Why Diets Don’t Work
US science journalist Gina Kolata was curious about why diets don’t work, so she spent two years trying to find out why. She followed a study at the University of Pennsylvania which compared the effectiveness of the low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet with a well-regarded low-calorie diet, the LEARN programme.
After the study ended she wrote a very readable book called Rethinking Thin – the new science of weight loss and the myths and realities of dieting, published in 2007. (I got my copy from Amazon.)
She covers hard scientific research from Europe and the US into the causes of obesity.
The results she reports on are expected if you follow the field of obesity research, but might be very surprising if you subscribe to the “eat less, exercise more, try harderharderharder” belief.
You know, the one that every diet programme, diet supplement, diet food maker, and most diet book writers tells you will finally be the magic bullet that sorts your weight issue? (God knows they’d never want to tell you that or why diets don’t work!)
- Inevitably and regardless of the level of personal and professional support the dieter receives, the body will regain almost all, if not all, if not MORE than the weight lost.
- Weight, like height, is genetically determined. So you can no more control your weight (outside of a relatively small range) than you can control your height
- The theory that eating X calories causes X amount of weight gain/loss, otherwise known as the Calorie Balance Equation, has been thoroughly disproven many times.
- Weight can only be successfully limited within a 10 to 20 pound weight range – that is, the range that the body determines is healthy
- Fat people eat only a few hundred calories a day more than thin people do, but their bodies are much more efficient at storing those calories as fat.
- When naturally-thin people participated in a study to see how they could retain weight gained by over-feeding during the study, they did very well at gaining weight. Once the study ended, without dieting they all regained their normal weight. That is, they lost weight easily without going on a weight-loss programme. Can we say ‘set point’?
- Almost no-one, thin people included, does enough physical activity anymore to really make a difference to their body weight
- Per capita, food intake is DECREASING. Total calories from fat is DECLINING.
So why the “obesity epidemic”?
Science doesn’t know.
I know, that’s shocking right?
You’d expect that science would know what makes us fat and why diets don’t work. But the research is continuing – it’s clearly way way more complicated than “eat less-move more”.
But what I know is that choosing healthy fresh foods (ones you actually like) that nourish your body, moving your bones, and nourishing your spirit with self-acceptance will make you feel fabulous!
One scientist, Jules Hirsch at Rockefeller University, is quoted as saying that the human race is changing for some reason. Body weight, he says, is only part of it. Our intelligence has increased, our height has increased. He speculates it might be due to better early nutrition or less disease early in life.
Interestingly, metaphysicians say that the vibration of human consciousness has also increased in the last twenty or so years ready for the 2012 consciousness shift.
Anyway it’s a really interesting book, full of the latest research into this mystery, and well worth a read.
And you might also be interested in the results of the Minnesota Starvation Study, which explains some of the mysteries of our body under reduced-calorie stress. And what does work for health and happiness is the Health At Every Size model.
This article is part of the Body Fat: Good, Bad or Ugly? series, click here to read more.