Stabilization: The Neglected Factor In Weight Control
According to a new book The Five Keys to Permanent Weight Control by Marvin H. Berenson, M.D. dieters have a new weapon to fight the tendency to relapse and regain lost weight. It is called the "stabilization period." It would appear to be an essential factor needed in all diet programs.
At the beginning of dieting each person has a set basal metabolic rate (BMR). As the body takes in less food the regulatory mechanism that resides in the hypothalamus changes the caloric needs of the body. If your normal daily caloric needs are 2000 calories and you reduce your calorie intake to 1400 calories, the setting of the brain's metabolic thermostat will gradually change. It reduces the number of calories required for basal metabolic needs. Thus instead of continuing to benefit from the reduction of 600 calories and having the body burn an equivalent amount of fat to make up the difference, which is what causes us to lose weight, the amount of body fat burned gradually lessens. At some point in your extended dieting that 600-calorie reduction will produce no further weight loss. Your metabolic rate will have slowed to the point that you will be functioning on a 1400-calorie diet. The length of time for this to occur varies depending on the consistency of the diet, the percentage of reduced calories, the amount of exercising, the initial weight of the person and certain genetic influences.
For the first month or so the changes in the metabolic rate tend to be minimal unless a person is on an accelerated weight loss program. If weight loss is maintained between 1 to 2 pounds a week, and not continued beyond one month there is little discernible change in the BMR. However, if the dieting continues beyond a month there is a slowing of metabolism as the body adapts to the lower caloric input. Eventually the person will lose less and less weight despite the strict adherence to the diet.
You probably know how difficult it is to lose that last ten pounds. People who have been on previous diets often complain that they have to eat like a bird. They always have to be very careful of overeating. Otherwise, they immediately put on weight. The drastic lowering of the BMR has sharply curtailed the body's ability to handle an occasional indulgence, which tends to result in a rapid gain of weight.
Many diets do not adequately make clear that once dieters have lost the desired weight that they can't immediately go back to eating the way they did before. The more weight a person has lost and the longer the time the diet continued the more likely that the metabolic rate has become fixed at a new low rate. This lowered BMR now limits a dieter's food intake.
Most people who have finally been able to attain their weight goal want to celebrate by again eating normally. To do so too quickly floods their body with excess calories and they begin to regain their lost weight. For many dieters their BMR may remain low indefinitely, and for others months and years may elapse before normal eating can begin."
To prevent the changes in basal metabolic needs a stabilization period for periodic weight adaptation can be used. The technique is simple and offers dieters an opportunity to adjust to relatively small decreases in weight and psychologically adapt to a changing body size. During the stabilization period dieters learn to eat normally and to maintain weight rather than lose or gain it. The optimal period to diet is one month followed by a one-month stabilization period where dieting has stopped. During the stabilization period dieters are advised to maintain their weight at whatever level it was at the end of their dieting month. To simplify the monthly schedule dieters can start each phase on the first of the month. The alternation continues until one has reached his or her ideal weight.
You will learn as you implement the use of the stabilization period that it becomes a testing ground for you to learn to adapt and live with a new weight every other month. It is essential that you do not lose any more weight, or the purpose of the stabilization period is thwarted. Most dieters will find that within a few days they need to increase their food intake in order not to lose additional weight. Each dieter must examine his feelings very closely during this period since it is hard to resist not continuing to diet month after month. But it is much better to face this struggle monthly and conquer any tendency to sabotage your diet than lose the benefit of the stabilization period.