No More Diets!

AP Image Ingested via Automated Feed
A new study published in the April issue of the journal "American Psychologist" finds that for most people, dieting just doesn't work. This comes as no surprise to Samantha Heller, a nutritionist with "Health" magazine. She answers questions and has tips that can really help you lose weight and keep it off.

Why don't diets work?

Diets do not work for many reasons. First, people consider them temporary, so they go on a "diet" for a few weeks, lose a few pounds and then go right back to what they were doing before and regain the weight they lost. Second, diets are unrealistic and often too restrictive. People are hungry, miserable and deprived. Diets do not take the individual into consideration. For example, people who are very overweight or obese have different issues than someone who just wants to drop 5 or 6 pounds. Budgets, food availability and food preferences are ignored on most diets. Finally, there are so many diets out there that are based simply on lies with no scientific proof to back them up.

Why should we believe the findings of this survey? Won't another study come out in a few months that debunks this one?

Probably not. If "dieting" worked then obesity would not be at epidemic levels in this country and now around the world.

This study not only found that diets don't work but when people go off them they often gain back more weight than they lost. How does that happen?

Our bodies are designed to conserve energy. And stored energy in the body is fat. Our bodies do not know you are purposely restricting your calories, the body thinks that there is no food available. So when you start eating again the body is on a mission to store extra fat in case there is another time of starvation. Also emotionally, people feel the need to fill that inner void with food. There is biology, psychology and emotional issues all at play here.

You say that if people really do want to lose weight they first have to ask themselves some important questions. What are those questions?

If someone has been on many diets and nothing seems to work they need to ask themselves some questions. First, is there a physiological reason for this? Do I need to see a doctor? And second, they need to examine why they do not want to lose weight. What barriers and obstacles are getting in their way? Fear of failure, fear of starvation, fear of who they might become. They need to ask themselves if they are willing to do what it takes in the long term to be healthy and reach a healthy weight. It is about changing your whole life.

Instead of dieting you suggest starting a healthy eating plan and you have some tips on starting one. The first is: Eat only low or non-fat foods that come from animals. Why is this important?

Animal foods like butter, beef, cheese, ice cream, ham, pork et al. contain a bad fat called saturated fat. This bad fat increases internal inflammation and the risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Since many people eat a lot of these foods, going low or non-fat will reduce the bad fat as well as the calories.

Your next piece of advice is to eat vegetables twice a day. How can this help you lose weight?

Vegetables contain healthy plant chemicals that fight disease, boost energy and the immune system. They are packed with fiber and help with satiety and are very low in calories so you can eat a lot of them.

You say not to skip meals. Why is this a bad idea?

If we skip meals we get over hungry and make up for the calories we skipped and more later in the day. You will have better energy levels and even be in a better mood when you eat regularly. Mood can have a dramatic effect on our food choices.

Why is it so important to stay hydrated?

We can confuse hunger with thirst and the body needs to be well hydrated to function optimally. Being well hydrated will also help manage hunger and cravings.

Your final tip is to start moving. Why is this such an integral part of a healthy eating plan?

Contrary to popular belief, exercise and physical movement actually give you energy. You burn calories, strengthen muscle, improve body image, lessen depression and anxiety (both of which can contribute to weight gain) and feel healthier. You are also more motivated to make healthy food choices.