Lose weight, not your mind

Subjecting our bodies to strange things in the name of vanity is commonplace in University life. One such example that almost everyone has at least contemplated is The Diet. Beginning mid-20th Century with the sexual revolution, women wanted to be seen not as housekeepers and mothers but as sexual beings, showing off their skin, and their skin pulled over a taut and slim frame.

"These are not the fad diets you're looking for" Photo credit: Stéfan

“These are not the fad diets you’re looking for”
Photo credit: Stéfan

Only more recently have gentlemen have dipped their toes in the murky weight-loss world, with the rise of the ‘metrosexual male’ and a raised awareness of increasing worldwide obesity.

Whether or not the above reasons are causations or just a correlation is meaningless: people diet. So here are the biological consequences of diets upon your whole body, not just your waistline.

Low calorie diets such as The Cabbage Soup Diet consist of eating two low-calorie and one ‘normal’ meal per day. This fits with what most people with common sense would advise; the key to weight loss is ‘eat less and do more’. Fewer calories = less energy stored as fat. The only real issue with this is that people get bored and so it’s not usually very successful in the long term.

Low carbohydrate, high protein diets such as the Atkins cut out carbohydrates to force the body into metabolizing stored fat, instead of the glucose which is released in carb-y foods. ‘Dr. Atkins’ recommends eating only pure protein for two weeks. Analyses show that weight loss is very high during these two weeks. This change in metabolic processing produces pretty bad breath; reportedly a ‘sweet metallic’ smell, probably from the release of ketones. Now this, you say, won’t have much affect on your BNOC-level pulling-potential. But studies have conclusively shown that high protein diets significantly lower your sex drive… is it worth it?

The 5:2 Diet relies upon people eating normally – 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men – for 5 days, and eating a quarter of that amount on 2 days of the week. Partial fasting increases the time period it takes to feel hunger, with the end point being a reduction in the amount eaten. All well and good, but meeting someone who is fasting gives a whole new meaning to the name of “one of the seven dwarves which is rendered Severus in Latin” (if you don’t get this reference then shame on you, embarrassment of a York Student. University Challenge. 13/10/14. 20:00. York vs Corpus Christi Cambridge – it’s on iPlayer). What I’m trying to say is that fasting people are grumpy.

Reducing your food intake will make you lose weight. However, it has been shown that during ‘controlled starvation’, metabolism slows to ensure that you have enough energy. An unfortunate consequence is that when the diet is over, and normal eating habits return, weight gain will actually be faster than before.

Dieting is personal. The best advice I can give is that if it works for you, without lowering your quality of life, then you’ve got yourself a winner.

One comment

  1. A nice introduction but be careful to back up your argument with examples e.g. specific studies and those who carried them out. This is the ‘Science’ section not ‘Lifestyle’ so it’s important that you remain quite factual and that you keep generalisations like ‘fast people are grumpy’ and ‘what most people with common sense would advise’ (what about those who argue that eating disorders develop from this kind of dieting?) to a minimum. Overall though it was a well-written and informative read. Nice to see a new writer for Science!

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