5 Lies from the Diet Industry

Having a difficult time losing weight? There may be a good reason for that.

Posted Jan 21, 2015

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Do diet products help you lose weight?

Now that our holiday indulgences are behind us, and 2015 is upon us, we’re all apt to want to lose a few pounds (or more!). So, where should we start? The problem is that the diets we often turn to don’t actually work. And, if they do work, they aren’t sustainable (do you really want to never eat carbs ever again?). Here is some of the science that refutes the diet industry scams we’re all tempted to fall for as we gear up to make this year our thinnest yet.

1) Their products just don’t work.

The healthiest approach to eating is not a matter of opinion. Scientific evidence derived from decades of research all points to one thing that does work: eating less and exercising more. And yet it seems that the most marketable and even outlandish ideas are what get the most attention when it comes to weight loss—not necessarily the ideas that are really going to work! Just because you would like to lose twenty pounds in two weeks does not mean that this is realistic. However, people sell outrageous ideas like this in various diet books and plans because people want to believe it’s possible. 

2) They want you to fail.

You know who is the most delighted that you want to lose twenty pounds in two weeks even though it isn’t possible? The diet industry. If dieting really worked you’d only need to do it once. But the US Federal Trade Commission suggests that diets have a 98 percent failure rate, which means big money for the diet industry. If a car was likely to break down in its first year off the lot, would you even think about buying it? A company that produced such a lemon would quickly go out of business. However, in 2010, the dieting industry showed profits estimated to be $60.9 billion. These huge profits are not due to new customers, mind you; the diet industry relies on the same customers failing and coming back for more.

3) Losing weight is not fast.

If you eat less than you usually do, you’re very likely to lose weight. If you stop eating all together you should lose a ton of weight fast. But hold on—this logic isn’t completely sound. When you stop eating altogether your body goes into “starvation mode,” your metabolism slows down in order to utilize whatever food it has available, and your weight loss will slow down. Of course, if you eat barely anything for months or years you will lose a lot of weight, but you also will increase your risk of heart failure, brittle bones, muscle loss and weakness, fainting, dry hair and skin, hair loss, and even death. In fact, this sort of fasting typically results in the diagnosis of an eating disorder, the most deadly of all psychological disorders. Hopefully, this information makes the idea of losing weight fast — or literally fasting — unappealing. If you aren’t convinced yet, think about it like this: You can eat healthy portions of nutritious foods every day and lose weight in a gradual, sustainable manner. Or, you can try to do it fast, feel very hungry, not necessarily lose weight all that quickly, and jeopardize your health. Easy choice – right?

Healthy choice diet food products

Are "healthy" food options always healthy?

4) Just because it says it’s healthy doesn’t mean it is.

There is no shortage of foods that tout labels such as “sugar free,” and “low GI.” Even sports drinks are often marketed as “healthy.” However, no food or beverage in and of itself will make weight loss inevitable; it isn’t actually this simple. In fact “healthy” foods and drinks are often heavily processed with plenty of added ingredients such as acesulfame potassium and sodium benzoate (which have questionable safety track records). Perhaps just as worrisome, however, are the psychological effects of eating something that you think is a “healthy food.” People often overeat when they think that a food is a “superfood” or “vegan” even if the food is not actually nutritionally good for you (vegan chocolate cake, anyone?). In fact, it seems that people are more likely to eat more of a food advertised as “healthy,” than they are to eat regular foods!

5) You have to keep at it.

One of the essential ingredients in any recipe for healthy weight management is to make changes to your eating and activity patterns that you believe you can maintain for the rest of your life. However, if you follow a plan that requires you to eliminate something from your diet—say sugar or carbs—that you don’t really intend to continue to eliminate from your diet for the rest of your life, then it is predictable that when you add these foods back to your diet you will gain weight. Many diets capitalize on a common misconception about weight loss, that when you lose weight it literally “goes away.” But losing weight is not like losing a camera on the train, which you have little hope of ever finding again. Weight lost can easily return. Unless you keep doing whatever you were doing to lose weight in the first place, you will gain weight back.

Copyright Charlotte Markey, 2015

A version of this article first appeared on The Glow’s webpage http://www.theglow.com.au/health/diet-industry/

Smart People Don’t Diet (Da Capo Lifelong Books and Nero) by Dr. Charlotte Markey is available now. You can follow Dr Markey on Twitter (@char_markey), Facebook (Dr. Charlotte Markey), Pinterest (Dr. Charlotte Markey) and on her website www.SmartPeopleDontDiet.com.  Also check out the companion app, SmartenFit, to the book, Smart People Don't Diet, at www.SmartenFit.com.