We’ve heard it before; dieting doesn’t work. You always end up right back where you started. So how do you shift the weight and keep it off for good? The answer to that is evolving. The food, nutrition and weight loss industry is constantly undertaking research to discover more about our bodies, how they process the food we eat and how they respond to the exercise we do. It’s always good to stay up to date with the research so, let me help keep you up to date by sharing my interview with Dr Nick Fuller, a researcher and dietitian who has been studying interval dieting with amazing results! It’s a long-term weight loss method that uses intervals of weight loss and weight maintenance which re-calculates your bodies ‘set point’ to achieve long term weight loss – for good!
Dr Nick Fuller was kind enough to do an interview with me to explain his research, and his new book, further. Read on to find out more!
Diets have been getting a bad rap fairly consistently of recent years by health professionals. Can you summarise why this is the case?
Diets have been around for 40 years but only contributed to the very problem they proclaim to solve – they result in long-term weight gain. When we diet or follow these 4, 8 or 12-week online programs, we have no trouble losing weight, but we always stack it back on. This is due to two reasons – firstly because many of these programs or diets are not sustainable, but secondly, because our body begins to fight itself. It sees weight loss as a stress on the body and to eliminate that stress it shuts down – our metabolism lowers to ensure we burn less fat at rest, and our appetite hormones change telling us to eat more. Diets will give you short-term results, but you will end up in a worse of position, not only physically but also psychologically.
If not a diet, how does your approach for weight loss differ?
We have found through our research that the only way to prevent weight regain is to stop your body fighting itself – an evolutionary solution to an evolutionary problem. With the Interval Weight Loss approach, people are required to lose weight in short 4-week intervals with 4-week rest intervals in between. Visualise a 2 kg weight loss over a 4-week period, followed by a 4-week period of maintaining the weight loss from the month before, before then going on to lose another 2 kg and so on, until a person achieves their goal weight loss. The rest periods every second month prevent the usual response to weight loss and consequently a person doesn’t experience the decrease in metabolism or change in appetite hormones telling them to eat more. It allows a person to lose approximately 12 kg over a 1-year period and keep it off, when typically we can lose 12kg over just a few months and stack 12-13 kg back on just as quick.
Why is it so hard to shift weight (and keep it off) as you age or after children?
Women go through significant life events that men never have to worry about. These events come with accompanying weight challenges and include transition to adulthood and going on the contraceptive pill, having children and menopause. As we go through each of these life events, our priorities change, meaning our health is often neglected, and our bodies start to function differently, due to ageing. For example, after having children, instead of investing time in our own health, we prioritise that of our children. Coupled with sleep deprivation, poor food choices and less activity this makes it harder to shift the weight with each pregnancy, particularly as we have two, three, four or more children. As well as this, as we get older our bodies also start to slow down, due to a process known as sarcopenia – a decline in muscle mass. This means we burn fewer calories at rest, consequently making it more challenging to manage our weight.
Can you explain the importance of the set point and how we can change this?
We are all tuned to a set point – yes, it could be game over! It doesn’t matter what you do, your body will work back to where it started, to defend its comfortable weight. Everyone has a set point and this is the weight that our body is most comfortable being; the weight you remember being at for a long period of time and the weight your rebound to with each dieting attempt. Sadly, you are doomed for failure every time you start a diet because your body starts to work differently until you go back to your set point. However, research now shows you can redefine your set point with the Interval Weight Loss approach by losing weight in short 4-week intervals.
How does stress affect weight loss efforts?
There are several well-researched biological protections that kick into gear when you diet, to prevent you succeeding on your weight loss attempts. One of these is our stress hormone, cortisol, which not only goes up with stress but also dieting – increased levels lead to weight gain. Restricting food or depriving yourself of food will only increase cortisol levels in the body and stressful environments can result in poorer food choices. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to surround yourself with nature’s treats – such as fruit, nuts, avocado – to prevent impulse buys from the vending machine or take-away shop.
How can you optimise the mind for weight loss?
Food addiction and dieting are the two main reasons why the prevalence of overweight and obesity is going up. We have a hard time saying ‘no’ to our favourite foods and we react to our weight struggle by buying into the dieting industry. Typically, we apply an all-or-nothing approach that is not sustainable or healthy. But the good news is, you can retrain your brain away from those addictive, processed and fast foods to nature’s treats – a process that can take up to 66 days – and it is one of the key principles of the Interval Weight Loss plan. And the good news is, this doesn’t require eliminating our favourite foods altogether – it means learning how to incorporate them into your eating plan, so you can still enjoy them but not every day.