Why Diets Make Us Fat by Sandra Aamodt debunks the fallacy that individuals can sustain significant weight loss through dieting and willpower.
Although people tend to view diets as a matter of willpower, the true determinant in weight loss is not steely resolve to eat less, but the brain’s regulation of a target weight, which is different for each individual. Dramatic weight loss is not a realistic, sustainable goal because the brain is intent on stabilizing a weight within a range of approximately 10 to 15 pounds of a set point. It’s far more difficult, and less likely, to lower a set point, or sustain weight loss outside of this range, than it is to increase the higher end, or gain weight. Remaining above the upper limit for weight for too long can cause the brain to readjust and set that as the center of a new targeted range.
Despite evidence to the contrary, people persist in traditional diets that are ultimately futile. This is due in part to the aggressive marketing campaigns of the food production and weight-loss industries. Often, the corporations that profit from manufacturing processed, unhealthy foods have a vested interest in weight-loss programs. While processed-food manufacturers and weight-loss industries benefit from one another, it’s the consumer that loses out both financially and psychologically. Not only is there still a great stigma attached to being overweight, but the futility of the dieting method can create added stress, which contributes to weight gain.
To escape from the endless cycle of dieting and its resultant psychological stress, it’s better for people to eat mindfully. Instead of counting calories, exercising to excess, and obsessing over a number on the scale, people should eat only when they are hungry, learn to listen to their body’s natural cues of being sated, and adopt fitness as a feel-good lifestyle choice. When the compulsive cycle of yo-yo dieting and body obsession ends, individuals can be happier, more productive members of society.