Why diets don't work
19 September 2020
by Dr Monique Hope-Ross
The 1st myth: Diets will help you lose weight
Diets do not work. In 2020, a peer reviewed paper reviewing 121 trials of 21,942 patients was published in the British Medical Journal. 1 This metanalysis compared all popular macronutrient diets, such as low fat, low carbs and calorie restricting with a normal diet. At 6 months, all diets showed modest weight reduction and reduced blood pressure. But at 12 months, weight reduction and improvements in cardiovascular risk, had diminished. The exception was reduced LDL cholesterol, still evident at 12 months in the Mediterranean diet.
The 2nd myth: Calorie Counting
We are told that if we reduce our calories, we will lose weight. We are told over and over again that calories in equals calories out. And therefore, if the number of calories going in are less than those going out, you will lose weight. Guess what? In spite of unquestionable physics, it just doesn't work in real life.
The reason your fat storage hormones exist, is to protect your body from yourself. When you reduce calories, your metabolic hormones will make you hungry, cold and miserable. They will make you tired and sleepy and slow down your heart and make you grumpy. Under these hormonal effects, you will need a will of iron to face that lettuce leaf on your plate. It will be a matter of time until you’re off to the burger bar. This is called hormonal homeostasis. This literally means your hormones “keeping you the same”. Your body has evolved to do this, and it isn’t about to change. Your body is as stubborn as it is clever, we think we are in control of our body, we are not.
We lose weight initially, then just when we think we’re winning, out of nowhere, we flat line. Those pesky hormones turn down our metabolism, slow the heart, make us tired and sleep more. They will make us feel hungry and grumpy. They will do everything in their power to get us back to the calories. Time is the great leveller, and just like the odds on the roulette table, the longer you play, the more likely the house will win. Only your body is the house and your hormones the quietly spoken croupier. Study after study shows that weight will return to normal if the hormones are not addressed.
The 3rd Myth: Weight is a matter of choice
Professor Robert Plomin has devoted his life to the study of twins, a classic opportunity for studying nature vs nurture. His latest book “Blueprint” is brilliant and on our suggested reading list.2 In looking at how our genes influence behaviour and our bodies, some things seem logical and intuitive. What is truly amazing is how wrong we can all be, when the science defies what we truly believed. Let us play a game, if you want to play along, then it is important you do not skip this bit and peep at the data.
Firstly, let me explain genetic heredity. If you score eye colour with 95% heredity, you’d be right. This means that 95% of the differences between peoples’ eye colour can be attributed to differences in their inherited DNA. This also means that 5% of the differences are due to environmental factors. So, if I were to ask you for the percentage for genes versus environment in the following, what would you guess? (The answers are further down in the article)
- Breast cancer
- School achievement
- Spatial ability
The three facts that stood out to us. One is that a gene is more prevalent in some people with obesity, that helps to store fat. This was of considerable use to our ancestors where food was scarce, making the gene more likely to survive through to modern humans. It is now considerably less useful to those living where cheap food is plentiful
The second is that weight is 70% hereditary. So, the differences in people’s weight is 70% genetic and 30% environmental. This genetic heritability increases over time. So, even if you don’t resemble your family’s weight at 4 years old (40% hereditary), when you’re in your middle years (60%) and when you’re about to take your pension it will be nearer 80%.
The answers to the above were 1. 10%, 2. 80%, 3. 70%, 4. 60%, 5. 70%, 6. 70%. Surprised? we were and if you are now thinking twice about school fees or whether civilian pilots are assessed for spatial orientation, I’m with you.
So, we still have 30% to play with, whatever your genes are doing. It’s also important to remember that we have other enemies lurking in our fight against the flab and our genes;
- Hormones and hormonal homeostasis
- Corporate fast food scientists searching for that “bliss point” on your taste buds
- Corporate marketing; you need breakfast, three meals a day, this takeaway, that takeaway, this snack etc.
- Fast food delivery companies, tempting you every time you sit down
- Chefs adding sweetness to almost every food, getting you sugar addicted and turning on your fat fuel inhibition.
We can work together on that 30%. It is far from hopeless once you learn to whisper your hormones back into shape, getting you back in control.
The 4th Myth: You can outrun your hormones
Your hormones do very crafty things to scupper those calorie counting diets. You’ve descended from ancestors who could survive in harsh periods of food deprivation and were essentially better at evading the sabre-toothed tigers than the bloke in the cave next door. Despite an empty belly, they could hunt and fight successfully against their enemies. If they couldn’t, they wouldn’t have survived, and you wouldn’t be here. So, you descend from survivors, in times of food scarcity, their hormones knew how to keep them alive, they knew the body’s metabolism needed to be shut down, to preserve energy. However, you are now the person living in a world replete with food.
It’s called homeostasis and its controlled by hormones and its rock-hard and stubborn as hell, hard-wired into you for hundreds of generations above you. In your ancestors days it was survival of the fittest; now it’s survival of the smartest. In THE DIET-WHISPERER book, we take this concept all the way, and you will learn how to whisper your fat storage hormones into shape by simple techniques and new skills. Skills that put you in control.
The 5th Myth: you can weight train your way out of the kitchen
At WHISPERER HQ, we have a fully kitted out gym for the team and we all do a mix of resistance training, running, cycling and swimming. It hopefully offsets some of our fun foods and drink (we never claimed to be perfect!). Building muscle is a great thing to do. It not only makes us feel a lot better but will help to combat the natural ageing muscle wastage.
Muscle is great, do not mistake the message here. it’s just the outrageous gym adverts that make us smile. If you read the gym adverts, you’ll come across these three gems; so good, they qualify for the whisperer “Equine Effluent Awards”.
The best of all the outrageous claims is “what muscle building can do to boost your metabolism”. In our body’s furnace our body’s energy burn is; liver 25%, brain 20%, muscles 15%; kidneys 10%, heart 10% and the other 20% is spread amongst skin, gut, lungs and fat. Muscle is about 3 times more metabolically active that fat. Our lean tissue is around 80%, with 20% being fat. In a 200-pound man (90kg or 14stone), approximately 40% would be muscle. A massive 16 pound gain in muscle from weight training would require a significant training commitment. If his Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) were 2000 calories per day, his total muscle burn per day would be 300 calories. This new muscle will not revolutionize his metabolism. Instead it will burn a measly 30 calories or 1/10th of a chocolate bar.
“After-burn from HIIT will be your saviour and burn thousands of calories”. Sorry folks, but that is so minor it really accounts for very little, at about 4% of your BMR. Minute for minute HIIT is slightly better than cardio, but taking into account the longer cardio, overall effects are similar and singularly unimpressive compared to the hype. There is little after-burn after resistance training. After a 40-minute session there may be 4% or 80 calories of increase over 24 hours; quarter of that snicker bar!
The most powerful tool in reducing calorific balance is our diet, by far. You need to do the cardio, you need to do the HIIT and you need to do the weights, because you like it and they’re good for you. But, at least whilst you are you won’t be believing and even worse repeating this hype.
The 6th Myth: you can outrun your kitchen
There are some exceptional athletes that can, they are able to exercise for hour after hour and include cross country skiers, endurance cyclists and ultra-runners.
The more you exercise, the more your hormones slow down your resting BMR. One week you go to the gym every day, you do your “cardio”, you run for 1 hour on the treadmill. You’re doing it well and mixing up the slow and long and HIIT 80/20. But…in the background your hormones are waiting their moment. When we stop and sit down, they slow your resting metabolism, make you tired, fall to sleep and feel hungry and grumpy. They know that you cannot do anymore in the gym than two hours cardio, which burns 1200 Kcal. You’ve got 2 hours to increase your BMR and beat them, and the hormones have the other 22 hours to slow down your BMR and make sure you lose. We know that fat becomes more metabolically active with exercise, but just does not get burned off. 3 And the higher the proportion of body fat, the worse this phenomenon. You have to be a very special athlete to outrun your hormones and be pretty lean already.