How Diets Mislead You
If you've ever been on a diet, or tried to lose weight, this column is for you. Over the last twenty years of helping people get in shape, I've noticed a trend. Diets come in and out of favor, but the writers and promoters of the most successful ones, tend to follow very similar paths. I want you to avoid the next over-hyped dud. So I'm going to share with you how they become “a thing” and why people keep getting away with selling bad advice.
First, you've got to get noticed. That means anything that talks about moderation, or that promotes common-sense eating habits is going to get ignored. You've got to be bigger than life to get press. Does your diet talk about eating more vegetables? Boring! Does your diet talk about only eating foods that are red? Photo opportunity!
Second, you've got to make a claim that's big. Outrageously big. For example, there's a diet based on what cavemen eat. People on it say things like, “If we only go back to our paleolithic roots we'll all be outrageously healthy.” They ignore the fact that the average human in the upper paleolithic period had a life expectancy of 26 years because, who's actually going to check?
Third, you need to give your diet a science-y hook. There is a diet that suggests you eat different types of foods based on your blood type. The promoters of this diet claim that the proteins in your food (called lectins) may not be compatible with your blood type antigens. Anyone who eats those incompatible proteins will experience agglutination of their red blood cells. Those agglutinated cells can then go on to mess up body organs, digestion and even hormonal balance.
Did you follow all that? It sounded technical and scary, right? Let me break that down into simple English.
Agglutinated means “to clump together.” So the blood type diet says that proteins in food cause your red blood cells to clump together and wreak havoc on your body. Never mind there's no scientific evidence to show that's even possible. Because it sounds complicated, people think it must be true.
Fourth, don't worry about a particular diet falling out of favor or failing. The sad reality is that the majority of people who try to lose weight will fail. However, almost everybody loses weight when they start. When someone is losing weight, they share with their friends and family the wonderful results they're getting. But once the reality of eating fewer calories starts to take hold, that's when people shut up.
Nobody likes to be seen as a failure. So when diets no longer work, you aren't going to hear about how a particular diet failed. There's no Instagram fame waiting for the couple that lost 30 pounds together on the Sugar Busters diet, only to put it back on over the holidays.
Book publishers clear out the old inventory and start hyping the next miracle. Weight loss guru's shift their focus to the next shiny thing, promising their followers that “this time it's real.” Because nobody is held accountable, the entire cycle repeats.
Diets are fundamentally about one thing, calories. One way or another, you need to eat fewer calories every day than your body burns. That's why every diet book is built around a simple philosophy. Find a way to get people to eat less. Some do it by restricting food types, others by food colors. Some limit how long or how often you can eat. Some put obstacles in the way of you eating at all. But reducing the number of calories you eat is the foundation they're all built on.
Understanding that is only part of the struggle. There are numerous other things that sabotage weight loss plans. Food that's available everywhere leads to huge temptations. Eating convenience foods can save time, but they generally have far more calories in them. The fact we don't move around and do physical things also restrict how many calories we burn. Even the composition of the bacteria in our stomachs can cause weight gain issues.
When you want to get serious about losing weight, there are three simple things you should try.
- Eat out less.
- Eat more vegetables.
- Don't drink calories.
To promote it, I'm going to call it the “Mega-Colossal Super Hero Ancient Secrets Three Point Andro-Keto 2-Minute 9-Word Diet.” Trust me. It's going to be huge.
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.