Diets don’t work. If they did the U.S. of A. would be the thinnest, trimmest nation in the world, with over 40 million Americans spending billions each year on weight-loss products. In fact, the opposite is true. The Center for Disease Control claims that at least 65% of adults are overweight or obese. With the growing list of woes associated with obesity, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the weight problem in America has become a serious concern. Yet we continue to look to fad diets as the answer to this serious problem — as if living on bacon and eggs, cabbage soup, or low-calorie meal replacement drinks could ever be construed as a healthy solution.
A review of popular diet programs conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that most weight loss programs offered little or no proof that participants were successful in losing weight or keeping weight off in the long run. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has stated that of the millions of people that diet, less than 5% of those who actually lose weight will be able to keep it off in the years to come. It has been surmised that a dieter may shed approximately 100 pounds in the course of a lifetime, but gain back 120 lbs. One benefit of weight loss organizations, however, was group support. Dieters who joined support groups appeared to lose more weight than those who decided to go it alone.
Fad diets themselves bring with them a plethora of health concerns. Restrictive low-calorie diets can be self-defeating. The body’s metabolism slows moving the system into energy conservation mode and holding on to every calorie for future use instead of burning it. Precious muscle mass is broken down, and low lethargy occurs. Low carbohydrate diets can result in dehydration and constipation. The risk of heart disease is escalated due to the increase of bad cholesterol found in animal fats. When the nutritional integrity of the body is threatened due to the elimination of a particular food group, the dieter is at risk for many health problems including osteoporosis, certain types of cancers, immune system issues, electrolyte imbalances, and eating disorders. And with diets, as opposed to permanent lifestyle changes, the probability of gaining back what you have lost, and then some, is high.
In a culture obsessed with physical perfection perhaps we must evaluate how we think about weight in general. Are we dieting to be healthy, or just thin? If the latter is the objective, then further investigation into dieting motivation may be necessary, but if health is the ultimate goal, then looking at lifestyle changes may the place to start. Are you an emotional eater, have a compulsive sweet tooth, or someone who eats out of boredom? Do you eat fresh foods or only things that come in a box, bag, or through a drive-up window? What is the overall condition of your health? Is your lifestyle sedentary or active? What type of physical activities do you enjoy? Questions like these help you build the foundation for creating a customized Non-Diet Diet — a common-sense plan for living that will result in weight loss, elevated energy levels, and improved health and well-being.
Quick fixes usually result in long term failures, and while the answer to America’s weight problem may not come in the form of a magic diet, it need not be extremely complicated either. Maintaining a sensible meal plan, including complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, good fats, fruit and vegetables, and sweets in moderation, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy attitude regarding the weight/health connection may be the simple answer you’ve been looking for.