Diets don’t work

By Nick Mitchell – Personal trainer, fitness expert and writer

You’ve been sold a lie. And the amazing thing about this lie is that pretty much everyone involved in it hasn’t got a clue that they are lying or being lied to.  There’s no grand conspiracy here, it’s just the age-old combination of willful ignorance pushed on by the dangerous mix of greed and desperation.

That lie is the diet book industry. A quick perusal of the annual non-fiction bestseller lists will show you the preeminent position of “healthy recipe” books and fad diet manuals. They aren’t just big business, they are often the publications that publishers live and die by. Everyone has got in on a piece of the action over the years, from the fad chasing celebrity chefs to TV presenters.

The fat loss equation is very simple – consume fewer calories than you need and you will lose weight.

My problem is not that diet books and their authors are bad, I really don’t think that and if taken at face value as a means of entertainment and limited education then if you enjoy them please keep on feeding the machine. My problem is that they simply don’t work for purpose – namely to provide the general public with the tools needed to eat for fat loss and optimal health.

Here’s a question for you to ask yourself. If these books really worked why do we need so many of them every year, and why does each one have to have a new angle? The answer of course, is all about commerce and nothing about helping the readers nail their weight loss problems once and for all. The fat loss equation is very simple – consume fewer calories than you need and you will lose weight.

We can, and quite often we should, make it a bit more complicated than that. But try as I might to dress it up I can’t ever get past anything that works better than “take in fewer calories than you burn, and do the things that make the diet sustainable for your palate and lifestyle”.

Don’t buy the BS that you can “eat more and lose weight”, or that there’s a magic set of super foods that will be the panacea to your diet woes just waiting to be discovered.

To understand what the best diet book could be, if such a thing were to exist, is to attempt to understand the psychology of dieting and that’s way beyond the scope of this article. In a nutshell, eating a healthy diet that will help an overweight individual come down to the correct body fat levels is incredibly uncomplicated.  But as skyrocketing obesity levels would indicate, it is also too hard a diet for most people to execute.

We all instinctively know what constitutes healthy nutrition.  The problem that we have is that we are bombarded with a bewildering array of food options. These are the reasons that following a healthy diet in the modern world has become such a major problem.

If you really want to master your diet so that over time it becomes second nature, you will benefit from approaching it as if you were learning a martial art and that means setting in patterns and habits, and start eating intelligently without lazy bad habits or food and diet neuroses.

None of which is to say that diet books are bad, if you enjoy them and gain nuggets of knowledge then that’s only a positive, but they have proven time and again to not be the fonts of all knowledge.


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