Secrets From the Eating Lab
All of the text below are Traci Mann quotes from this article. She is the author of the book Secrets from the Eating Lab, and has been scientifically studying eating and dieting for decades.
(I have not read the book yet. I have heard Mann may have lingering weight bias, so the book itself MAY be confusing or triggering. However, her research and the things Mann says in this article are worth sharing!!!!)
“Everyone is blaming dieters for regaining weight they lose, and that’s just wrong — it’s not their fault they regain weight, and it’s not about willpower, or any lack thereof.
Almost every single study, without really meaning to, showed some other thing that made dieters overeat. I have found time and again that it’s actually some other thing that causes dieters to lose control of what they’re eating.
But the truth is that everything causes dieters to lose control of what they’re eating, because dieting is bound to fail, it is destined to fail.
What people tend to think is that if only Joe had self-control then he could succeed on his diet forever. And that’s not accurate, as it turns out. That’s not true.
After you diet, so many biological changes happen in your body that it becomes practically impossible to keep the weight off. It’s not about someone’s self-control or strength of will.
There are three biological changes that take place that seem most important to me.
The first is neurological. When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. Basically your brain becomes overly responsive to food, and especially to tasty looking food. But you don’t just notice it — it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting. It has increased reward value. So the thing you’re trying to resist becomes harder to resist. So already, if you think about it, it’s not fair.
Then there are hormonal changes, and it’s the same kind of thing. As you lose body fat, the amount of different hormones in your body changes. And the hormones that help you feel full, or the level of those rather, decreases. The hormones that make you feel hungry, meanwhile, increases. So you become more likely to feel hungry, and less likely to feel full given the same amount of food. Again, completely unfair.
And the third biological change, which I think people do sort of know about, is that there are metabolic changes. Your metabolism slows down. Your body uses calories in the most efficient way possible. Which sounds like a good thing, and would be good thing if you’re starving to death. But it isn’t a good thing if you’re trying to lose weight, because when your body finds a way to run itself on fewer calories there tends to be more leftover, and those get stored as fat, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen.
Dieting is actually a lot like starving, physically. …A lot of people do it, but what they’re actually doing is living as if they’re starving. They’re putting their body into that exact same state that it would be in if they were literally starving to death.
What we have found is that when distracted, dieters eat more than non-dieters. In fact, distraction only affects how much dieters eat. A simple little thing like that tells you that if you’re trying to resist eating, the subtlest things can mess you up. All these little things cause dieters to fail in resisting food that don’t really affect people who aren’t dieting.
An idea that I want to float, if I might, is that willpower is actually a very different thing when you talk about eating. Willpower can be extremely useful in certain parts of people’s lives. But when it comes to eating, it’s just not the problem. It’s not the fix.
I don’t think people should try to live at a lower weight than their set range. If you try to lose weight so that you’re below your set weight range, that I believe is folly, or farce. It’s not healthy. It’s what sets off all those biological changes that are effectively trying to defend your set range. When your body goes lower than your set range, it makes changes to bump your weight back into it. And what people don’t know is that if your weight goes above it, it also makes changes to push it back down into the ideal weight.
If you think about it, people do drop below their set range and stay there. A small percentage of dieters — something like 5 percent — can do it. And they do do it. But they do it by devoting every minute of their life to staying at that weight. Basically, they spend their entire life living like a starving person, fighting biology, and evolution. And to me that seems wrong.
People who have the means to not be starving to death should not be starving to death. How can we ask that of people? It just seems outrageous to me.”
I’m so glad she is alive, doing the work she is doing …doing research that validates the work that I do 😉