|Think about how many times you’ve started a diet, made progress, and eventually stopped that diet (typically seen through gaining some or all of the weight back). Depending on how many you’ve been through this scenario, that’s your dieting history. |
Dieting history is both simple and complex. Simple through its definition (basically a sum of all of our previous bouts of dieting), but complex in its seemingly large impact on how we diet following all of that history. It’s an influential factor that not many consider first and foremost.
Why does it matter?
Dieting history is important because of the impact is has on our capacity to diet even further down the line. Ever notice how your very first diet is the one that ran the smoothest or just felt easier? As we enter and exit dieting phases, it becomes increasingly harder and harder for us to respond like we had initially. Many times, we have to get more aggressive over time. Each individual’s history will be vastly different from one another. Some may have only dieted once in their life, while others can have more extensive dieting histories (like yo-yo dieting, for example).
Why does this happen?
Our bodies are smart. They don’t care about how we look or whether or not we’re 10% body fat – they care about survival and they’ll adapt in order to ensure that. This is known as metabolic adaptation. Before modern times, this was a good thing! Being uncertain of when our next meal would be used to be a common problem, so systems that promote storing extra energy and fighting weight loss was needed when the risk of starvation was high.
Essentially the harder or more extreme we diet down, the more exaggerated the adaptations are. This could mean dieting down rapidly (“quick-fix diets”), losing large amounts of weight, or dropping down to the bare minimum body fat percentage needed for survival. This is important to consider, especially if you compete or plan on competing as it does entail losing a significant amount of weight to achieve an unsustainably low body fat percentage. Rapid fat loss is another possibility depending on the individual and their experience, although we always use a slower approach to dieting. I myself have been through the three instances above (less of the rapid weight loss compared to the other two), and I’ve seen this firsthand.
Graph source can be found here. I also suggest reading this article as an amazing reference guide to metabolic adaptation.
Why it’s important to consider
Because #health. Metabolic adaptation doesn’t just refer you your metabolic rate adapting to the diet. There are other important factors like hormonal function, cortisol, anabolism and catabolism, appetite, and energy expenditure to consider when thinking about these diet-related adaptations.
While food drops, our metabolic rate adapts in response in order to resist weight loss (remember, it thinks we’re at risk of starving). Not only that, but our hormone levels drop, our hunger rises, and our extra activity (NEAT and TDEE) drops, which contributes to the drop in our metabolic rate as a result. I’m sure most competitors notice this as they diet down – those little movements throughout the day (whether it be fidgeting, walking your dog, being active that isn’t training or cardio) tend to slowly decline and become harder to keep up with since they require more energy from our already-energy-restricted bodies. I know when I’ve dieted down, naps became a regular part of my day and I tended to spend more and more time wrapped up in blankets on the couch (ha).