Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Weight loss diets work, simplistic

Somebody once said; saying diets don't work is simplistic. It really struck me at the time but I couldn't sort out exactly why.

After a while I realised that it is the idea of diets actually working that is 'simplistic'.

Whatever you want to use to achieve an aim; it has to fit the purpose intended. If the goal of dieting was to lose any weight for any length of time, ever. Then it still wouldn't be a success, but it would be better than claiming people will get slim, which is not the same thing at all.

A large minority of people cannot stay with any WL diet for any length of time. Diet drop out rates are hard to ascertain, as that is not the focus of weight loss studies for obvious reasons.

The reason for all this failure is that dieting is way too extreme a way of trying to eat. It's as extreme a way of eating as there is, short of actual non food sustenance like drip feeding. It goes as much against normal eating; eating according to your own requirements, as it is possible to go without actually dispensing with it altogether.

You can tell this in part by noticing the number of people of all weights who are always on a diet and never seem to lose any weight.

On step forward, one step back, one forward, one back and on and on in a cycle of hell that can last some people's whole lives.

If you can get past that first step, you've got being able to get past the wall. Which comes at an early stage in proceedings. This point varies, after overcoming the hurdle of not dropping out initially, you've got the "Wow, I can't believe how easy this has become. You even begin to suspect you were over dramatizing, making it up even.

And then BAM, you hit a wall. Usually it's at about 20lbs or so in give or take. Don't ask me why, but time and time again, people lose 1 1/2 stones (exactly 21 Ibs, in American) and they hit something.

I say a wall, but it's also a bit like being stopped by the fact that everything you were doing up to that point has just suddenly unravelled and you don’t know how to stop/reverse it, or carry on. As if you're body has suddenly cottoned on to what you're up to, and has got it's act together.

Thinking about it, it was probably building up and it took till that point to get into gear.

This aspect is not always to the fore. The sense that you body is really cocky because it just knows that if you don't fall at this fence, you'll fall at the next one, and so on, ad infinitum. It ends up being that if you don’t, that’s actually odd. Although you desire it, much.

That's why the much quoted 95% failure rate of dieting. As I understand it, this means that for every hundred attempts made at a diet, five will be successful.

What that means is best left to those who have a greater grasp of probability than I do, but don't forget, the placebo effect.


Something rarely if ever mentioned around the whole WL diet thing, is where is the placebo effect in all this? That is reversal, cure or relapse through factors other than through the active ingredients of the medicine or treatment given.

It is something that is hard to separate out for in general and it cannot be rule out completely so a certain figure is assumed to be built in to the results of the effectiveness of any treatment.

The baseline figure for this effect is, yes you've guessed it around 5%. That means that effectiveness is seen to be worth pursuing from that baseline figure.

Although I'm not a mathematician, I suspect that's not as neat as it seems.

Some say that diets work if people stick to them, but people just can't 'stick' to them no matter what, that’s a failure of the diet itself. Even if you say it's the person, what are you going to do, re-invent humanity?


I've always been intrigued by this term 'sticking', I've never quit got that metaphor in the context of what weight is supposed to be about. Your weight is supposed to be a result of what you decide to eat.

You become fat and you decide to become unfat-still your decision. You change your habits from the fat making eating, to the thin making eating. Fine.

What's there to 'stick' to?

You've made your new choice, now go forth bye bye. The end, surely?

But no wait!

You somehow have to 'stick' with your new choices, that you've decided to make, willingly of your own volition. How so?

You've either decided or you haven't, what are you 'sticking' to? The decision is made, the end.

Something of course, is pulling you away which is not in your conscious will. And that is what is not being addressed at all. So those who say diets work are the ones being simple, because that the only way they can manage to claim so very much, from virtually, nothing.

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