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Confirmed, Diets Don’t Work Long Term

A Los Angeles Times article confirms what research has been saying for decades. In “In War on Waist, Any Diet’s A Winner,” writer Shari Roan talks about the diet wars and which diet comes out on top, then concludes (the envelope, please) that the answer is “any diet.” The article’s take away message—that it doesn’t matter what you call your eating as long as it reduces calories. No surprises there.

Roan goes on to say that, “any diet that is low in calories and saturated fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and that an individual can stick with, is a reasonable choice for people who need to lose weight.” This conclusion is from a study—the biggest, longest and “most rigorous” of popular weight loss alternatives— published in February, 2009 by The New England Journal of Medicine. Although I’m thrilled folks are being encouraged to trust common sense, reduce portions, and choose healthy foods, what irks and disappoints me is that the gist of the article—that fewer calories leads to weight loss—is non-news which has been around for three decades.

The headline and focus of the article should have been the nugget of information buried nearly two-thirds of the way through it: “The study did not prove, however, that every dieter succeeds. Instead it reinforces numerous other studies showing most people lose a modest amount of weight in the first few months of dieting and regain some or all of the weight over time.” They add, “In today’s study, the average weight loss was 13 pounds at six months and 9 pounds at two years.” Now that’s real news!

Considering that the multi-billion dollar diet industry would have us believe that diet plans, programs and products are guaranteed to shrink our bodies, isn’t it news that diets, in fact, don’t work long term? Shouldn’t the headline be that we’re wasting our time, money, efforts, and hopes on a lie? What amazes me isn’t that for 30 years studies have arrived at the same conclusion about the failure of diets, but that no one (read, the media) wants to shout this truth to the masses.

It’s not only the media who’s to blame. Ever try educating people about the long-term failure rate of diets? Although I’m a minor authority in the field, quite frankly, rarely do friends, family or acquaintances listen when I share this truth. No matter what statistics I cite and what evidence I provide, most folks don’t want to hear it. My guess is that because you’re reading my blog, you’re part of a small group of enlightened people who do. Hats off to you. Maybe swimming against the tide, we’ll all become more fit.