Competition Dieting Makes You Fat – Some More Relevant Research
Let’s start with something “catchy” but true shall we? Here goes, and bear with me: “For 90% of ladies out there, dieting for competition in the physique industry will lead to unhealthy weight gain for YEARS to come!” There I said it! And now instead of attacking it, in denial, let’s examine it a bit more.
When I say I have been studying metabolism for years, I mean studying in “real terms.” I don’t mean industry nonsense, websites and magazines. I mean real science, real journals and real text books. I have been well ahead of the research now for at least a decade. I even get contacted by researchers every so often to ask me “how I knew” things, which research is just now starting to uncover. And guess what? What they are starting to uncover now are the real-life risks of ill-health and weight gain due to unwise, absolute calories-restricted dieting – the kind it takes to get your body fat to lowest levels to get on a physique stage.
Not Eating carbs will give you problems in the long term.
This is something I started discussing way back in my Science Behind The Cycle Diet video lecture project back in 05. Since then my research has taken me to writing Metabolic Damage and theDangers of Dieting, a 200+ page book, I am quite proud of, and which more than a few academics are now using as reference material. Moreover, I just also finished not one, not two, but three related books, as one project – Food Issues and You: Finally Facing YourPhantom Menace – Food and Eating issues that are often the result of, you guessed it, unwise and ill-advised diets that end up rewiring the brain, and not just affecting metabolism. And I talk about the wiring of the brain in my other book, Beyond Metabolism –Understanding Your Modern Diet Dilemma. So that's six books by me, if you include my book on Body Image Disorder in the fitness industry (The Other Side of the Mirror) and all the research that went it to each of them. I challenge any other “expert” out there, who likes to digitally disagree with me, to show me their own accumulated contribution of anything even close to this! Then we have something to talk about if you “disagree.” Until then, I remain an academic – and as such in search of the truth, not some fashionable position to defend.
I am about to tell you of two current studies that reflect well on everything I’ve been saying the last decade or so. My sincere wish is that people stop living in denial and defending what they want to be true and instead start facing the facts of what is actually true. And the truth is “contest dieting for 90% of people who undertake it, will predispose them to exaggerated weight gain for years to come.”
And it can also lead to food and eating issues. The main frustrating aspect of this truth is that not only are wannabe competitors in denial of these facts – but they just consider themselves to be in the 10% that, “this will never happen to me” group. – kind of like all those people who smoke anyway, and then want a “Mulligan” when they finally get some sort of smoking related disease or cancer! I’m quite sick of it actually- but I’m more sick of the industry people who know the truth but won’t act on it on behalf of their clients – because there is just so much money to be made in being a competition-prep Guru.
“For all you models out there! Be careful with your competition diets”
I want you to pay close attention to these two separate studies that vindicate my research both in food and eating issues - and in metabolic damage and accelerated weight gain after dieting.
Now I am not going to deluge you with research here, but pay attention to these two recent studies (for hundreds of other references I refer you to my projects above):
- Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss
- Evidence That 'Food Addiction' Is a Valid Phenotype of Obesity
Notice the first study is from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and check out the names of true scientists who worked on it! Notice the second abstract is from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto – also world renowned – as I have used their materials in other projects. Note also the recent dates of this research – and note this is independent true academic work in the search for “truth.”
In other words, no Figure competitors, coaches, or diet-Guru’s participate in this – and this is real science – without bias. Pay special attention to the title of the first study. Notice the word “LONG TERM” here. And this is what absolute caloric deprivation or exhausting diets induce – long term hormonal changes that lead to ongoing long term and substantial weight gain! Pay particular attention to this sentence in the “conclusion” – “One year after initial weight reduction, levels of the circulating mediators of appetite that encourage weight regain after diet-induced weight loss do not revert to the levels recorded BEFORE weight loss.” This shows that even ONE YEAR LATER post-diet, the body is still being programmed to gain weight – and it is being programmed for this “because of the previous diet!” This is why the conclusion finishes with how these levels do NOT return to what was normal for individuals “before” dieting. Hence, dieting causes and generates substantial weight gain in the post diet period. So, what are you going to do, another contest diet to take the weight off again???? Isn’t that logic kind of like taking up heroin to break a cocaine habit???? It’s nonsense.
You know I am always talking about the immediate, the residual, and the cumulative elements of adaptive stimulus and response. And this is a good example - because competitors live in denial. Here is what I see: They have no conception of residual or cumulative response to a diet that maybe is a year or two behind them. So they look for “immediate” reasons for weight gain and digestive issues – which the diet industry is only too happy to oblige. They all start looking for “answers” like gluten intolerance, carb-resistance, yeast issues, celiac, dairy digestion, cleanses – anything and everything except the truth.
And the truth is that contest-diet, even if it was a year or more ago – induced hormonal fluxes and changes that are still causing cumulative weight gain even years later. So whether a lady gains this weight suddenly as in a 40-50 lbs post-contest rebound, or slowly and incrementally – had it not been for the previous diet, her weight would not be climbing. Even some of my own clients – before they competed were maybe 130 lbs. or so. But every year since weight is slowly increasing - and even compensating for age disparity, what was once 130-135 lbs, is now 145-150 lbs, or 165-175 lbs, as “normal” weight. So, again I stress the title of this research and the words “LONG TERM.” You are not carb-resistant, or have food allergies, or dairy aversions, or whatever else you can come up with. Your weight gain and inability to lose it, are a result of previous ill-advised dieting! And you can find out more and more details of any of these things in any number of my own books I mention above.
Now, let’s look at the second study “abstract” shall we? What is important here are a few things, and first to me is that post-diet weight gain and eating and food issues can be caused by the same diet. In other words, for too many ladies out there, the weight issues are bad enough but then there is a rewiring of the reward centers of the brain, which begin a long battle with food and eating issues – which themselves enhance weight gain even more, creating a most insidious feedback loop between physiology and psychology.
“Competition Diets will make you gain weight in the long term.
Many people who undertake physique competition have addictive type personalities. (see my book, The Other Side of the Mirror for more about this) Notice that the Yale Food Addiction Scale and this abstract address the concept of “addictive tendencies.” If that doesn’t describe 80% of the competitors I have worked with, I don’t know what does! Notice also the “validation” for addictive food issues – and this general but telling conclusion – "Those who met the diagnostic criteria for FA had a significantly greater co-morbidity with Binge Eating Disorder, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder compared to their age- and weight-equivalent counterparts. Those with FA were also more impulsive and displayed greater emotional reactivity than obese controls. They also displayed greater food cravings and the tendency to 'self-soothe' with food.”
So, you have a person prone to addictive personality which leads to competing and all the appealing control factors it entails. But the diet to get lean triggers neuro-responses and chemical changes in the brain that lead this person to think about food and eating the way an addict thinks about his next fix. (The brain changes and emotional reward center changes in the brain are discussed thoroughly in my book, Beyond Metabolism: Understanding Your Modern Diet Dilemma.)
Look at the other co-relations for FA as well, mentioned in the abstract: depression, ADD, distorted eating behaviours etc. And this study was done only with control groups, not post-dieting groups, who are pre-disposed to addictive issues AND weight gain!
So if we put these two studies together we get a clear indication of both physiological and psychological ramifications of something like a competition-diet, in the normal personality-type disposition of the typical competitor. This is what real science shows.
Can the industry stop burying its head in the sand for a while – and instead of attacking me – at least entertain the realities involved here. Moreover, let’s stop “glorifying” suffering as an inevitable part of the contest-diet experience. No, a contest-diet experience will not be “easy.” But if there is real “suffering” this is a warning from your body to you of pending post-contest issues, both metabolic and psychological. So, you should not be surprised when you end up with them, even a year later. – No more surprised than a smoker who gets cancer 10-20 years later!
It’s just that metabolic damage, weight gain, and eating issues, happen much faster than cancer. Let’s get out in front of this, and start getting some voices heard, instead of shutting them down in order to make money. Stop capitalizing on a “wrong.” Let’s get back to the industry of “health AND fitness” instead of what it has become.
I urge any and all of you to send this out to places and people where it may do some good. Sure, some will want to attack it, and live in denial. That is the norm. But there may be others who are on the fence who could be helped by at least beginning to entertain the information here in these studies and at least get them thinking more long-term, and more about wellness, than just short-term ‘appearance.’
(Many thanks to former mentoring student, Amir Sidd of Dubai, for sending me this research for consideration)