diets · eating · weight loss

Diets Don’t Work but They Do Make Us Suffer

diet-fix-bookI had a few errands to run this morning before work, so I hopped in the car just in time for CBC Radio One’s The Current.  This morning Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Dr. Yoni Freehoff, author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail (and how to make yours work).

Freehoff’s main point was that diets fail because they make us suffer, and human beings aren’t built to suffer indefinitely. We can suffer for a period of time, but eventually we’ll say, “enough’s enough.”

Now, I have read and heard and even written quite a bit about dieting and why it doesn’t work. See here and here and here, for example. So I didn’t think there was a lot new for me to pick up, though of course I found the segment interesting. But one thing I learned that was new to me was the idea of “best weight.”  Best weight, according to Freehoff, is whatever weight a person reaches when they’re living the healthiest life they truly enjoy.

I like the idea of best weight because it doesn’t legislate standard weights but rather scales it to enjoyment and choice.  The idea doesn’t totally divorce weight from healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t suggest rigid height/weight/BMI measures either.

As Sam has done in her post Fit, Fat, and What’s Wrong with BMI?, Freehoff reminds us to ignore BMI. It’s only a meaningful measure for populations, not individuals.

If you want to hear the whole interview with Freehof, you can tune into it on The Current, here.

And they ended the segment with a country song called, “The Diet Song.” It was new to me, though I guess it’s been around for a while.  It really captures the suffering of a dieter with these lyrics:

Breakfast black coffee one slice of dry toast no butter no jelly no jam
Lunch just some lettuce two celery stalks no booze no potatoes no ham
Dinner one chicken wing broiled not fried no gravy no biscuits no pie
And this dietin’ dietin’ dietin’ dietin’ sure is a rough way to die

Here’s the whole song (not entirely unproblematic in its entirety, but the dieting suffering part gets that feeling of deprivation right):

14 thoughts on “Diets Don’t Work but They Do Make Us Suffer

  1. Great post but I don’t think I have any idea of what my best weight is. You had a good run at maintaining a weight within a few pounds pretty effortlessly when you had thrown away the scale. That’s terrific. But for me, I’m not so sure.

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  2. I’m assuming the “best weight” would be where the body settles when you’re eating how you enjoy eating and doing what you enjoy doing. When I’m doing that it’s true, I have about a 4-5 pound range. Have you ever tried to let go of the scale (or at least let go of what it says) and just do the things you like and practice enjoyable, healthy eating habits? I thought that was your general approach.

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    1. It is my general approach. But I have a hard time of thinking of that as my *best* weight given how much I weigh! And it’s much more complicated than that anyway since body composition more than anything affects what that number on the scale means in terms of energy, strength etc.

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      1. Yes, but I think that body composition factors into “best weight” if you take the approach he suggests. I think he’s trying to say that “best weight” is often going to be more than whatever our “ideal weight” number in our head is. But I know you’re not so hung up on that, so I don’t quite see how body composition wouldn’t fall into place (again, perhaps not how we *wish* it to but how it simply will) if we do what we enjoy and eat what we enjoy in amounts that work for us. Of course if you have specific training and performance goals you may not be able to stick to this totally, but if what’s required pushes you (and I don’t mean YOU, I mean the general you) into deprivation and suffering, then it’s going to yield only temporary results.

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  3. I like the concept of best weight because I think it allows for the incorporation of mental health. There’s some people (possibly me, but I don’t weigh myself on principle) who really don’t do well if they track their weight, exercise habits, diet, etc too closely. And even though doing so might result in a “healthier” weight on one account, it might not be the best weight for them because of the negative mental health impact.

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  4. I love the Yoni Freehoff interview – and I love this post, along with the links to previous posts you included. I am of the same mind: diets don’t work. Anything with a start and end date can never have lasting results. Super passionate about this topic. I’m motivated to start a conversation on my blog. Will be linking back to you and this informative post. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad to hear it! So great to find like-minded people blogging about this important health issue. There are so many messed up attitudes about weight, diets, and weight loss. Looking forward to your post!

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  5. Great post, Tracy, and thanks for the pointer to Freehoff. I agree that something like “best weight” is way way better than paying obsessive attention to BMI, to the scale, etc. And you and Sam know (and frequently blog about this) that body composition, strength, other functions, feelings of well-being, season, clothing tastes and lots of other factors play important roles in that “best” benchmark. For me, I am trying to focus on function: how am I feeling? Moving? Sleeping? eating? Am I wearing the clothes I like and feel good in? How do various forms of exercise feel to me? So, it’s something like “best body” or “best self” or “best function” that I’m looking for. All of this is compatible with your views; I’m still looking for the right conception, though.

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  6. How true, if I ever told anyone that I liked 90% of my diet, it doesn’t make sense. …because I don’t think of it as a “diet”. It’s just living and eating daily. The 10% is the wrong stuff..cookie, etc.

    I recently was chatting with 2 other women, one 51 and the other over 60. One, who was my manager, had proudly lost 60 lbs. in the last 8 months or so. She helps organize a Weight Watchers’ lunch time series for other employees. She tells me she wants to become a local leader for WW in retirement.

    Anyway, we all thought the best motivating benchmark was how one’s waistband fit, rather than over-obsess on a weight scale number.

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