For too many people happiness means thinness. These people believe that their weight is the only thing standing between them and fulfillment. While this can lead to unhealthy behavior, such as anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, it is also demonstrably not the case even if it is approached in a healthy manner. A study earlier this year of successful dieters—those who had lost more than five percent of their body weight—were physically healthier, but more prone to glumness. Another study found that women who exercised to lose weight were less happy than those who exercised out of a love of exercise. Both studies suggest that the emotional effort required for sustained self-control offset any mood benefits from being thinner.
Moreover, a lot of dieting techniques are less effective than they could be. The biggest example is probably counting calories. Calorie counting is intuitively the most direct way to lose weight—fewer calories, less fat. However, it’s not actually that simple. Eating fewer calories affects metabolism, meaning the body doesn’t burn calories as efficiently, and more of the calories consumed are retained. In addition, many people who try counting calories for weight loss are still counting too many of them; most people who are trying to lose weight overestimate their base metabolism, and thus the number of calories they should consume.
Diet foods, too, would seem to help dieters, but can actual hinder. Research has shown that people who eat diet foods actually consume more calories. That’s because the lower calorie count of each portion becomes, in the dieter’s subconscious, license to indulge in the foods more than they otherwise might. Instead, experts They compensate for the lower-calorie foods by eating larger portions of what is available.
Instead, experts say the better strategy is to eat smaller portions of ordinary food. Other strategies that can be helpful are to leave space for cheating. A person who insists on being perfect about sticking to the diet at all times will consider themselves doomed to failure after a single lapse. However, someone who knows that these things happen will see a lapse as an occasional thing that shouldn’t derail the grand plan.