Many people with eating problems have other addictions as well, such as spending
more time on the Internet than they’d like or is beneficial for them. In fact, weight-loss
dieting and Internet usage have a great deal in common. To learn how, read on.
David T. Courtwright, author of “Caught in the Web” (Newsweek, 6/14/19, pp. 12-13),
says that designers format games to hook you in and ensure you’ll come back for
more—like how food companies whip up combinations of sugar, fat, and salt to ensure
you can’t eat just one. Gamers get hooked on 1) “goals just beyond the user’s reach; 2)
unpredictable but stimulating feedback; 3) a sense of incremental progress and hard-
won mastery; 4) tasks or levels that gradually become more challenging; 5) tensions
that demand resolution; and 6) social connections to like-minded users.”
Sound like weight-loss dieting? Many are designed to keep you hooked on them, not to
help you become happier or healthier. Forget being realistic, most weight-loss diets put
goals out of your reach in order to sell products or books promoting them. The scale
offers a sense of incremental progress along with unpredictability: “What will it say
today?” And dieting becomes more challenging as time goes on because your body is
hard-wired to conserve calories to prevent starvation. Lastly, dieting connections
keep you pumped and talking about food and weight 24/7.
The article goes on to explain how focusing on Internet activities such as Facebook or
games (and all addictions) is a “time suck” which the Urban Dictionary defines as
“Something that's engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that
are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children.”
Diets sneakily divert your energies away from more important things. Your friends tend
to be dieters too, reinforcing what you should and shouldn’t eat or weigh instead of
getting you out and having fun or making something of yourself. Rather than seeking
activities that keep you engrossed and challenged, you become thoroughly absorbed in
the process and project of losing weight. While other people are growing from new
adventures, you’re obsessing about gaining a pound and fixated on low-fat recipes.
Just as the Facebook or gaming addict’s world revolves around an intentionally but
covertly generated reward system, so does weight-loss dieting. I know. I dieted for
decades. Next time you’re tempted to find reward online or through dieting, do
something that will enhance your life in reality. Have some other fun, seek another kind
of challenge, or work toward a life-enhancing goal.