Right about now you may be asking, “Why do so many diets fail so miserably?”
That’s what this article is all about.
Many diets fail because—whatever other good things there may be in those diets—they do not help you make the shift to a permanent fat-burning metabolism.
A fat-burning metabolism is where the magic happens.
You’ll see what I mean in a minute when we talk about the three most common pitfalls of conventional diets. In this article, you’ll also learn why The 3-Week Ketogenic Diet is different.
You’ll see how The 3-Week Ketogenic Diet specifically avoids the common pitfalls of conventional dieting—those same pitfalls which doom you to sugar-burning hell.
What Really Happens When You Go On A Traditional Diet
To get a clearer picture of why dieting is often (if not always) doomed, let’s go back in time a bit to see how the human metabolism adapted to the conditions under which we evolved over the last, oh, 100,000 years or so.
Our Paleo ancestors hunted or fished for food you could hunt, fish, gather or pluck. They ate these foods when they could. They didn’t have set meal times.
Our metabolism adapted under feast or famine conditions. That’s why we humans have an exquisitely tuned system designed for storing calories—we needed to be able to survive when food was scarce.
Fast forward to the present. Now you’ve got those terrific fat-storing genes, so wonderfully suited to an environment of scarcity and extreme activity, and so supremely unsuited to the environment of the food court at the mall and the 24-hour food mart.
So you get fat. No surprise there.
It’s what your genes were designed to do. But you want to do something about it. So you go on a conventional diet. You don’t necessarily change the composition of the foods you eat; you just eat less of them.
You follow all the standard advice about “eating this, not that” which basically tells you how to eat less calories but not different calories.
But when you just cut calories, without paying attention to what foods they come from, you run smack dab into three of the biggest dieting pitfalls that ultimately just make you fatter than you were prior to starting the diet in the first place.
Pitfall #1: Your Metabolism Slows Down And Your Fat-Burning Hormones Decrease
Now that you’re eating less calories, the first thing that happens is leptin—the hormone responsible for telling the brain “stop eating, dude, your tummy is full!”—goes down.
Low leptin is a powerful signal to eat. When leptin drops, your body believes it’s starving, so it slows down your entire metabolism by lowering thyroid production. Remember when we talked about the relationship between leptin and thyroid? Well, here’s why it’s so important: your “engine idle” slows down when thyroid production is reduced.
This means your entire metabolism is suppressed.
When that happens, your fat-burning hormones drops. That means your M.A.T. shifts into a lower gear, and your ability to burn fat slows down since your body is now running on the least amount of fuel necessary to keep it alive. But it’s not only fat burning that’s impacted.
Your thinking slows down, your digestion grinds to a halt– even your heart is weakened. Like a movie director who suddenly has his operating budget cut, your body’s cutting all the non-essentials and spending its limited energy keeping basic functions going. Your caveman genes think there’s a famine, and they’re running the show.
Then, to complicate matters even further, when your cavemen genes think there’s a famine they don’t just sit there and fume about it—they send out powerful chemical signals to turn fat storage up. This makes total sense from a survival point—store every drop of energy you can!—but it’s sheer hell if you’re trying to shed body fat.
Now you’re storing fat more effectively than ever at the exact same time that your metabolism is slowing down. And that’s exactly what you don’t want to happen when you diet.
But it does. And it may well be one reason it’s so darn easy to gain back all the fat you lose (and more) the minute things return to how you were eating before you went on a diet. After all, your metabolism has slowed down and you’re not burning fuel at the same rate as before the diet (since your body thinks you’re in a famine).
Your ability to store fat—just as a pure survival tactic—has gone up, up, up.
Your body is on high alert, waiting eagerly for some extra calories so it can pack some fat back on. Now you go off your diet. Want to guess what happens? You gain back all the fat back, and then some. You are eating the same amount of calories as you did before you dieted; the only problem is that now your body requires less food.
It’s cut its operating budget, so to speak, and is running on less calories than before. Your previous level of calorie intake is now seen to be excessive.
And the excess calories have to go somewhere—and guess where? Your hips, belly, thighs and butt, and anywhere else you can think of where you don’t want extra padding!
So the average diet is actually designed to make you fail at burning fat. It slows down the exact processes you need to get that stubborn fat off your tummy, thighs and hips.
And I’m sorry to say the problems don’t end there.
Nope. They’re just beginning …
Pitfall #2: Your Muscle Starts Eating Itself
Yes, I know that sounds disgusting, like I’m talking about some kind of flesh-eating virus from a Wes Craven flick, but it’s actually what happens and here’s how.
This isn’t always a bad thing—but it is in this situation!
Dieting is a huge stressor on the body, and the defining physiological feature of stress is a release of cortisol, one of the three main stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
Why does your body pump out all that cortisol when you’re dieting? Because it thinks you’re starving!
And if you’re trying to lose body fat, that’s not a good thing. See, cortisol is the hormone that will get you out of an emergency (hence it’s nickname, the fight-or-flight hormone). One way it does this is to raise blood sugar.
Think about it—if you’re on the African Serengeti and suddenly have to run like hell from a saber-toothed tiger, you need a fast bolt of immediate energy for a sprint (which would be sugar). Now imagine what happens when you’re on a diet.
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What Really Happens To Your Body When You’re On A Restrictive Diet
First, your stress hormones rise. Second, you’re on a diet so you’re not eating as much sugar, which is what cortisol is looking for, because sugar can be turned into energy the fastest to save the day.
Cortisol will use anything in its bag of tricks to raise your blood sugar so it can keep you alive in what it perceives as an emergency. One of the things it does to accomplish this is to break down muscle, because the amino acids that make up the protein in muscles can be readily converted by the body into glucose (sugar), as we previously discussed.
Essentially your body eats up its own M.A.T.—muscle, connective tissue, bones, even your organs—in its attempt to get more sugar at any costs. This is kind of like burning the sails on a sailboat if you’re in the middle of the ocean and desperately need fire to stay warm. It’s a really bad idea under normal circumstances, but in a life and death situation, it may be the only course of action.
Cortisol breaks down muscles because your body perceives this crazy diet of yours as a famine, and that definitely qualifies as an emergency from an evolutionary standpoint. The thing is, you’re not in a real emergency, at least not one that threatens your survival.
But since the body thinks that’s what’s happening, cortisol keeps creating more sugar, which ultimately winds up as fat.
And you’re left losing ground on your diet and wondering why it stopped working. If all this weren’t bad enough, you’ve now got an added problem to contend with: a reduction in muscle mass. (Remember, cortisol broke down some muscle in a desperate effort to create more sugar.)
Since muscle burns a lot more calories than fat does (after all, it’s where most of your energy-producing mitochondria are), your resting metabolic rate—meaning how many calories you burn while just lounging around—has just effectively slowed down.
You now have less muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. You go back to your old way of eating but you now have less “calorie-burning machinery” (muscle).
This leaves you in almost the identical situation from Pitfall #1 in which your hormones directly cause your metabolism to slow down. You eat less, but your metabolism is slower. You have less M.A.T., so you are burning less calories. Fat loss comes to a standstill, you eat even less, you become frustrated and you give up! No wonder it’s so easy to pack the blubber back on.
And because you’re already a confirmed sugar burner, all the energy that’s already in the fat cells stays right where it is, and remains unavailable to your metabolism. To continue the sailboat analogy, it would be like you had a ton of wood in the stowage space, but that room is painted shut!
Which all leads me to the last pitfall of traditional dieting …
Pitfall #3: Storing Fat Is Inevitable, Burning Fat Is Not Happening
When you really understand all the hormonal and metabolic forces working against you in a conventional diet, it’s a wonder that anyone gets anywhere using sheer willpower.
Because, really, in the long run, willpower doesn’t stand much of a chance against the tidal wave of hormonal signaling. In the conventional dieting situation we’re talking about, your leptin is going to drop like a rock, meaning the brain is getting a powerful signal to eat, eat, eat!
Meanwhile, grehlin—the appetite reinforcement hormone—is now elevated, reinforcing the hunger signals of decreased leptin. Your thyroid production has dropped down, meaning your metabolism is slowed and whatever you do eat is likely going to wind up stored as fat. Meanwhile, you’re pumping out cortisol like the Exxon Valdez spill so you’re totally wired and stressed out from the biochemical catastrophe you find yourself in. So you grit your teeth and rely on your willpower to get you through this horrible diet, which you can’t wait to be over.
Willpower, Willpower, Who’s Got the Willpower?
Now here’s the deal with willpower: It’s like hanging from a ledge by your fingertips. Eventually you let go. Look, I’m all for developing willpower. It’s a skill that we actually can practice and use. If you are familiar with my work, you may remember that I’ve been addicted to half the things in the Physician’s Desk Reference. I know a little bit about addiction and willpower, and no one has more respect for self-discipline than I do. (Not that I have that much more self-discipline than anyone else, but at least I have a healthy respect for it!) But here’s what’s different about self-discipline and food. You can get off drugs and never use them again.
You can stop drinking—or smoking—and after a nasty little withdrawal period, you never need look at (let alone indulge in) those substances again. But you can’t do that with food.
Which makes food—specifically sugar—one of the hardest possible addictions to break. Let’s be real.
The feeling of being deprived of your favorite foods—especially since you still have to eat and those foods are always around—can be a huge challenge. What’s more, it can affect your mood.
You become grumpy and depressed and even more susceptible to cravings for foods that will knock you right back into “fatdom” faster than you can say “Krispy Kreme.” What follows is the all-too-often inevitable rebound binge and another round of dieting and … well, you know the story.
You’ve probably lived it. How do you avoid all three of these pitfalls that seem inevitable? Are we all just doomed to gain fat as we age? Of course not.
The Solution To Traditional Low-Carb Dieting
The 3-Week Ketogenic Diet takes into account the three pitfalls of traditional dieting and prevents every one of them from happening. It does this by:
- Using specific food patterning to fake out your body’s fat-storing strategies.
- Preventing the metabolic adaptation that happens with traditional dieting, leading to the dreaded plateaus and inevitable regains.
- Offering you an easy way to stop relying on willpower.
The solution is so simple it’s almost mindnumbing: You get to eat all the foods you love.
The pitfalls of conventional dieting are avoided, and your days as a sugar burner are numbered. Let the fat-burning games begin!