Dr. Jennifer Pearlman, MD CCFP NCMP FAARM
Women’s health and wellness expert
Dieting is not all its cracked up to be.
Dieting is not all its cracked up to be. Not only are dieters prone to post-diet weight gain, but dieting may threaten the brain. Intense calorie restricted and yo-yo diets produce cognitive strain and neuro-toxicity,and may actually make you dumb.
Indeed, the dumbing effects of dieting may be daunting. Research suggests that the food cravings, hunger and psychological stress associated with restrictive diets may strain mental capacity. Harvard University scientists have shown that in situations of food scarcity versus sufficiency, intelligence is reduced by about nine to ten points.This lowering of I.Q. approximates the impact of a full night without sleep.
The psychological effects of dieting are magnified by diet-related toxicity. Yo-yo diets and weight cycling lead to the release of environmental toxins from body fat stores,which are then preferentially redistributed to the brain. The exposure of the dieter’s brain to fat-soluble environmental toxins during weight loss unleashes a further assault on cognition through neuro-toxicity.
Environmental chemicals are not equally released during weight cycling. Toxins that are stored in fat tissue are most likely to be implicated. Chlorinated hydrocarbons are a group of pervasive environmental toxins including DDT, PCBs, and dioxins that are present as organic pollutants at low levels throughout our environment, ascending the food chain and detectable in virtually all people tested. These lipophilic (fat-loving) chemicals become soluble in fat tissue. The dramatic rate of rise in obesity has closely followed the dramatic increase in the production of these industrial chemicals. While the solution to pollution may be dilution, subsequent weight loss has been shown to release fat-stored toxins to be preferentially taken up by the brain at a rate 3-fold greater than other body tissues. The weight loss-weight gain cycle of yo-yo dieting leads to toxic exposures that further strain the dieter’s brain.
Psychological stress and neurotoxicity lead to the Dieters Paradox; that dieting makes it harder to diet. Prospective dieters may want to mitigate these adverse effects by following these simple steps;
1.BE MINDFUL NOT OBSESSIVE
While it is important to be mindful of food choices and volume, it is counter-productive to be obsessive about it. Overly focusing on food can strain the dieter’s brain and lead to binge eating and weight cycling.
Minimize exposure to fat-soluble environmental toxins in the food supply. Eating organic produce when available and following the dirty dozen list to avoid the most heavily sprayed crops can limit exposure to lipophilic dioxin-containing pesticides.
3. DO DETOX
Include a DETOX regimen as part of any planned weight loss program to support the organs of detoxification; liver, gut, kidney and lymphatics helping to rid the body of metabolic waste.
4. IMPROVE BODY ENERGETICS
Build lean body mass with an exercise regimen of aerobic activity and weight resistance training. Exercise triggers release of adipokinens from fat tissue that signals working muscle to work harder. The improved body energetics support healthy metabolism and preserve the fuel supply for healthy brain function.
5. EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN
For a healthy brain, include brain fitness in the dieter’s work out regimen. Brain exercises support mind-body balance during weight loss and keep stress at bay. Tackling new challenges and engaging in cognitive games can help keep the brain sharp and more resilient to the impact of dieting.
6. DON’T YOYO
Diets are doomed to fail. Yo-yo diets and calorie restricted ones are particularly harmful. Aim for lifelong change through baby steps and consistency and not weight cycling.
Successful weight management comes with qualitative changes in lifestyle and a mind-body approach that achieves a strong frame and a healthy brain.