After years of proclaiming that “diet is 85% of the game”, this title might leave you thinking that I have just fallen off the turnip truck. But if you sit with me for a few minutes, I will explain why I believe that the current protocol for addressing obesity is doomed to failure.
Diet and exercise: there are two distinct problems in this equation. The first one comes from the inherent limitations of language and misunderstandings around the word ‘Diet’. Secondly, we have adopted a view of physical fitness that does not reach the vast majority of the population. Throw both of those into a solution for combating obesity related degenerative diseases, and the byproduct is a catastrophic fiasco. Does that mean that you should just resign yourself to ‘genetics’ and a future predetermined by forces out of your control? Of course not! Let’s break it all down for a better understanding of what-fails-where, and then we can look at a better solution.
The dictionary definition of the word ‘diet’ does not vary much. Merriam-Webster describes diet as:
a. food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b. habitual nourishment
c. the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason, and
d. a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight.
In our current culture, D-I-E-T is a four-letter word in every sense. Nobody likes being on a diet. When people talk about diets today, it is almost always in reference to that last definition. Being on a diet is all about denial, limitations, bland foods, and becoming a bit of a social outcast. Dieting has become synonymous with a collection of aberrant prescriptions outlining good and bad foods. Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and a host of other diets over the decades claim to be the ideal solution for health and weight maintenance.
The real problem is that nobody eats this way as a natural course, so diets are always temporary. That means that eventually, you are going to be back in the same predicament debating which ‘diet’ to put yourself on next to help you lose the extra weight. And, that extra weight will return given that scientific studies show that when individuals diet to lose weight, they rebound by gaining all of the weight lost plus additional weight when they return to a ‘normal’ diet. This is a direct response to the traditional calorie restricted diet.