If you diet to lose weight you’re setting yourself up for failure.
OK, so it might be a sweeping statement, but according to Ulla Kärkkäinen, a nutritional therapist from the University of Helenski, it’s totally true.
“Often, people try to prevent and manage excess weight and obesity by dieting and skipping meals,” she says. “In the long term, such approaches seem to actually accelerate getting fatter, rather than prevent it.”
Instead, Ulla suggests a better strategy: eat as regularly as your body needs and watch those dress sizes drop.
Almost 5,000 Finnish men and women were surveyed on their weight and the factors that influenced it over a 10-year period (from the age of 24 to 34.). At the end of the study (of which Ulla was co-author), only a quarter of the subjects had maintained their starting weight, with most gaining up to 1kg a year on average.
For both sexes, two “key predictors” of weight gain were established: irregular eating and dieting. A woman’s risk of gaining weight was also increased by giving birth to two or more children, regularly consuming sugary drinks and generally feeling unsatisfied with life. For men, smoking was found to be an important factor.
“To effectively prevent weight gain, understanding the factors underlying weight management that precedes the gain, or primary weight management is of utmost importance,” Ulla says.
The research findings prove that “regular and sufficient” meals support the natural biological functions of the body, thereby helping to manage healthy eating habits and weight management in the long run.
“Our findings demonstrate that weight management would benefit from an increased focus on individual differences as well as perceiving the factors that impact human well-being and the sense of meaning in life as a broader whole,” Ulla adds.
The study was originally published in the international Eating Behaviours journal.