Why Dieting Makes You Fat

I hate that word: diet. The amount of stigma around it is slightly ridiculous. The word conjures up an image if a tear-stricken, deprived female longing for a piece of cake.


While I can personally rant about the word diet for endless hours- normally revolving around the belief that instead of dieting people should simply try to change habits- this particular rant has more to it:

Three ways in which dieting makes you fat:

Brief stop. I suppose I should define the term “diet” for this piece. Since there are so many diets floating around the world today, let’s refer to diet in the general sense: Overly restricting calories to lose weight.

calorie rest.

So back to it, how dieting makes you fat.


Issue #1: It Decreases Your Metabolism

I’m sure you’ve all heard of metabolism before. That god given blessing or sentence that is responsible for either being a lithe, glorious creature or the cause of wanting to hide under the largest clothes possible.

But metabolism is more than that. Technically speaking, the metabolism is “the sum of reactions that take place to build up and break down the body”.  Your metabolism, or metabolic rate, is determined by many factors: caloric intake, nutrient intake, genetics, energy expenditure etc.


Think of your metabolism like a big fuel tank; the more fuel you put in, the more you have to burn and vice versa. Energy itself cannot be created nor destroyed, therefore it must be converted. Since energy is a necessity within our bodies to produce daily tasks if we continue to put less fuel (read: food) into the tank, instead of burning the fuel it will be saved for later.

In other words, by restricting calories and therefore nutrients, your body will slow it’s own metabolism to prepare for starvation. Instead of burning off the incoming calories your metabolism will encourage your body to conserve them.

The other side of restricting food intake is that your Thermal Effect of Feeding is reduced. TEF is when you burn energy to digest food. The less food coming in, the less energy burned.

Side Note: please do not read this as my advising you to go eat a can of pringles so that you can “burn some energy”.

So the summary of point one is that the more restricted you are, the less energy you will actually burn, thus slowing your metabolism.

Issue #2: It Reduces You Muscle Mass

musclesMuscles are another area of fitness & nutrition that I could rant about for hours. But since this particular blog would be a bit too long, take note of this: muscles burn calories. Literally. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn and the higher your metabolic rate. They are directly related. Period.

To increase your muscle mass (for the love of god no you will not get bulky) you must have enough energy to work hard. Therefore, you need to eat enough foods (and nutrient dense foods at that) to increase your muscle mass.

When you restrict calories, instead of building up your body with hard working muscles. Your body focuses on conserving fat stores. To top it off, it begins to use muscle mass for energy instead of fat. That’s right, your body actually breaks apart & tears down its muscles for fuel while storing as much fat as possible. Thus, your metabolism lowers again.

Issue #3: Diets Are Temporary

A means to an end. That’s what we think when we think of dieting. Need to fit into a dress by Christmas? Diet. We set our mind to “do whatever possible” to get to our goal by a certain day. But what happens when that day arrives? Then celebration ensues- you made it! Wahoo! Now you can finally go back to eating “normally”. But what is normal? If it’s consuming loads of fast & processed food then the weight will come back.


While your body may have responded well to cutting out sugar, increasing veggies & protein and eliminating mindless snacking, it will respond just as “well” to putting all that back in. After all, how do you think you got to that point in the first place?

So you regain the weight that was lost, guess what happens next? Since you have reduced your metabolism from eating so little you must eat even less to lose the same weight? Kind of a lose-lose don’t you think?


So if you haven’t clued into the lesson yet: dieting (or severe calorie restriction) has the opposite of its desired effect. Not only will you lose & regain the weight, you will have damaged your hard worked body and lowered your metabolism. Thus causing your body to store more fat. On top of that, you’re whiny, hungry and irritable from being so diminished of nutrients and food in general. Your hormones have also been affected and frequently tell you that you need to eat those sweets. You’ve been deprived! But you have the willpower not to, after all, you’re on a diet (understand the sarcastic voice here)

So while this is a rant for another time, why not simply create habits that you can maintain? Learn what types of foods your body responds best to and focus on fixing & increasing your metabolism to a healthy intake. Consume food, not just calories.

Happy Eating 🙂

For a bit more info and science fun, check out this article, it’s a favorite of mine.