If you have tried diet after diet…and then find yourself putting on even more weight… Blame it on the cavemen.
Cutting calories signals your body to prepare for “famine.” It convinces your hunter-gatherer brain that food supplies are unreliable. It instructs your body to store extra fat as soon as more food becomes available—much like birds fattening up before winter.
The result, according to new research from Bristol and Exeter universities in England, is that diets make you gain more weight in the long term than you would have if you didn’t diet.1
The researchers tracked feeding habits of animals. They found the animals with uncertain food supplies packed on the pounds when food became available.
Worse, the urge to eat did not diminish as the animals put on weight. This is because their brains were convinced that they would face another long period of “famine.” Their urge to eat was twice that of animals who had never faced food shortages.2
Dr. Andrew Higginson is a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study. He summed up the findings: “Our model predicts that the average weight gain for dieters will actually be greater than those who never diet.”
“This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable, so there is less need for the insurance of fat stores,” he says.3
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Yo-Yo Dieting Is a Weight Loss Disaster
And for people who are constantly yo-yo dieting, going on and off diets repeatedly, the researchers say the results are even worse.
Their study found this approach convinces the brain to store more fat each time you come off a diet. It trains your brain to recognize that any period of abundant food will be short lived…and that available food should be gorged on while it lasts.
The brain then sends messages to the body to build up as much fat as possible. So even if yo-yo dieters lose weight, the result over time will be greater weight gain than non-dieters.
The study recently was published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.
The Best Diet Is No Diet
An estimated 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion on weight loss products.4
But two out of every three Americans are overweight. More than one in three are obese.5 Dieting clearly isn’t working.
Slow and steady is the way to lose weight, the researchers say. Don’t try crash diets. They will only rebound on you and cause you to put on weight.
“The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets,” Dr. Higginson says.
The CDC agrees. In its ongoing studies of American obesity, it found losing only one or two pounds a week is the most successful way to lose weight and keep it off.6
3 Foods that Melt Fat
Losing weight isn’t just about eating fewer calories. It’s about eating the right foods. Here are three foods that melt body fat:
Brussels sprouts. They pack protein to build lean muscle, keeping body fat to a minimum. And research shows foods higher in protein are more filling.7,8,9
Green beans. They’re a great source of fiber. Eating high-fiber foods keeps you fuller longer. Fiber absorbs water and makes you less hungry.10
Grass-fed beef. It’s rich in conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. A growing body of research confirms this fatty acid promotes weight loss.
A Norwegian study published in the Journal of Nutrition found CLA reduces body fat and preserves muscle in overweight people. Another study in the International Journal of Obesity revealed CLA reduces belly fat in men.11
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