It all makes sense if you realize evolution equipped our ancestors to survive drought and resulting famines and then was reinforced by war and sieges. Modern starvation dieting mimics these real life starvation scenarios and we can't explain to our bodies that they shouldn't invoke these valuable protections against severe food shortages.
The difference is, when we stop our self induced starvation we are surrounded by plenty of food and our body is increasing hunger-related hormones to get us to replace the lost weight and protect us from the next famine. We have also divorced eating from its connection with hunger cues when we learned to ignore those cues while dieting.
If you wanted to end up at a high weight, you couldn't design a better program than repeated low calorie diets over decades. Only by stopping this cycle and recovering from dieting can you finally stop the loss/gain cycle at whatever set point range you arrived at while dieting repeatedly.
The basis of recovery from dieting are:
Eat only when you are hungry (you have to tune back in to the signs of hunger you learned to ignore).
Eat exactly what you want to. (To break down the psychological conditioning that tells you deprivation is around the corner so you'd better eat ALL the cookies NOW and made you hate foods associated with dieting.)
Stop when you are full. (Not over-full. Requires you to get in touch with your body's cues that you are full just like recognizing when you are hungry.) No guilt.
It took time to learn to ignore those cues and it will take time to reverse the process. If you decide to try this, be kind to yourself.
I found that for a few months I sought out the "forbidden" foods. This is normal. This is how you finally learn to relax. You are establishing trust with yourself, trust that there will be no more deprivation. One day I reflexively reached for a candy bar, looked at it and realized I didn't really want it. There was no urgency--I realized it would still be there if I wanted it in the future. I had finally convinced myself that the days of starvation and denial was over. I also began to find that sometimes I really craved raw vegetables because I was no longer using them as a form of penance. I was free to appreciate them rather than see them as a reminder of an aching, mostly empty stomach.
I also had to deal with my poor-person's inhibitions against throwing away the remaining food on my plate. It was a crime in our household to be so wasteful. You might deliberately not fill your plate while dieting, but if you did you ate every bit. As in repeat-dieting, there was an anxiety that food would be scarce again, later in the month. There was an urgent sense that you had to eat food while you had access to it. I was no longer at that level of poverty but that sense stayed with me. I still maintain a full pantry as if poverty is just around the corner.
To be clear, this is not a weight-loss program. It's a sanity-around-food program. It's hear if you ever decide you'd like to try it.
CW: recognizes the research on the problem, doesn't question if diets have actually been making us fatter as some other research has indicated. Also involves references to weight loss surgery. I'd prefer that we intervene with young people before they start low calorie diets.