When I put out the call for what people wanted to read about on this blog in 2009, numerous folks commented that they would like to know why it seems so much more difficult to successfully follow a low-carb diet the second or third time around. Over the years I’ve noticed this phenomenon in myself and in many others whom I have treated or advised, so it’s truly a subject worthy of exploration.
I’m going to list the reasons experience has taught me below, starting with situations over which we have no control and ending with those over which we have total control.
We all get older every day. Sadly, with aging, all systems deteriorate. Some slower, some faster, but all get a little older and a little less functional every day. If you achieve success on a low-carb diet and find yourself 70 pounds lighter, you’ll also find your self five or six months older. If you regain that lost weight, then decide to start another low-carb diet to re-lose it, you will probably be a couple of years older than you were when you tried your first low-carb diet. Just as it’s a little more difficult to pick up tennis at age 46 than it is at age 44, it’s a little more difficult to get everything moving with a low-carb diet when you’re a couple of years older.
Built-in survival mechanisms
Although most dietary recommendations are fairly simplistic, our bodies are unimaginably complex. Not only do we have a complicated metabolism centered around and directed by the liver, we have multiple neurological and endocrinological feedback pathways between the liver-directed metabolic system and the central nervous system. And we have gut hormones that get into the act sending signals of fullness or lack thereof. It is an intricate system designed to allow us to survive on all kinds of food and to keep us alive as long as possible in the face of famine. I like to think of this entire interconnected system as having its own memory. It will allow you to fool it once or maybe twice, but then it gets wise.
Almost everyone who starts any kind of diet for the first time sees pretty rapid results. Pounds seem to fall off quickly and effortlessly. At a point down the way in the diet, it starts becoming progressively more difficult to lose more weight because the body starts catching on to what’s happening and starts fighting back. This phenomenon seems to occur less with a low-carb diet because if it is a good quality low-carb diet, the body is getting all the nutrition it needs, so it doesn’t rebel quite the same as it does with some other nutritionally inadequate diets. But it does rebel a little, nevertheless. And worse, it remembers.