Why Dieters Crash and Burn, Part 1

Get-Fit Guy and Nutrition Diva teach you about weight loss plateaus, why people stop losing weight, and how to stick with your diet and exercise plan

Ben Greenfield
September 25, 2012
Episode #108

Why Dieters Crash and Burn, Part 1In previous episodes, I’ve explained the Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight, and the Nutrition Diva and I have both covered the topic of weight loss at length. Check out How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau, which addresses the nutritional aspects of weight loss plateaus and How to Get Off a Weight Loss Plateau, which addresses the physical.  

A weight loss plateau is a gradual tapering off or a pause in your weight loss even when you are still exercising and eating healthy – and plateaus happen to just about everybody. But what about a weight loss “crash and burn,” in which you totally fall off the fitness and healthy eating bandwagon, throw up your hands in despair, and forsake your diet or exercise plan altogether? How do you avoid that dreaded scenario?

In this special episode, which features my fellow Quick and Dirty Tips podcast host Monica Reinagel, aka the Nutrition Diva, you’re going to learn why a weight loss crash and burn can happen and how to avoid it!

Before seeing what Monica has to say, let’s kick things off with my 3 reasons for a weight loss crash and burn:

Reason #1: Relying Completely on Diet (With No Exercise)

It’s been proven that exercise can suppress appetite by decreasing the hormones that make you more likely to cheat on your diet. Studies have also disproved that moderate, healthy amounts of exercise (not 2-hour marathon sessions at the gym) will actually spark your appetite and cause you to compensate by eating more later on. It’s just not the case.

So why not use this powerful appetite control strategy to stick to your healthy eating habits, and keep you from mindless snacking? I personally get hungry every afternoon at about 1:30pm. Fortunately, I’ve re-arranged my day so that this is about the time I hop on my bike to ride to the gym and lift weights or go for a swim. This gets me through that afternoon hunger spike, and before I know it, it’s time for dinner! Even if you can’t squeeze in a full exercise session at the same time of day when you tend to get appetite cravings, you may find that something as simple as a quick 5 or 10 minutes of physical activity has the same appetite-suppressing effect.  

Reason #2: Eating Too Little Protein

In How Much Protein Should I Eat?, the Nutrition Diva explains that up to 1/3 of your diet can come from protein. I personally eat slightly less protein than that, and make up for the difference with healthy fats, which have a similar appetite-satiating effect. But no matter what, I always aim to do one important thing: eat protein either before or after my workout. It doesn’t matter whether you eat protein before or after, but what is important is that the levels of amino acids in your blood are high when your muscles begin the process of repair and recovery. This will not only keep you from getting excessively sore, but will also keep you from getting the hunger pangs that can occur as your body realizes there’s not enough building blocks on board to repair and recover.

Reason #3: Over-Exercising + Under-Eating = Plateau

In the episode Why Exercise Can Cause Weight Gain, you learned that adding exercise to your day can alter your schedule, your physical stress levels, and your life to the point where you feel as if you are constantly “running from the lion.” This can overstimulate your adrenal glands and produce excessive cortisol. By causing you to retain sodium and fluid, cortisol causes an increase in blood pressure and a stronger contraction of your heart. Since you aren’t running from a lion while you’re sitting at your desk at work, not only do you not really need this constant blood pressure elevation, but you also don’t need all the fluid retention and weight gain that comes with it!

When combined with even more stress, and potential metabolic damage from crash dieting or severe calorie restriction, this cortisol response can become even more pronounced, and eventually leave you unable or unwilling to stick to your plan.

So do everything in moderation – both your physical activity and your calorie restriction. Choose a plan that you can sustain long term.

As promised, today we have a very special guest, Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva. She’s here with 2 more reasons why we may experience a dieting crash and burn.

*** A Nutrition Diva Exclusive! ***

Thanks for having me on the show today, Ben!

First just let me say that I think everything you’ve said (and everything I’m about to say) applies just as much to people who are simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body weight as it does to people who are trying to make a dramatic change in their body weight, fitness, or eating habits. So what are some more common reasons why people veer from the path or give up on their goals?

Reason #4: Making it an All or Nothing Proposition

All too often, I see people foiled by their own perfectionism. They get all gung-ho about adopting a healthy new diet. They decide they’re going to eliminate 100% of the refined sugar from their diets, and that goes well for about 3 weeks. And then one day, they “slip” and eat a jelly bean and—well, that’s the end of the healthy diet. 

As I’m fond of saying: It’s not what you eat on your best day or your worst day, but how you eat most days that really makes a difference. Check out this Nutrition Diva episode on raising your nutritional grade point average.

Reason #5: Short Term Thinking

Another typical crash-and-burn scenario is the Reunion Effect. This is when your entire motivation for sticking to your diet and exercise plan is that you want to look good for some upcoming event, like a wedding or school reunion, or maybe a Caribbean vacation. The problem is that once the event is over, you find it hard to drum up the same discipline. Look, short term goals are fine. Just remember that a healthy lifestyle isn’t just a means to an end. It’s not something you do until you get to a certain weekend or a certain waist size. It’s a way of life. If short term goals are the only thing you find truly motivating, make sure you’ve got the next one lined up before you reach the first one!


Thanks Monica!

Tune into the Nutrition Diva’s show for Part 2 of this series on how to avoid the diet and fitness crash and burn.

If you have more questions about weight loss crash and burn mistakes, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

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