To some degree, I have been involved and infatuated with diets for fast weight loss and low fat for many years. Diets come and go — The Rice Diet, The Fruit Diet, The Low Carb Diet, The High Carb Diet, The High Fat Diet, The Low Fat Diet, The Fiber Diet, the list goes on forever.
What each and every diet has in common is a controlled caloric intake. One thing we know for sure, when calories are reduced, the body calls upon other sources for fuel, one of them being stored body fat. So, unlike others who say, “Diets do not work,” I disagree and say, “All diets do work!”
The problem is this — they are either too difficult to maintain for long periods of time, or they do not supply enough calories, so a discouraged dieter usually throws in the towel and quits.
Years ago, scientists discovered a special phenomenon that occurs with food intake called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is just a fancy word for the production of heat.
Foods are really forms of energy. When food is eaten, the body breaks down the fuel from the foods to obtain this energy in order to maintain life and to do work. The fate of this energy is threefold. First, energy can be used up by the body. Second, it can be stored as muscle glycogen to be used at a later date, or it can be stored as body fat. And the third fate of energy derived from food is that it can be “wasted as heat.”
Our bodies are always producing heat, much like a coal furnace. When foods are consumed, the body temperature rises and some of the calories from the foods we eat are simply burned off as heat, leaving less net calories available for the body, the muscle cells and fat cells. Some foods exert a strong thermic effect upon the body, while others do not. Most importantly however, protein food sources exert the greatest thermic effect upon the body.
Roughly 20% of the calories derived from protein foods are not available to be used by the body because they are burned off as body heat. Of course, dieters adopted this fact, and protein became the dieters choice food. People ate a lot of protein hoping it would have a thermogenic “overdrive” effect. As with any diet that is lower in calories, the approach worked to some degree, mainly due to a total lower caloric intake.
Over time, as dieters failed in their quest for a lean body, psychologists postulated the theory that people over-eat or under-eat due to their emotional state. Some studies showed a correlation between depression and overheating. Psychologists reasoned a person could only free themselves from overeating with intensive therapy.
Once the underlying psychological problem was found and treated, a patient would resume eating normally. While therapy may be helpful for some, it did not accommodate the fact that millions are overweight who seem to be perfectly content with their lives, and many can not lose weight who have undertaken years of exhaustive therapy.