If you’ve resorted to extreme crash diets in the past, does that make it harder to lose weight this time round? Emma Brown, nutritionist from Nutracheck has the answer.

Maybe you’ve been on the diet roller coaster before where you’ve dieting harshly, lost weight and then put it all back on again. You may have gone through this process several times. Many people do as up to 80 per cent of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost in the past. But if you want to lose weight again this time round, will it be harder to lose it if you’ve followed an extreme diet in the past? Will your body go into ‘starvation mode’ and hold onto calories to protect you from what you did in the past?

The frustration of hitting a weight loss plateau is something most dieters will experience at some stage. It is a normal biological response to a period of reduced energy intake. If we crash diet, it is more likely that we’ll hit a plateau and that readjusting to a ‘normal’ way of eating again could be that bit harder. But are the effects of extreme diets permanent, or can the metabolic changes be reversed?

The metabolic effects of following a very restrictive diet for a period of time, are not permanent. If you were to crash diet one year, then regain the weight and then try again to lose weight the next year, you shouldn’t find it any harder than anyone else would, or more difficult than if you’d just followed a moderate weight loss approach.

Crash dieting or any kind of dieting doesn’t permanently damage our metabolism, but there are many factors that affect how well we lose weight at any given time – and these can vary from person to person.

Why does weight loss seem harder?

Many people feel that losing weight gets harder each time they try. There can be many reasons for this. Maybe you’re not cutting as many calories as last time, so your weight loss is slower. Perhaps you are now less active than you used to be. If you’ve stopped exercising maybe your body composition has changed (muscle burns calories but fat doesn’t).

If you are perimenopausal or have been through the menopause, hormonal changes could be having an effect. Maybe you haven’t had a period of ‘normality’ in order for your body to reset. And a natural part of getting older is that our metabolism slows by two to five per cent per decade. There are countless possible reasons – but a ‘broken’ metabolism isn’t likely to be one of them.

What is the best approach?

If you’re finding it tough to lose weight, go back to basics. Keep a food diary so you know exactly how much you’re eating and keep to a healthy intake of 1200-1400 calories a day (minimum). You might want to use an App like Nutracheck that calculates an appropriate personal target for you. If you stick to a realistic calorie intake, be as active as you can and eat a well-balanced diet with foods from all the major food groups – you should lose weight at a healthy and sustainable rate.

The most important factor for weight loss is energy in versus energy out, the type of food we eat plays a crucial role. For example, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide all important vitamins and minerals to help our body function at its best (many vitamins are used for nutrient metabolism). Including plenty of lean protein and high fibre foods helps us to feel fuller for longer, making it easier to stick to a reduced intake. It’s easy to see how choosing the right foods can make losing weight more achievable and enjoyable.

If you’re sure you’re doing everything right and still aren’t seeing a shift on the scales, increasing your activity level is one of the best ways to kick start weight loss. Introducing some strength training (with resistance or weights) to boost your lean muscle mass is an effective way to boost your metabolic rate.


More information

For further details of Nutracheck and how it can help you to manage your eating and lose weight, visit the Nutracheck Calorie Counter App.