If you pay attention to the diet experiences of the people you know, you have probably observed that:
• People lose weight on low-fat diets. People gain weight on low-fat diets.
• People lose weight on low-carb diets. People gain weight on low-carb diets.
• People lose weight on low-protein diets (believe it or not). People can also gain weight on low-protein diets.
But what exactly is going on that sometimes a diet plan works and sometimes it doesn't?
As a general principle, overly restrictive diets just don't work. When people who are over-nourished start on a diet, their bodies have more than enough of all the kinds of nutrients that can drive hunger.
There's enough carbohydrate, both stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles (even flabby muscles contain some glycogen for their stored energy supply), and as the mucus and connective tissues that make up a surprisingly high percentage of the body's total mass.
An over-nourished person's body has all the essential (diet-sourced) amino acids, plus enough of the essentials to make all the others. There is an adequate supply of the essential fatty acids, the omega-6 fats and the omega-3 fats. The body has plenty of stored fat to keep the muscles going if they run through their glycogen supplies.
But when we start eating a calorie-restricted, unbalanced diet, individual nutrients eventually run out. If we don't eat a certain minimum of carbohydrate (remember the minimums we mentioned earlier in this part of the book?) we begin to crave carbohydrate foods. If we don't eat a minimum of protein, we begin to crave protein foods. If we don't eat the tiny amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids our bodies need, we begin to crave fat.
We experience our cravings as “I want food and I want it now. ” We don't experience our food cravings as a need for identifiable nutrients. We experience them as a drive to eat the first food in sight.
If the first food we see doesn't actually contain the nutrients our bodies need, then we'll wind up storing the excess nutrients, most likely as fat. Unbalanced reduced-calorie diets always result in weight loss plateaus followed by weight gain. As long as a dietary deficiency is not corrected, hunger will increase.
Suppose your plan for taking off the pounds is to give up bacon, sausage, and salami, which you had previously eaten in large quantities. On the surface, this probably makes good sense. After all, bacon isn't really a vitamin and all of these foods are very high in fat.
But bacon, sausage, and salami are also high in choline. The liver needs choline to repair itself when it is exposed to toxins, or when it has to metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde. If you give up bacon and start drinking a glass of red wine every day, then you increase your liver's need for choline at the same time you reduce your liver's supply for choline. Depriving yourself of food doesn’t always mean you’ll naturally eat less. Sometimes you’ll wind up eating more.