- The diet industry has a long history
of promoting diet and nutritional changes as the key to weight loss. Being
influenced by this idea, most people have gone from one diet to the next,
following the fads religiously, hoping for a miracle - that one special
diet that allows us to lose the weight and keep it off forever.
- If a low-fat diet doesn't do it, maybe
a low-carbohydrate one will. If the low carbohydrate diet doesn't work,
switch to a high-protein diet. There's also the "cabbage diet,"
and the "water diet." And there are diets named after doctors
and diets named after cities.
- Despite the promises of the low-fat revolution,
the number of obese individuals in the United State during the 1990s exceeded
60 million adults. As a nation we are fatter, not thinner, than ever before.
In fact, with the exception of a few island populations in the Pacific,
the United States contains the heaviest people on Earth and some experts
argue that we may be the fattest society that has ever existed in the history
of the world.
- There is no question that a reduced-calorie
diet of almost any type can help us become thin. However, research studies
show that only a small percentage of the 45 million Americans who try to
lose weight through reduced calorie diets ever reach their ideal weights.
- Besides disappointing results from short-term
weight loss, the news for long-term maintenance of weight loss is even
more discouraging. Research consistently shows that people who go on diets
and lose weight almost always gain it back.
- Despite the fact that "miracle diets"
are often illogical or downright dangerous, such programs have sold quite
well. Look at the covers of the best-selling books in the diet section
of any bookstore. The titles imply that we can lose a lot of weight in
a ridiculously brief period of time or that we can eat all the food we
want and still lose weight.
- It is not physically possible to lose
large amounts of weight in very short periods of time, nor is it possible
to eat more calories than our bodies need and still lose weight, no matter
what type of food is being eaten. Yet we buy the book hoping against hope
that this will be the diet that does the trick once and for all.
- It is because of our failures that the
diet industry remains so profitable. The business thrives on our inability
to stay thin because we remain eager consumers, once again desperate and
willing to buy the next miracle cure.
- Fortunately, a group of voluntary guidelines
released in February by a group of government, industry and health representatives,
should make it easier for consumers looking at diet programs to figure
out which will work for them. The "Partnership for Healthy Weight
Management" released voluntary guidelines designed to help providers
of weight loss products and services give consumers clear and easily understood
disclosures to help them select the products or services that best meet
- These guidelines are a critical first
step in providing consumers with the information they need to make wise
weight management choices, but fail to provide for the disclosure of how
much weight people who participate in a program lose and keep off. Without
that key information, it is extremely difficult for consumers to intelligently
compare the effectiveness of one program to another.
- As long as our focus remains on what
we eat, rather than why we eat, we will continue to be an overweight nation.
Permanent weight control usually is not obtained with diets and no one
approach to weight loss will work for everybody.
- To get control of our eating and our
weight, most of us must address the real underlying psychological reasons
why we overeat and target those for change.
- Cynthia G. Last is professor of psychology
and director of the Anxiety Treatment Center at Nova Southeastern University
in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She is author of the new book "The 5 Reasons
Why We Overeat" Birch Lane Press, 1999.