The Diet Cycle: Weight Loss vs Regain Phase

The actual experience of dieting creates addicts. As one engages in the diet, the need to diet is re-created and enforced.
— Carol Bloom

The moment you decide to eat "healthier," lose weight, or otherwise restrict your food intake, you feel good. Hopeful. In control. Powerful. Right? This is the first phase of the diet cycle - the Weight Loss Phase. Often called the honeymoon, it is packed with motivation and even euphoria

You lose weight and you're convinced this time will be different. This time you’ll keep the weight off. Look how good you are doing! You're sure you'll be able to eat this way forever. You feel invincible.

But sooner or later the dreaded second phase shows up. The phase we have amnesia about - the Regain Phase. Research confirms that only 2 to 5% of us will be able to avoid the Regain Phase (and more recent research suggests it is less than 2%!).

What happens to the rest of us? We gain the lost weight back. And research shows that 30% of re-gainers will end up heavier than when we started the Weight Loss Phase. 

The world pretends this second phase doesn’t exist. Or maybe we just forget about it. Or we blame our lack of willpower and focus on the two people we know that lost all that weight (until they gain it back). So we keep trying different versions of the same old thing. We live with the mantra, “I restricted and lost, and I can do it again." 

Perhaps most fascinating about the Weight Gain Phase is that professionals also ignore it, and continue to recommend weight loss as if they have the secret sauce that is going to make it work this time. Indeed, professionals often prescribe diets as compulsively as dieter’s diet! 

Unfortunately, it is you, the ever faithful dieter, who gets blamed when weight is regained. And you probably also blame yourself. But it is NOT your fault.  

Did Weight Watchers inform you that you had a 2 to 5% chance of success with their program? That 98 out of a 100 will regain all lost weight within 2 years? And that of those 98, about 33 will end up much larger than when they walked in the doors?

No, they did not. If you had to sign a release revealing those statistics before you joined the program, would you have signed up?

Unlikely.

Quit blaming yourself! The Regain Phase is biological. And even Weight Watchers can't help you avoid it. The Regain Phase is the body’s attempt at survival—the body screaming out for an end to this controlled semi-starvation suicide. 

Your body knows it is not getting enough fuel to survive. This freaks the body out. It begins begging for fuel by causing food cravings, food preoccupation, and increased hunger and, eventually, binging.

You can numb the body for a while. Unfortunately, if you begin to eat more, you are still numb, and can't feel the subtle cues that help you stop eating. Hence, weight regain. Accckkkkkk!

You end up believing you are an out-of-control eater. You search out yet another food plan to control your eating. And you’re right back in the cycle. In fact, the cycle is quite addictive. 

Chronic dieting, paradoxically, strips women of the capacity for making self-determined, healthful choices about food and their nutrition. Dieting is not about health. It is about ill health. Dieting is a disorder in itself.
— Carol Bloom

Shift the blame from YOU, and begin blaming the food plans and restricting and “healthy eating” (in quotes because that phrase is usually code for low calorie eating). There is a better, and very different approach to managing food and eating. 

Quit listening to external authorities and begin listening to eating wisdom. Re-learn to eat when hungry and quit when satisfied! After years of controlled eating, your response might be: “What? If I ate everything my body wanted, I would be as big as a house.” 

But it is NOT the body that wants to keep eating. When you have eaten enough, your body sends subtle signals that you have had enough. Then what does your mind do?  It counters with, “Oh, but it was so good, I want more.” Or “Well, I’ll eat less tomorrow, just eat it all now.” Or “I’ve really blown it, I’m terrible, I’m just going to keep eating.”

If you had been able to listen to and respond to your body’s signals of satisfaction, you would have quit eating! And isn't that what you want? To have control over your food, and the ability to easily quit eating when satisfied?

This process heals food cravings, food preoccupation, and binging. Hunger then becomes manageable.

This intuitive eating process will end the Regain Phase!  

About Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LDN, SEP

Karin can help you escape food and body angst and learn to manage your eating and weight naturally. Visit www.EatingWisdom.com for free handouts, online courses and more tips on mindful, intuitive eating and healing disordered eating.