Everything About Diets Is Wrong: Introduction

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Diet & Nutrition

(well, not exactly, but for illustrative purposes, we’ll run with this)

The word “diet” has many negative connotations.  It’s something nobody wants to do.  It’s associated with fads.  It’s punishment.  It’s often coupled with a whiny “I gotta get on a….”  In the immortal words of Garfield, “it’s ‘DIE’ with a T!”

It’s also implied to be temporary.  And all of these things are why the common interpretation of the word “diet” make that word completely wrong for many people.

We go “on a diet” because we’ve been conditioned to believe that’s what it takes to lose weight.  We do it because we’re overweight or obese, and therefore, we know it’s what we should do.  But of course, we don’t actually want to.  It’s another “hafta.”  We hafta diet.  We hafta reduce our food intake.  We hafta give up the stuff we love.

And because we hafta get on a diet, we fail.  The diet fails.  The reduction fails.  The elimination of food groups fails.  Why?

Because it’s something that we don’t really want to do.  We procrastinate.  We give up.  After a while of being on a boring track that feels more like punishment, we lose motivation, faith, and desire.  Then, after we stop with the dieting, we compensate for that period of torture by indulging in what we really wanted all along, whether it’s garlic bread, pizza, ice cream, or beer.

And it’s that overcompensation that leads to additional weight-gain beyond where we were before we ever got started on this extended misery known as “the diet.”  Which then leads to the guilt and shame of having lost control, which is then similarly overcompensated by more self-flagellation and denial….which leads to failure, shame, and more misery and just keeping this cycle going.

This is known as “yo-yo dieting,” and is among the most commonly observed failures of lack of information and oversaturation of fad programs and scams.

So what does work?

First, stop calling it a “diet.”  A diet implies something temporary, something that you do to yourself until you get to your goal weight, and then stop.  Unlike a race, however, weight knows no start and finish.  It’s an ongoing thing.  It’s permanent.  If you stop eating right, you will gain weight again.  It’s simple math and science, things that get glossed over in our highly commercialized society where everyone has to make a buck, no matter how ethically or unethically.  So stop calling your eating plan a “diet.”  Start calling it “nutrition” or “meal plan” or “eating habits.”  Those are more permanent concepts and the more it’s permanent in your head, the more it’ll be easier to accept than a temporary period of punishment.

Second, understand that eating properly is not a temporary thing, like with “diet.”  It’s a lifestyle.  It requires changing your habits for the rest of your life.  Once you accept that, if you backslide into bad eating habits, you will gain weight again and that it’s perpetual, it again becomes easier to ingrain into your daily routine by avoiding bad foods and oversized portions.

Third, denial never works.  This applies to all the BS diet fads from Atkins to hCG to ABC (“Ana Boot Camp”) to Cortislim to Hydroxycut and any other diet-in-a-bottle nonsense.  Any denial of food or food group is unhealthy at the very root of all things.  Pseudoscience fills the airwaves, promising miracle results for little effort.  That is a crock of lies.  The human body needs food.  The human body needs macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and yes, even fat.  The big trick — and it’s not even a trick at all — is moderation.  No, it’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy, it’s not exciting (which may contribute to frequent diet failure; doing it the right way is tedious and boring….but it works).  But it works.  Think of this tiny math equation:

If you eat less than you burn, you will lose weight.

Can a concept be any simpler?

You don’t have to cut out carbs, or overload on protein, or graze on grass and dandelion greens to lose weight.  Veganism isn’t the way either — at least, not for health reasons (twisted morality, perhaps, but that’s outside the scope of ZRT so I won’t even get into the philosophy of being vegan).

  1. Consume less than you burn,
  2. Consume in moderation,
  3. Watch your portions.

Again, “can it be any simpler?” I ask rhetorically.

I use the word “consume” above instead of “eat” because liquids fall into this category as well.  The greatest disservice to humankind is that of diet sodas.  Whether it’s Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Coke Zero, Sierra Mist Nothing, Invisible Mountain Dew, or whatever else is shoved by the mass producers into your face touting its dietyness, all of it is false.

You will not lose weight drinking diet sodas.

There is a bunch of science behind it (dealing with excess insulin production in anticipation of breaking down incoming nutrients), but the base point is this: diet drinks trick your body into thinking that sugary drinks are coming and to get ready to process it as if it was a full-sugar drink.  The body has no way to telling the difference based on what your brain says, so it prepares anyway.  When the stuff arrives in your stomach and there’s nothing to break down, the chemicals don’t just disappear into nothingness.  They, for all intents and purposes, stick around and get stored.

It throws your system off-balance, and therefore leads to being stuck in neutral or seeing no benefits whatsoever.

The best drink to have is water.  Again, not sexy, not glamorous….but it works.  And remember what I wrote before about excuses in The First Step.  The most frequent excuse I hear from people who drag their feet about drinking water is that it’s boring, that it has no flavor, etc.  That’s the point.  Water hydrates your body the way it’s supposed to, without bringing the extra nonsense and unproductive garbage that comes along with sodas, energy drinks, and so on (and yes, even alcohol, though it pains this dedicated beer drinker to have to say so).

Next week, I’ll start off with the foundations of proper nutrition, talking about calories and delving just a little bit into the science of things, so stick with me as best as you can.  As always, post questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer as much as possible or direct you to more comprehensive resources.

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  1. […] This is part 1 of a multi-part series about the fundamentals of proper nutrition.  See the introduction here. […]