Why the diet isn’t working


A couple of years back fasting was the latest and greatest in the world of diets and nutrition.

Hailed as the answer to a range of health issues from high blood cholesterol and blood pressure to diabetes as well as weight loss, it seemed that all we really needed to do to get healthier was to stop eating, at least occasionally.

Fast forward a few years and it is not uncommon to people describe themselves as ‘fasting’ and you can even buy entire programs that adjust the calories of your daily meals to factor in a day or two of low-calorie eating.

But as is the case with literally all diets, fasting does not work for everyone.

So if you are trying to reap the benefits of fasting with no apparent results, here are some of the reasons why.

1) You are fasting for too long

There are two variations of fasting – low-calorie days alternated with regular eating, and extended overnight fasts where you may not eat for a period of 12-18 hours.

When we change our diet in any way, we generally get some results. Over time, the body then adjusts to the new regime and the results, or in this example, weight loss slows.

This is not to say that the regime will never work again, rather slight tweaks and adjustments can get things moving again. For example, fasting for only 14 hours instead of 16, or altering eating times so you are eating earlier in the day.

Change is always the key when you are experiencing a plateau on any weight loss program.

2) You are cheating

For some, even the idea of fasting can be psychologically challenging.

This perceived restriction can lead to an increased focus on food and eating and a few little extras slipping in, even though you may tell yourself that they do not count.

For fasting to be effective, you really need to fast, with the exception of water, black or herbal tea and black coffee.

3) You are exercising a lot

Physiologically there is a big difference between an exercising body and a sedentary one, especially when it comes to calorie restriction, which is a secondary result of fasting.

Active muscles require significantly more carbohydrates and calories and if you are continuing your regular training regime but overly restricting carbs and calories due to your fast you may find that the body is reluctant to metabolise extra fat, rather clinging on to it due to an insufficient intake of calories.

The answer? Either reduce your training load when fasting or increase your overall calorie intake even on fasting days by 200 calories per hour of high-intensity exercise you are doing.

4) You are already fatigued

For some people, their approach to life and weight loss is that more is better. This can translate into exhausted, overworked, time-poor people putting more and more pressure on their tired body when they want to lose weight.

The issue with that is that high levels of stress hormones, thyroid dysfunction and high insulin levels can all interfere with our ability to lose body fat, no matter what diet we are doing.

For this reason, if you are finding that any kind of diet, including fasting, is not budging any kilos, a trip to the GP to check your overall health may be what you need rather than another relatively strict diet.

5) You are not hungry anymore

Hunger is the physiological sensation to suggest that you are metabolising your food well.

If you are not experiencing hunger regularly, even when you fast for extended periods, it suggests that your body is potentially in starvation mode, not eating the right mix of macronutrients and calories at the right times.

For this reason, fasting may not be the best option for you. Instead, becoming reacquainted with your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals with the help of a dietitian may be a better weight loss strategy.

Susie Burrell is a nutritionist. Continue the conversation on Twitter @SusieBDiet.