Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Diet doesn’t work — here’s why

It was a good day for fitness.

First, a study found that diets that forced people to stick to specific limits and numbers of calories, as in the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, seemed to work.

Second, athletes cracked the “good” cholesterol barrier and had a better chance of avoiding heart attacks than otherwise similar people.

And finally, a new study suggested that individuals who get almost no exercise and subsist on junk food really don’t have much of a diet. On the contrary, people who tend to lose weight are people who eat less food (in terms of calories).

Should all this news make you ditch your calorie counter and move your sh*t out of the way? Hardly. In fact, there are things we need to know about diet and weight loss.

Why count calories?

The very premise of weight loss is that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, whether or not we count. So the way we answer the question of how many calories we eat is about as scientific as deciding how many calories are in a Big Mac. And this is starting to put us in a bad position: While people give each other digital calorie counts on diet sites, we seem to be unconsciously engaging in anthropomorphizing.

Is fat a disease?

But counting calories can only take us so far. Is obesity a disease? Probably not. Could most calories we eat be preventable with healthy behaviors? Absolutely.

All modern diets over here: what has changed

It’s all based on the idea that human beings are unable to keep track of calories or anything else for that matter. With a few lucky exceptions — such as the heart disease risk of going to the dentist (like the very bad teeth and gums of the near-deaf), fasting when sick, or quitting the SARS epidemic — most of us are pretty terrible at losing weight. And most of us are pretty terrible at preventing weight gain.

This is where dieting really isn’t working. Counting calories keeps us in the mindset that we need to consume less. But we don’t need to consume less. We need to consume less junk. Counting calories is really just substituting the calories contained in junk for the calories we lose when we eat better.

How diets work

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, instead of constantly dieting and hoping you’re really losing weight, you’re better off working with a nutritionist or a coach (more like a trainer), and then incorporating other behaviors into your life, such as exercise, and limiting what you eat at meals.

Basically, there’s no one-size-fits-all weight loss plan. Weight loss is really a case of a person picking the best fit — a weight-loss plan is designed to get you toward that goal, not to force you to have to be exactly there at any given time.

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