Why do diets not work?

November 08, 2019

Why do diets not work? - Olavie

The new year is coming and with it, infinite promises. Among the most popular besides a new commitment to exercising more is to start a new diet like Atkins, Paleolithic, ketogenic, etc. Do any of these or other ones really work? We analyze the dark side of marketing and the promise behind diets, food and why diets fail. 

Everyone wants to look good and in many countries that means being thin. However, as food access becomes easier, we are eating more calories than we need. Obesity is increasing. In the United States, the diet industry generates 66.4 million in bestsellers, frozen food, memberships, supplements, and pills – all claiming to possess the secret to losing weight. But dieting is a false friend. More often than not, whatever you lose you end up gaining back and some after the diet is over. Without a lifestyle change for good, the constant cycle of losing and gaining weight becomes problematic in and of itself – a phenomenon known as yo-yo dieting. 

Let’s analyze a bit about the fad diets on the market. One of the most famous ones has to be ketogenic diet – low carbs and high fat. The reduction in carbs puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While this may work, it can also trigger a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis, which occurs when the blood becomes too acidic causing damage to the liver, kidney and brain.

On the flip side, there is the low-fat diet. For decades, people were avoiding fats yet our obesity rate went up. Why? Because when you cut back drastically on one thing, you end up binging on something else. This something else is known as carbs or sugar. Moreover, not all fats are bad. While trans fat and saturated fat (fat that is solid at room temperature like cooled bacon grease) are well established to be bad for your heart, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats coming from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish are essential for your health. They help you absorb vitamins and minerals, build cell membranes, help with muscle movement and inflammation among other benefits.

 And then there is the Paleo diet, whose name is derived from the Paleolithic era – roughly 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, before farming produced dairy products, legumes and grains. This in theory sounds good but is it really necessary? There are plenty of examples of people that eat a normal healthy balanced diet along with enough exercise that do not have weight issue.

Due to the availability of fast food and low-cost meals, which often are large portioned but low quality, it is much harder these days to be able to eat healthily. What we must do is not focus on counting calories, but on knowing how to eat well. By cooking our own food and learning about nutritional values of different foods, we can eat much more healthily. By slowly adjusting our food intake to foods that are good for our body, we will actually start to feel more satisfied. So next time, when you feel like buying a bag of potato chips, perhaps pick up some walnuts, which provide more nutrients than the same amount of chips. Endeavor to change our relationship with food to a healthier one. Opt for more green salads, fruits, vegetables, protein, good fats, etc.

Our bodies have evolved over time. We no longer live in scarcity and famine. For most city-dwellers, there is a supermarket just minutes away. As we have indoor heating, we no longer need the calories that our ancestors consumed to withstand the cold temperatures of winter. So there is no reason to eat a lot more in the colder seasons. We just have to relate better with food based on our modern-day lifestyle.

Diets are great for one party – the marketer. They understand that most overweigh people want a quick fix and they feed them a quick fix solution. The problem is that a quick fix is seldom viable long-term. What we should really be doing is to listen to our body – see how it responds and how it feels to be eating different foods. Incorporate what we all know is good for our health – fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. Balance carbohydrate consumption with physical exercise, limit junk food and eat processed products as little as possible. It is as simple as that.

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