With the New Year upon us, January is the month that seems to have a large percentage of the population eager to get more fit, lose some weight and maybe even take what they eat a little more seriously. At the start of each year, it is thus no coincidence that we see and hear more ads for diet products and gym memberships. Our culture is well aware of this pattern. We start every year with this renewed sense of commitment to ourselves, only to lose our footing somewhere throughout the year, ending the year off with perhaps the biggest abuse to our body and health, only to start a new year back at square one. I wonder why most of us never get tired of this vicious cycle that for the most part, takes us nowhere. All we are really committing ourselves to is a life based on a constant struggle.
The truth is that if you want real change and real results the first thing needed in order to be successful is that you shouldn’t go on a diet. Instead, you should change your diet. Small play on words perhaps, but the ramifications and differences are huge. You see the first is a temporary fix. The latter is a long term solution. As we engage in states of extreme deprivation while dieting, no wonder overindulgence is normally the painful consequence. And so we lose 20lbs, only to gain 30lbs. This is no way to live. No wonder depression is also closely linked to weight issues. It seems like a losing battle, and with diets, it often is.
So what is the solution? If we are serious about our health and weight, aiming to get back to a healthy weight for our bodies, then there is no other option but committing to a long-term solution. And so we will explore in this article how to do, just that.
What Is A Diet Anyway?
In its literal sense the word diet has 2 main meanings, which go something like this:
A way of eating, such as one’s dietary or food choices.
A temporary change in one’s eating patterns, with the typical goal being to lose weight.
I believe that our health would look entirely differently, and our healthcare would be in a completely different state today if we focused on working with and using the word “diet” based on the first definition, rather than the second. We have too many people on diets, yet our weight problems don’t seem to be going away as we are not addressing our core diets.
If we look at our society, the most common phrase uttered by conventional doctors or healthcare professionals is something like “you need to go on a diet”, and by the general public “I am on a diet” or “I am going on a diet”. Normally when this gets proclaimed the underlying message and our mental chatter goes something like this:
…from now on I have to force myself to not eat a, b and c, while I cut down on d, e and f…I should probably look into those diet shakes and diet bars so and so told me about….I should really join a gym…but I don’t have time…I don’t have the money….need to count calories daily….oh look this cookie only has 100 calories….from now on I will eat “diet”, “low-fat” and “sugar-free” versions of foods….this diet supplement will definitely fix things…I know, I will join one of those expensive diet centers…oh this is too much work….I feel so deprived….I feel so grumpy all the time….why isn’t the scale budging….and on and on it goes…
I can only imagine the agony people live with and constant struggle when they engage in the typical “diets”. Just reading the above makes me want to run the other way. Yet this is what our society is based on. We have diet shakes, pills and products marketed from almost every health related traditional or MLM company that try to tell us that “this is it – the product that will make you lose weight”. We have gyms, weight loss programs and weight loss centers around every corner it seems. And yet amidst all these resources, the world is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, with somewhere between 60-75% of the North American population overweight. There is clearly a piece to this that we seem to be missing.
Diet Statistics Speak For Themselves
Truthfully speaking I am not a big fan of numbers and statistics, or even so called “studies” these days. Too many are inaccurate, biased, contradictory or modified to reflect various self serving needs on part of a group or organization, or come from unreliable sources. However, just for fun, let’s take a look at some present day diet statistics.
- On any given day, estimates claim that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men are on a diet.
- 50% of our nine and ten-year-old girls say that being on a diet makes them feel better about themselves.
- More than 1 out of 3 “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. 1/4 of those will suffer from partial or full syndrome eating disorders.
- Americans spend over $40 billion a year on dieting and diet related products.
Source: http://www.inch-aweigh.com/dietstats.htm who cites the following sources: Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al., 1995., US Department of Health and Human Services, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 1998, Treatment Advocacy Center, 1999, Smolak, 1996., Mellin et al., 1991., Collins, 1991., Shisslak & Crago, 1995.
- A meta study finds that dieting does not lead to long term weight loss and may even lead to weight gain (Mann, Traci, et al. “Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer.” American Psychologist 62.3 (2007): 220-33.)
- The dieting industry earned $55 billion for the year in 2006 and $68.7 billion by 2010
- America’s estimated 72 million dieters – about 70% of whom try to lose weight by themselves, are fickle and shift from one fad diet to another fad diet
- Diet soft drinks/sodas share of all soft drinks has risen to 29.5%, almost the historical peak, and this is forecast to rise to 31%. This segment was worth $19 billion in 2006
- Weight loss market leaders and their profits:
Weight Watchers ($1.2 bill.), NutriSystem ($568 mill.), LA Weight Loss ($500 mill.), Jenny Craig ($462 mill.), Slim-Fast ($310 mill.), Herbalife ($271 mill. € U.S. diet prods. sales)
- Dieting for weight loss is often associated with weight gain, due to the increased incidence of binge-eating
- Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet
Source: Field, A. E., Austin, S. B., Taylor, C. B., Malpeis, S., Rosner, B., Rockett, H. R., Gillman, M. W. & Colditz, G. A. (2003). Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906,
Stice, Cameron, R. P., Killen, J. D., Hayward, C. & Taylor, C. B. (1999). Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 967-974.
Americans are still patronizing scam artists and rip-off weight loss companies as much as they ever have, as they desperately search for the magic formula or plan that makes weight loss effortless.
Research Director, John LaRosa
Digging For The Real Solution
It never ceases to amaze me that people go through years of weight gain, and then one day want it gone, just like that, immediately. Aside from the fact that it is completely impossible (unless one does some fancy surgery), if not altogether illogical, it would be extremely harmful to the body. When people think of losing weight, they forget that it took their bodies years to adjust to the needs of regular increases in weight. New blood networks needed to be formed, changes in joint and even bone structure took place, the organs had to adjust their functioning and even the multitudes of hormones we have! To revert the weight as the saying goes “overnight”, can be a dangerous shock to the body to say the least. Yet we still have the idea in our minds that weight loss should be quick and easy. Unfortunately our bodies do not work this way. When it comes to losing weight, it is anything but quick and easy.
To lose weight in a healthy manner it has been biologically estimated that about 2lbs on average of weight loss per week is a healthy and reasonable expectation. (Normally a little more for men – the presence of more muscle, as well as sex hormone differences influence weight loss.) So if you have 50lbs to lose, you need to consider that it is going to take on average a minimum of 25 weeks. So being realistic about the time it will take to lose weight is a good first step to actually doing it, and doing it right.
But the answer still remains of how – how are you going to do it so that not only is weight loss achieved, but it is also maintained? Here is where we get to the heart of the solution.
Yes, you can go on a “diet”. You get can enthralled by the latest fad diet and somehow make yourself believe, that “this” is going to be “the one”. You can continue to spend your money on the diet shakes, diet foods, diet supplements and diet programs, all of which offer unsustainable and costly, not to mention often very unhealthy results, if any. Or you can choose to stop the insanity and realize that there is a HUGE piece missing in the typical diet approach.
For starters as I already mentioned earlier, a diet is meant to be a temporary engagement—and not a very fun one at that. Deny and restrict yourself, while normally alongside relying on processed, chemical or synthetic products for a certain period of time, only to resume old eating habits afterwards. And that is if you are lucky. Most people “cheat” on their diets within the first few days and continue to do so for the majority of the so called “diet”, or until they finally realize that they are not on a diet anymore.
So perhaps you are starting to see the missing piece and why diets are doomed to fail even before they start. The reason? They do not take into account a foundational change in mental beliefs and habits when it comes to food, eating and nutrition. The emphasis is on “lose weight now” with most people making no major (if any) long term dietary changes, how they view food, or what is really considered healthy. Add to that, that most food choices will still be excused with the erroneous “everything in moderation” paradigm.
Making It Real
Some of us may be aware of all of this about diets. Some of us may claim we know all this. Yet the truth remains that what we claim we know, and what our actions show are often far apart. Now don’t get me wrong. There are definitely people whose health has benefited by some “diet” that they went on. The higher the quality of the diet and the more that it is based on a reasonable, healthy and real food approach, the more achievable and sustainable the results are. However, if we look out at our modern world, this is not the case for most.
Let’s therefore finish off by examining the solution that must be considered if weight loss, or disease prevention, or treatment is meant to be real, effective and sustained.
To lose weight, you must change your diet through permanent lifestyle choices, not go on a diet.
This is the foundation—the root—the core—the prerequisite of addressing weight loss for a successful and long-term outcome.
To do this, you need to do a complete overhaul of your attitudes, beliefs and ideas about food, eating, nutrition and even about yourself. You need to start by considering:
- What you eat and why
- What you consider healthy and why
- Where does your nutrition information come from
- Who do you trust as reliable nutrition experts (doctors? celebrities? dietitians?…etc.)
I realize that we live in an immediate gratification society that prizes the “quick fix”. Just look at our pill-popping, pharmaceutically-driven medical system. We therefore often entertain unrealistic views, and in turn suffer from a lot of self-generated stress. So when it comes to weight loss, it should be no surprise that we expect the same. Change my diet? My food choices? My eating habits? Who are you kidding, I’ll take this *fill in the blank* instead.
As the wise Margaret Mead stated:
It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.
How very true! We are so stubborn and so stuck on protecting and guarding our food choices, even if it is killing us. If you want to prove this to yourself, try telling someone you know who eats refined sugar products that they are no good for them, or a meat-eater that they should be a vegetarian. It can get quite comical, or unpleasant. Either way, people will use any excuse to justify what they eat. And in not helping matters, our society today is all too abundant in contradicting studies and guidelines that can just about prove or disprove whatever you need.
So to do a complete overhaul of your ideas about food and eating to help you make a permanent lifestyle change in order to lose weight and get healthy, you need to make a commitment to learning about food, nutrition and your body. This does not mean enrolling back into college for some nutrition program. It also does not mean watching the latest Dr. Oz show, or listening to the latest food study on the 6 o’clock news, or taking the advice of your latest women’s or men’s health magazine, etc. It means making a conscious effort and time to learn what is the foundation of real eating for the maintenance of a healthy body and weight. Not society’s dollar driven version, as presented in the Food Guide/Pyramid or by the Dairy Farmer’s Association. For example, in my book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition, this is the very thing I cover to empower each person with the tools to know how to discern amidst the madness what real food is and how your body was supposed to be nourished. Learning all this is not a one time deal either, but an ongoing process. Seek out various sources, and eventually come to your own resonance of trusted sources of nutritional information.
Finally, you need to make a commitment to learning about yourself and healing your mind, heart and soul. As I touched upon in a previous article, it is impossible to overeat, or eat harmful, or nutrient deficient products if one has enough self-love, self-respect and self-worth.
When we engage in emotional eating because we are sad, mad or other, we are only hurting ourselves. This is again why deeper emotional healing needs to be addressed. In the metaphysical communities gaining and carrying excess weight is seen as a form of protection. Many (if not most) people with extreme weight problems have suffered some emotional or psychological trauma in their life, normally in childhood or during their formative years. Some of course simply grew up in homes where unhealthy or compulsive eating choices were exemplified by the parents or guardians. Either way, to reach the most successful and permanent weight loss, a personal discovery and healing journey needs to be undertaken. As you learn about your food, alongside learn about your self.
So this new year, save yourself lots of money, and time, and frustration. Instead of buying into the latest fad diet or diet product, invest into a lifetime commitment of nourishing your body, mind and spirit. Don’t try to tackle the problem on the surface, rather go to the root of the issue.
It is wise to spend your money on real food, high quality food, nutrient-rich food, and on valuable and reputable resources. Not on packaged, processed, calorite-rich, yet nutrient-poor food or expensive programs, artificial means or pill fixes.
Likewise, it is valuable to spend your time on proper self care including stillness in your life, exercise, movement, enriching hobbies, healing, learning and growing. Not on watching TV filled with mind-controlling messages, manipulative commercials and contradictory facts, or on hearsay, gossip, tabloids and mind-body-spirit harming activities.
And it doesn’t help to make excuses that you are too busy, too tired or too lazy. The weight did not come on by itself and it won’t come off by itself either – take that first step.
It is only when you make a real commitment to nourishing your self properly that you will have your health and body follow suit for a lifetime of feeling great as you enjoy the best that life has to offer!