Persistence trumps 'holy grail' diets

FRESH AS: There are plenty of healthy wholesome goodies to fill your kids' lunchboxes at the farmers markets.
FRESH AS: There are plenty of healthy wholesome goodies to fill your kids' lunchboxes at the farmers markets. Carmen Barclay

LOUD and proud, there it was on the back of a bus: the advertisement proclaiming the aero club could teach you to fly solo in just one week.

For those of you familiar with the process of learning to fly this is quite a bold statement.

There's the theory element to understand, plus plenty of practice in getting that plane off the ground, keeping it in the air and, most important of all, landing without damaging you or the plane.

Understandably, this takes time, patience and effort.

But the ad was promising lots for little effort.

There are some parallels, perhaps, with silly diet season; that time after the season of over-indulgence.

Characteristically, in silly diet season magic diets, tablets and powders appear promising you can lose X kilos without effort on your part, and without exercise.

They seem to work, too, if you believe your bathroom scales. But what the marketing won't tell you is what happens when you return to your normal diet.

Which most do, because this isn't a diet you can live with forever.

When you do, the kilos will bounce back on, often plus a little bit more, all because your body can't tell the difference between a magic diet and being starved to death.

The silly diet with its radical change sets off metabolic alarms in your body.

In response, your body will favour maintaining your fat deposits, and preferentially take the calories it needs from your muscles - the muscles you're not using because this diet promised you didn't have to exercise.

Indeed, the numbers on the scales will drop, and you feel a sense of success.

Goal achieved, you decide to return to normal eating.

And that's when the problems begin. You see, muscle cells are constantly hungry for energy.

The more muscle cells you have, the faster your metabolism runs and the more food you can eat without gaining weight.

Fat cells, in comparison, use up almost no energy.

Since you end up with fewer muscle cells after a silly diet, you don't need as many calories now and your weight loss will bounce straight back on.

The moral of this story?

Like learning to fly, if you want to lose weight and keep it off forever you'll actually have to put in the time consuming, uncomfortable yet essential hard work of self management, changing what you eat, and exercising to build up those muscle cells.

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