Dieting and skipping meals can do more harm than good to your waistline, new research warns.
While 45 million Americans jump on the diet wagon every year, a study shows severely limiting calorie intake can wreck havoc on metabolism.
Detoxes also tends to lead to overeating, they found, suggesting there are more downsides than benefits to dieting in both the short term and the long term.
The study’s authors, at the University of Helsinki, conclude that eating meals regularly is the best way to ensure a healthy weight, and making it easier to control your weight in later life.
Skipping meals can lead to weight gain in the long term, according to a new study
Researchers, led by nutritional therapist Ulla Kärkkäinen, collected data from more than 4,900 young men and women. The participants answered surveys mapping out factors impacting weight and weight change when they were 24 years of age, and again ten years later at the age of 34.
They found that most participants gained weight during the decade-long study, while only 7.5 percent of women and 3.8 percent of men lost weight.
Over the 10 years the average weight gain in women was just under two pounds per year and in men, 2.2 pounds.
Kärkkäinen and her colleagues said one of the common factors among young women and men who succeeded in managing their weight in the long term was eating food regularly as opposed to dieting.
‘Often, people try to prevent and manage excess weight and obesity by dieting and skipping meals. In the long term, such approaches seem to actually accelerate getting fatter, rather than prevent it,’ Kärkkäinen said.
This isn’t the first study to show this link.
Research published in a 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that skipping meals not only leads to weight gain, it can increase the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
A similar study published in 2013 by the Oregon Research Institute found that limiting calorie intake increases the risk of weight gain by making unhealthy food more attractive.
The current study concludes that the cornerstone of successful weight management is refraining from dieting and observing regular eating habits, in both women and men.
‘Generally speaking, weight management guidance often boils down to eating less and exercising more. In practice, people are encouraged to lose weight, whereas the results of our extensive population study indicate that losing weight is not an effective weight management method in the long run,’ said Kärkkäinen.
The findings prove that instead of losing weight, it is more important to focus on eating regular meals, taking care of one’s wellbeing and finding a more general sense of meaning in life.
Regular and sufficient meals support the natural biological functions of the body, and help in managing one’s eating habits and weight management in the long term.
‘Our findings demonstrate that weight management would benefit from an increased focus on individual differences, as well as perceiving the factors that impact human wellbeing and the sense of meaning in life as a broader whole,’ Kärkkäinen sums up.
The study has been published in the international Eating Behaviors journal. The study was led by Associate Professor Anna Keski-Rahkonen.