07 Oct Do You Need to Break Up With Your Diet?
Want lasting fat loss? Think LONG TERM.
Green juice cleanses, crazy crash diets, low-carb diets. Do these things really work? At first, perhaps. But in the long run, are they getting you anywhere? It may be time to Break Up With Your Diet. You may want to hear what guest blogger (also my good friend), Ari Whitten has to say about all this.
Ari is the best selling author of Forever Fat Loss and the creator of cutting-edge program The Energy Blueprint. (By the way, he’s got an incredible FREE training on how to increase your energy levels. It’s a MUST WATCH for anyone who cares about being healthy, increase their energy or wants to lose fat. You can sign up for that 100% FREE Virtual Training HERE.)
In Ari’s Words:
The New Diet Honeymoon
One of the biggest nutrition-related mistakes people make is confusing something that gives initial beneficial effects with “THE ULTIMATE” way of doing things.
I made this mistake on numerous occasions; when I went low-carb, when I went vegetarian, when I did intermittent fasting, when I went through my green juices and cleansing phase, on countless extreme exercise programs, on ketogenic diets, and lastly, when I went raw vegan.
Let me be very clear. Every one of the different diets out there–everything from low-carb diets, to raw veganism, to fruitarianism, to high-fat ketogenic diets, to low-fat vegetarianism, to intermittent fasting, to green juice cleanses, and simple forced low-calorie dieting–can result in very powerful, beneficial effects.
At least, initially.
It usually lasts somewhere between ten days to a year. This is the phase right after you make a radical shift in your diet and then you do indeed get lots of benefits–maybe you feel way more energetic, or you have more mental clarity, or you’re losing lots of fat.
During the honeymoon phase–in those moments when we are seeing all these profound benefits on our health, energy level, and body composition–we often do something that is not a very smart move: We convince ourselves that we’ve found the holy grail.
We often hear people proclaim how their vegan diet is so wonderful when they are only a couple months in. They tell the world how their very pure low-fat, low-calorie, no animal foods, “superfoods” and green juice vegan diet–has made them feel absolutely incredible, and how they are bursting with energy and their skin is glowing. They’ve found the secret!
Many people who start an intense cardio regimen are met with the same sort of initial benefits of fat loss, and can’t believe how good it has made them feel to start jogging seven miles every day. They’ve found the secret!
With low-carb diets, many people lose lots of weight in the first few months, and feel much better as a result of that weight loss. Naturally, they think they’ve discovered that carbs are evil and have been keeping them fat, and they believe they can eat whatever they want as long as they avoid those evil carbs. And they vow to continue being low carb forever. They’ve found the secret!
But then, over the next six months or year, something rather odd often happens: these extreme approaches often become pathological. Suddenly new symptoms start to creep in. Fatigue, sudden weight gain, irritability, anxiety, depression, cold hands and feet, lack of libido, hair loss, and other symptoms of low metabolic rate and hormonal imbalance now become part of the picture.
And then we think “oh well certainly it’s not due to my low carb diet or my low-fat vegan diet–that’s what got me so lean and healthy in the first place. I know carbs are bad for me and cause weight gain. It can’t be the lack of carbs that’s causing me to feel fatigued all the time.” Or “It’s not my two hours a day of intense cardio–cardio is super healthy, as everybody knows.” Or “It can’t be the intermittent fasting that’s causing my fatigue–that’s what got me so lean and healthy.”
All of these approaches I just mentioned have something very important in common: They all frequently provide very real and profound benefits at first, and they all very commonly cause some rather nasty side effects when you do them long enough.
Where Does the Honeymoon Phase Come From?
Well, there are a few potential reasons one can experience profound benefits after switching to any sort of new diet:
- They often involve cutting out a major food group (e.g. carbs, fat, animal foods): Any time you cut out ANY food group–whether carbs, fat, or animal foods–it will cause a spontaneous drop in overall calories consumed, which will cause weight loss. In turn, this weight loss improves metabolic health, and can absolutely improve your health and energy level. Adopting a low-carb diet, or a high carb low-fat vegan diet can both cause lots of fat loss in someone who is overweight or currently living a very unhealthy lifestyle. And the loss of fat itself–rather than that specific way of doing things–tends to promote increased metabolic health. In other words, it wasn’t the evils of carbs or the evils of animal foods that explain the reason you lost weight and improved your health–it’s the fact that you cut out a major food group which dropped your calorie intake and caused fat loss. This initial increase in metabolic health that resulted from this fat loss often makes people feel better. But in the long run, chronic avoidance of a major food group frequently results in new symptoms emerging, like fatigue, depression, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, etc.
- They often stimulate increased stress hormones in the body: Increased stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) cause you to feel energetic initially–and people frequently mistake this increased energy level as a good thing. Many different kinds of juice fasts, as well as low calorie and low carb diets can cause a profound increase in stress hormones. The short-term effect of this is increased energy–which causes you to think “wow, this diet is amazing–I have so much more energy!” The only problem is that in the long term, running on stress hormones eventually causes the exact opposite effect–chronic fatigue.
- The placebo effect: Many people don’t realize it, but the placebo effect is not just a case of believing or thinking that you’re noticing changes. It is that you are actually experiencing beneficial changes as a result of your beliefs that what you are doing is healthy/curative; it actually does shift your physiology in a way that promotes beneficial effects. If placebos can cure diseases like depression, cancer, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and chronic knee pain, you can bet that the placebo effect from a new diet can cause all sorts of seemingly miraculous effects. So if you believe that green juices are “cleansing” your cells, you’re probably going to feel “cleansed” on your green juice cleanse. (In contrast, if you’re skeptical of these ideas and you go on a “juice cleanse” for 10 days, the only thing you’re likely to notice is extreme fatigue, hunger, and irritability). The same is true for low-carb diets–if you believe that carbs make you fat, that fat is a superior energy source over carbs, and that carbs cause you to have a “spike” in energy and then “crash,” you are likely to experience all those effects. (On the other hand, virtually no science lends credibility to these notions, and there are literally billions of people on planet earth eating carb-based diets without any of these effects, while there are plenty of low-carbers who are constantly feeling run down and have worsened performance as a result of their lower carb intake). All in all, the placebo effect is probably the most significant reason for the New Diet Honeymoon effect. Unfortunately, the placebo effects from a person’s beliefs about what they’re doing tend to wear off after a while, and then reality sets in.
In the above cases, you’re going to find that the honeymoon slowly creeps to an end. And when that happens, not only do the benefits often stop rolling in, but the very diet that was once so beneficial for you initially often begins to become toxic to your body.
Why Does the Honeymoon End?
- Protein and Micronutrient Deficiency: It is certainly possible that with good education and smart supplementation, it is possible to exist very healthfully on a vegan diet. Having said that, a large portion of vegans are deficient in several important nutrients. Vegan diets can sometimes deprive the body of enough proteins (or at least enough protein with an adequate amino acid profile), as well as important micronutrients that are much more efficiently gotten from animal sources (e.g. K2, B12, zinc, EPA and DHA, vitamin A/retinyl palmitate, etc).(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8) Also important compounds like glycine and taurine are also commonly low in vegans.(9) The micronutrient deficiencies and protein deficiencies eventually cause you to enter a state where although you may be “skinny”–which you initially think is good–you start developing fatigue and other unexplained symptoms and health problems.
- Low Thyroid Hormone and Hormonal Imbalance: The same is true with low-carb diets. Lots of initial benefits like weight loss (from the whole foods and high protein), can slowly turn into chronic irritability, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, lack of libido/fertility/menstruation, decreased mental clarity, decreased thyroid hormone, and a SLOW METABOLISM. We already know that many low carb dieters have issues with converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3)–which results in metabolic slowdown.(10) And some studies have indicated that low carb dieting can raise levels of stress hormones like cortisol, and decreases testosterone and other youth hormones. In women, it frequently leads to loss of menstruation and fertility. Some research indicates that ample carbs are needed for optimal hormonal function, and if you are chronically restricting them, this tends to catch up to you at some point. (11)(12)(13).
- Stress Hormone Excess: That 2 hours a day of cardio may have gotten you lean initially. But now all it’s doing is making you worn out and fatigued all the time. You’ve increased levels of cortisol (hypercortisolinemia), decreased your testosterone, disrupted your female hormonal cycles, and decreased your thyroid hormone levels and metabolic rate. In general, you’ve created all sorts of hormonal dysfunction and a far slower (not faster) metabolism from all that exercise.(14) (15) (16) (17)
- Metabolism Slowdown: That 10-day green juice cleanse might very well result in 10 pounds of weight loss (most of which is water weight), which makes you think that it works. But 6 months later, when you are HEAVIER than when you began your juice cleanse, you will probably fail to realize that it is BECAUSE you did that juice cleanse that you are heavier now. The extreme low calorie juice cleanse led to metabolism slowdown which predisposes to future fat gain. And, now that you’re heavier and you want quick results again, you might even be tempted to go and do ANOTHER 10-day green juice cleanse (since it seemingly “worked” in the past). The research is very conclusive that forced calorie deprivation (e.g. low calorie diets, juice cleanses, etc) is a pathetic failure in achieving lasting fat loss. (18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)(25)(26)(27)(28)(29). It does work initially for short-term fat loss, but it works terribly if you look at people’s results in not just achieving fat loss, but also maintaining it. The approach taken by bodybuilders and figure athletes to get super ripped–3-4 months of extreme calorie deprivation–works extremely well in the context of getting short-term results to be ultra-lean for a few weeks during the competition. What many people are unaware of is that the leanness is short-lived, and within a few weeks, they typically blow back up to their previous level of body fat. Ultimately, the forced calorie deprivation approach is a miserable failure for people who want to not only get lean, but more importantly, to maintain their new leaner body. This is because it typically results in a slower metabolism, which predisposes to future fat gain. As this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed: “Weight-loss attempts may be associated with subsequent major weight gain, even when several potential confounders are controlled for.” (30) As in, the more you engage in unscientific approaches to weight loss, the more you are destined for not just regaining the weight, but actually getting FATTER.
What’s the lesson of all this?
Short-term results are a very poor indicator of whether something is a good strategy for long-term results. In fact, many of the things which give very powerful initial results–making you think that you’ve found the Holy Grail–can actually turn out to be your worst enemy in the long run.
So be aware of the honeymoon phase of many of these extreme approaches. And don’t confuse the honeymoon with “this is the ultimate way to health and a lean body.” For, if you do, you might find yourself in a heap of trouble in a year or two.
Approaching things with short-term thinking and asking “how can I achieve the most fat loss in the next 10 days or 2 months?” very frequently leads you onto a very bad path. Things like decreased youth hormones, increased stress hormones, and a very slow metabolism are common results of people who approach fat loss with a quick-fix mentality. That’s why these approaches are not just unproductive–they are counterproductive!
In order for you to keep the weight off, you must be able to sustain the way of doing things that caused the weight loss to begin with. And if that approach damages you health in the long-term or makes it hard for you to function, it will simply not be possible for you to keep doing it. Consider these words of wisdom from obesity researcher Dr. Yoni Freedhoff:
“There is zero debate about the fact that weight management, whether it’s losing or just not gaining, does require effort. What I’m positing here is that if your effort is personally perceived as a misery, given human nature, eventually you’ll fail, not because you’re weak willed, but rather because you’re human, coupled with the fact that the world we live in is now a Willy Wonkian treasure trove of calories and dietary pleasure. This calorically non-intuitive wonderland is also why without ongoing thoughtfulness in terms of choices, lost weight comes back even for those who do it smart. My weight management philosophy has always been rather straightforward – whatever you choose to do to lose your weight, you need to keep doing to keep it off, and therefore choosing a weight loss modality you don’t enjoy is just a recipe for regain. So is there one right way to do this? I don’t think so. As far as weight loss and maintenance go there are many different strokes for many different folks, but there is one essential commonality for those who succeed where others fail – if you’re going to keep it off you’ve got to like how you’ve lost it enough to keep doing it.” (31)
That’s the fundamental guiding principle behind both Natalie Jill’s Jumpstart program, and my Energy Blueprint program. That’s fundamentally why Natalie Jill and I are friends, and why we connect. We both stand for doing things the smart way with smart and sustainable lifestyle solutions to fat loss, rather than gimmicky and extreme “rapid fat loss” diets (that might make us more money, but which we know are not real sustainable solutions for people).
So what’s the bottom line message of all this?
If you want lasting health and fat loss, get yourself out of the quick fix mentality and STOP being guided by short-term thinking and short-term results. Rather than looking for the quick-fix, always approach things through the frame of inevitability thinking and asking “what are the most intelligent and sustainable set of daily habits that will make my future health and leanness inevitable?”
Focus your efforts on that question, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Are you ready to take your body, health and energy to the next level? Ari has put together what may just be the most advanced and cutting-edge, science-packed health program in the world. It’s called The Energy Blueprint and people are absolutely raving about it. He offers an amazing “Overcome Fatigue and Double Your Energy” FREE Virtual Training course that is a MUST WATCH for anyone who cares about their health and wants more energy. You can sign up for that HERE.
If you’re looking to improve your body and your energy levels, make sure to sign up for Ari’s incredible FREE “Double Your Energy” Video Training course HERE.
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- Freedhoff, Y. (2012, April 26). The biggest loser destroys participant’s metabolism. Weighty Matters. Retrieved from http://www.weightymatters.ca/2012/04/biggest-loser-destroys-participants.html
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