changes persist after the diet, there is consensus on how the effects of calorie restriction on the body can be at least partially mitigated.

Daniela Muñoz explains that the basis of any improvement is to eliminate the idea of ​​diet as a mechanism for losing weight in a sustainable way. “It’s a complex question, especially for people who have been on a diet for years and who try to control themselves with food,” explains the specialist. Contrary to what decades of dietary culture have taught many, the nutritionist insists that “No food is capable of making you gain weight or lose weight.” In this sense, food is not something that must be controlled as is the case with restrictive diets, but rather an issue that must be observed in order to adequately satisfy the body’s needs. .

And although the notions of slow metabolism or metabolic damage have also been used as concepts to promote products or food systems that have so far promised miraculous results, it has been shown that there is no diet to reverse the damage of diets. And that, contrary to what is usually promised when talking about weight loss, reversing the metabolic adaptation that occurs in the body after one – or several – diets, is a rather slow process.

Source: Latercera

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