Things That Are Still A Diet

Success and DietsThe term “Diet” has taken on the meaning of ” a method of eating which leads to weight loss.”  None of these methods have been shown to work for more than a tiny fraction of people (research list here) and it seems that information has gotten around because more and more companies are trying to market their “Diet” as anything but. This is, of course, bullshit.

Lean Cuisine has ads that say “ditch the diet and go on a try it!” and then suggest that people eat their frozen meals to lose weight.

Special K says that you should stop worrying about the number on the scale. Don’t get your hopes up, they still want us to buy their products in an attempt to lose weight, they just want us to call it “Size Sassy”. Seriously.

Weight Watchers says they aren’t a Diet, they’re a lifestyle choice.  It’s a lifestyle where you choose to be on a Diet. Also it really doesn’t work and they know it.

If someone is suggesting that you should eat fewer calories than you need (whether or not it’s in concern with burning calories through movement) in the hope that your body will consume itself and become smaller, they are putting you on a program that is almost sure to fail.  They can call it a try-it, a lifestyle choice, Size Sassy, or Petunia the Petulant Porcupine, but at the end of the day it’s the same Diet concept that’s been shown to fail the vast majority of people, and have the exact opposite of the intended effect on the majority of people you try it.  Which, I imagine, is why they are in such a hurry to call it something else.

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42 thoughts on “Things That Are Still A Diet

  1. Preach! My sister got angry with me for calling Weight Watchers a diet when I was there, and then pointed out that people only gain weight when they stop eating directly to that program. I was like – “Yes, EXACTLY,” but she didn’t get it.

    1. A former director of Weight Watchers said in a BBC documentary recently that the business model of WWs would not work if the program worked. It relies on repeat business for its profitability. That’s why they can give people free membership once they reach their goal weight – hardly anyone can keep it up so they have to start paying again. Kerching!

      1. My mum kept all the books from the last time she paid for Weight Watchers and follows them again periodically rather than rejoin since she has definitely moved out of the small range they allow you to put on to keep membership free, funny thing is she could maintain her weight easily about 10 – 15lb above her goal weight but that moves her up a clothing size and she believes that she should be the smaller size because it’s ‘healthier’ for her. She generally only loses the extra these days when she’s been too ill to eat much and has to avoid alcohol too.

        I think weight watchers like programs can be useful to help people balance their nutritional intake and understand roughly how much they should be eating if they’ve been over/undereating long term or haven’t had much education on healthy choices and balance, but by focusing on calorie restriction and weight loss they actually undermine that idea because if you stick to the plan and don’t lose weight you will end up cutting out stuff to try to lose the weight or drop out and give up.

        When you add in the peer pressure to conform because if you don’t you are told it’s your fault you didn’t lose weight not the programmes fault and you are gonna make things worse long term. Then their is the drain on finances from the fees and the food they encourage you to buy. Once you’ve sunk a significant amount of money into a program like Weight Watchers you are reluctant to believe that you’ve thrown it away and it wont ever work no matter how many times the weight has been regained I suspect.

        Nobody should be forced to prioritise their lives according to someone else’s master plan, which is what the diet seasons (post holiday/pre holiday) marketing blitzes try to encourage.

        1. There was a BBC documentary that examined how much weight people lost with WW, compared to how much money they spent. I can’t remember the results, but it was hundreds of pounds (money) for every pound lost. And for those that put it all on again, they’ve effectively spent hundreds of pounds (money) to get nowhere.

    2. And I very recently had a very sweet and nice doctor tell me that WW isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Verbatim.

      I also learned that a stir-fry dinner that is packed with dark green vegetables and protein-rich meat is bad because it’s so full of fat. I guess I was supposed to buy a WW frozen entree instead . . . ?

      1. John Greenleaf Whittier was wrong. The saddest words of tongue and pen are actually “lifestyle change,” and if I never hear that phrase again as long as I live, it’ll be too soon. You can’t fool your body into accepting a VLCD as normal by changing what you call it. Brain, it turns out, was the one that had the right of it: “Diets don’t work, Pinky.” “Not even if you call them a lifestyle change?” “Not even.”

  2. So glad you posted this. I have recently had almost this exact discussion with a friend on Facebook who claimed her program was not a diet, as “diets end”. This is a lifestyle that begins with a ‘kick start’ ‘Nutritional Cleansing’. And once the person is at their goal weight, they learn to eat nutritious, healthy food for life.

    I’m not angry with my friend because she knows no better. She said we agreed with each other that ‘Diets Don’t Work’. However, I tried challenging what she was saying, explaining that her program was a diet, by another name, but she simply couldn’t accept what I was saying.

    I am pretty certain very, very few people could keep up this kind of ‘healthy eating’ (ie calorie restriction) for very long, and that inevitably there would be a bounce back. She claimed she had many successful clients but I challenged her how many were successful over a year, over five years. Particularly the five year stats, we know that almost no one would have succeeded.

    I’d like to introduce her to the concept of Health At Any Size, but her company gets contracts based on the claim they can get people to lose weight. So I suppose she can’t afford to listen to me.

    All of which is making me very angry. Go on Amazon and look for books with titles like “Diets Don’t Work” and you’ll find they’re mostly diet books claiming not to be a diet.

  3. And of course, the hucksters will try to fix your disordered attitude with food based on any old theory. Don’t like today’s? There is a new one and more $$ tomorrow.

  4. I’ve quit WW and I’m sending these to my friend who is still with WW. I think she’s starting to come round!

  5. Marketing must have told them we are tired of diets so they call it something else. Makes me wonder why they can’t produce and market quality products that actually are decent nutritional choices.

      1. Weight Watchers are part of the Heinz group (in UK at least). Heinz make a lot of high fat, high salt, high sugar food. So its like one branch of the company fattens you up, and then they sell you diet products. No wonder they’re profitable!

        1. I wish I could say that I’m shocked. :p Coca-Cola sponsors “anti-obesity” campaigns, too. Likely for similar reasons.

          Honestly, as an atheist, I’m reminded of the adage that Religion created Sin so it could sell us Salvation.

        2. In the US, at least half of the magazines that are supposed to be about women’s lives (Good Housekeeping, Woman’s World, Redbook, etc.) have two articles in every single issue: recipes for “bad,” “indulgent,” “fattening” foods, and the latest greatest diet. Often the layout artists splash them on the cover at the same time, with no apparent consciousness of the irony.

          It ticks me off that the weight loss industry has hijacked the word diet. It used to mean “the way a person decides to eat.” Lactose intolerant, need to eat dairy free all the time? Diet. Live in the boondocks, eat mostly what you grow because that’s cheaper? Diet. Crazy about cherries, eat them every day? Diet. Underweight and attempting to gain? Diet!

          But if I say, “I buy butter every week because that’s part of my family’s diet,” people’s first impulse is to try to think of some medical condition that would excuse consumption of Horrible Fattening Fat by innocent children. No, my family’s diet includes home-baked cookies and rolls. No, not as indulgences; as food! Uyyyyy.

  6. I regularly tell people that these ‘really not a diet’ diets are the same linguistic gymnastics (i.e.: lies) as Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984.

    I usually get laughed at for my pains, but every once in a while someone actually looks startled for a moment. My hope is that these people begin to ignore the propaganda and think about the question.

  7. Yes, yes, and yes.
    Yes, any restriction in eating is a diet. Even not restricting is a diet – some people need to gain weight and are put on a diet – just with other goals. Some illnesses (allergies) demand a diet.

    Yes, diets do not work in losing weight. They go against what you really wish to eat. Put you under pressure, make each step away from the regulated path a sin … and thereby turn you into a fail. What makes you feel bad on your way to change (if you want to change) will not work.

    Yes, WW is a diet. A low-fat variety as far as I have heard (the points are for fat calories, aren’t they?)

    1. I think they’re more of a low carb focus, actually, but in a sneaky way; they say the points are for fat and calories, but when I did WW (four years ago, when I was 20) I noticed that even really nutritious, whole grain carbs had an inexplicably high point value. Since I’m a vegetarian, that made it extra hard to stay “on point.” Because of that, and because I found their whole culture depressing and slightly creepy, I quit after like three weeks, and, mercifully, discovered HAES not long after that.

      1. Back in 2000 when I did it, fruit and veg. were point free, but the following yr (after i left) they had points. I think even bottled water was getting a point. So they have switched from a low fat, almost vegan-esque diet, to low carb focus.

  8. Oh how I’d like to reclaim the word ‘diet’. I am, in fact attempting that with my students in middle school health. When I cover the nutrition portion of our class, I define ‘diet’ as “the way you eat”. I explain that some people have a low sodium diet, meaning they eat foods low in sodium, for a specific health issue related to sodium. I also explain that some people choose a weight loss diet or weight gain diet, depending on what they need, based on personal choice, medical reasons or lifestyle choice. I work very hard to not use the word ‘diet’ to mean only weight loss plan/program/eating.

    If I ask a student ‘how’s your diet?’… they know I want them to describe the kinds of foods they eat, if they eat breakfast, what kinds of snacks they include and how they are getting nutrients. I feel a little victoriou when they use the ‘d’ word in ways that I know they aren’t talking about weight loss.

    1. I don’t just talk about low sodium or weight loss types of diet… I also mention soft food diet, BRAT diet for when you have the flu, diets based on special health issues like diabetes and gluten-free needs.

      I explain to them that I am not going to teach them how to loose weight and that I am not going to encourage anyone in a growth spurt time of physical development to try to loose weight. I promote variety, moderation so you still have room for the variety you need, and patience while your body moves through this physically awkward time of growth. I encourage them to discover new and interesting ways to find the vitamins and minerals they need and to consider limiting the foods that have alot of chemicals and additives in favor of simpler foods.

      I even tell them a way to respond to someone who tries to us a BMI number to identify their personal body/health/fitness. And, I empower them to ask for a different measure of fitness/health.

      I’m trying to promote Health at Every Size by my actions.

      1. My daughter’s on a low oligosaccharide diet (aka low insoluble fibre) diet and low lactose diet. You’d be amazed how many people assume that’s some new, trendy way to lose weight rather than a way to control a chronic gut disease.

        My own diet has to exclude many fruits and nuts, due to severe food allergies, and brassicas due to digestive problems. You’d be amazed how the diet companies just look blank and say ‘Oh well, there are plenty of other recipes you can eat’. I was vegetarian until recently, so on those diet clubs, my ‘diet’ consisted of variations on the tomato and onion followed by satsumas routine. And I wonder why I crack?

  9. I feel like the way you eat is a diet, and we all have one. I generally talk about reducing diets, elimination diets or diet trends when I’m trying to talk about one specific school of thought of eating, or a type of diet that is dictated by medical necessity. One of the thing I feel with diets is that the only sustainable diet is the one where you don’t actively fall off and then have to get back on, but you eat all the stuff you aren’t allowed to eat during the time you are off the wagon.

  10. I agree with this, and want to know how to eat _without_ dieting? I’m sure you’ve covered that somewhere, but I’m not sure where to look.

    I’m 60, and have been “on a diet” or “not on a diet” since I was 12 (the point being that diets have driven my eating, whether on a diet or not, because that’s what I know).

    What suggestions do you have for creating a method of eating that doesn’t face or face away from dieting?

    I appreciate all you do!

        1. I haven’t read “Intuitive Eating” (think I might enjoy it, though), but I do like their attitude of “making peace” with food.

          That’s what finally worked for me — I found out that my body isn’t terribly fond of processing carbs and doesn’t do it well. So I started focusing my eating choices on picking the meats, cheeses, and vegetables that I like, and eating them until I’m full. I haven’t cut out carbs totally, but I have tried to cut out the guilt over having occasional things I “shouldn’t” eat and just moving on to the next choice.

          Doing that has helped me lose weight; not enough that I’m not still fat, mind you. But I am healthier. And it’s just like Ragen says — I can eat to fuel my body without trying to starve it, and in my case, without worrying about fat and calories.

          I think the best plan is to figure out what’s best for you, personally, and approach it from there.

          1. Well I’ve got liver problems and although the cause is probably not the usual suspects (I’m not diabetic and I drink very little) I’d like to do what I can to help it. I know that lots of simple carbs are a potential problem for the liver, as are lots of saturated fats, so I’m trying to eat more fruit and veg and wholegrains and reduce (not cut out) some of the harder to process foods like cheese and white bread. But my weight is not my primary concern, just feeling a little better is.

    1. For me, oddly enough, WW helped me figure out how to live without dieting. I lucked into a group whose leader was all about the Seven Healthy Habits and the little journal WW members used to keep (still do for all I know). So I learned to ask myself things like:

      *I’m jittery, headachy, and distracted; fresh air doesn’t help; hey, am I hungry?
      *I am craving sweets; what would happen if I drank some water? (Corroborated by another source: thirst can be misinterpreted by the brain as a need for sugar!)
      *Am I hungry at the times when I eat or do I eat because it’s food time?
      *Are there times of the day when I get so hungry I can’t think? The same times pretty much every day? What happens about an hour before those times?
      *Do I get bellyaches pretty regularly, and if so what happens a couple of hours before then? (Turns out I can’t properly digest oranges. Oranges! Oh well, at least the bellyaches are gone.)
      *Do I actually like this food, or am I eating it because I saw an ad/it was the first thing I saw when hungry/it belongs to a class of “bad” foods and I am jonesing for something else in that class/I’m bored stiff/I’m nervous?

      Etc. Then the group leader moved away and the new one was all “You lost weight . . . you didn’t . . . you lost weight . . . you didn’t . . . snack bars are on the table by the door . . . see you next week.” And that was one of the triggers in my journey to HAES. But I kept the little journal for a while even after I left.

      1. OTOH, WWs put me on a diet that worked out to 1200 calories a day, due to my being sedentary for medical reasons, and when I complained of constant hunger I was told it was ’emotional hunger’, ‘thirst’ or ‘cravings’. It wasn’t. I was flipping hungry!

        I’ve been trying Intuitive Eating these couple of months now, and WWs got me thinking without controls, I’d eat 10000 calories a day. Well I did for a couple of days (Christmas Day was one of them) but gradually its reduced because I’m actually not that greedy. I just thought I was because of the crazy restriction.

        Seriously though, 1200 calories per day? For a woman of 5’7″ tall. How the four-and-a-half was that ever supposed to work out? I can’t look a low fat yoghurt in the eye now.

        1. Have you seen the latest thing? “Yogurt Bites.” Three-and-a-half-ounce low-fat yogurts. Because eight-ounce yogurts are the devil, and six-ounce yogurts are old hat, and four-ounce yogurts are so last week. Three and a half ounces. Of yogurt. Because if you bought a tub of the same yogurt for about a third of the cost per pound, and put as much as you wanted to eat in a reusable container, you wouldn’t have the perfect little orthorexic package as a sign of your virtue, and you might lose track of the calorie count, and if somebody saw you with yogurt that you had scooped into a bowl they might think that you were (horrors!) eating instead of dieting! Like you were hungry or something!

          Every time I see those prim little packages, I want to lounge nearby while slowly and sensuously eating a 12-ounce container of crunchy-hippie yogurt from the crunchy-hippie store that proudly advertises the layer of cream on top right on the label. That plus some spiced applesauce or jam stirred in, and a nice ripe pear on the side, that’s a good lunch right there.

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