Once Again: Diets Don’t Work

Says a recent review of 30 long-term dieting studies reported in the UK Telegraph.  According to the study:

They found that people on diets typically lose five to 10 per cent of their starting weight in the first six months. But up to two-thirds regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number was likely to be significantly higher.

Diet imageThe sad thing is this is just a systematic review of studies that have been in the literature for decades. The fact that this is news to anyone is just testimony to the power of the weight loss industry, which has been able to confuse the public about dieting and weight loss despite oceans of data (and the experience of millions of people).

The full text of the study can be found here.



12 Responses to “Once Again: Diets Don’t Work”

  1. Dave Says:

    Is it truly the diets that don’t work? That seems very much like saying that you started a business, made a bunch of money then because you made a bunch of money and were happy with that so you shut down your business and went back to living your life like normal.

    Soon you will run out of money, maybe even go into debt because you were used to having more money.

    Would you then say “personal businesses don’t work!”

    No because that is silly.

    Diets work as well as people want them to.

  2. twincats Says:

    If capitalism worked like diets, we’d all be socialists.

  3. fatfu Says:

    For a short answer, you can’t do better than twincat’s 🙂 That should be a t-shirt.

    But my longer answer is this: If the majority of people who started a business either didn’t make any money or ended up poorer than they were before, and most of the rest made very little money at all, we *might* want to rethink recommending this as sound financial strategy.

    Your analogy also presupposes that diets are dropped out of choice or a lack of will, and ignores all the evidence of physiological feedback mechanisms that drive the body back towards its initial weight once a significant amount of weight has been lost (through increased appetite, and reduced expenditure). In other words, dieting and weight loss become harder and harder as the body seems to push for regain. In large part because you just get incredibly hungry.

    I recommend anybody who’s interested read this really clear lay discussion of some of these complex issues (pdf file).

  4. Dave Says:

    All people that I know who have dieted and regained weight did so because they stopped dieting.

    The most common complaint I hear when reading about diets is that it worked, but then they gained the weight back after they stopped the diet. Maybe the diet wasn’t feasible over the long term, maybe life caught up with the dieter and they had to stop dieting, I don’t know.
    Honestly, I don’t care.

    What I do care about is when people blame anything other than themselves.

    Are fat people worse than lean people? not in any way.

    Do they have less self control? who knows? most likely not though.

    But to blame a poor defenseless diet for making you weigh more than you used to is just plain wrong.

  5. fatfu Says:

    So, you haven’t read either of the articles linked to, any of the science, and the sum of your experience is having “read” about diets. And you admit you don’t know and you “honestly” “don’t care” why they don’t work.

    Have thought about writing a diet book? You sound perfect for it. You could make a killing.

  6. Dave Says:

    I am actually on page 11 of the link you posted in your prior comment.

    And I didn’t say I don’t care why diets don’t work, I said I don’t care why people stop dieting.

    Most diets (some are just plain horrible) do exactly what they are supposed to do, help a person drop a few pounds. Not many diets claim to keep weight off after you stop following their plan.

    I am personally enjoying this conversation, if I am just being seen as an annoyance let me know and I will leave, as it is your website.
    I am not trying to be a jerk or anything.

  7. vesta44 Says:

    If you want to know why diets don’t work, I can give you some pretty good ideas. It’s because most of the diets out there aren’t structured to last a lifetime, they aren’t structured to create healthy eating habits, and they certainly don’t promote a balanced diet. Also, according to research I’ve read, your body has a weight set-point, and it doesn’t matter what you do, you WILL NOT be able to get below that weight and stay there indefinitely unless you want to become anorectic or bulimic. Not an option, as far as I can see, I don’t want to end up like Karen Carpenter, thank you very much.

  8. Dave Says:

    Thanks for the reply vesta, I completely agree with you that many diets aren’t designed with healthy eating in mind and fewer still are meant to be a lifelong change.

    I don’t believe anybody should become anorexic or bulimic, or even diet if they don’t want to. What a person does to their body should be up to them and them alone.

    I know I am now beating a dead horse here, but the point I made that I still stand behind is that most diets do work, they just don’t do what people want them to do.

    Most diets are designed for fast weightloss, these are used to fit into a dress at a wedding that was bought 2 sizes too small, or to be thinner for a reunion, or vacation or whatever.

    The problem is that almost everybody that goes on these diets wants them to last forever, and they wont. They aren’t designed that way.

    I have a question about the weight set-point. If you can’t get below it and stay there because, I assume, that this is the weight that your body is comfortable at. How do people keep putting on weight without there body trying to pull them back to that set point? Or are most people below their set-point still?

  9. vesta44 Says:

    I’m not sure about that, and I don’t think there is any solid research out there on why one’s body doesn’t go back to its set point weight if you gain weight past that point. All I have to go on is personal experience with it. When I was 17 (in 1971), I was 5′ 9″ and weighed 175 lbs. I got pregnant and got up to 235 lbs. I tried dieting, and couldn’t lose weight. I lost the weight when I was 19 (in 1973), but I wouldn’t say it was a good thing how it happened. I was a pedestrian and got hit by a car, fracturing my pelvis in 3 places, and breaking both bones in my lower left leg. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital, and six weeks in a nursing home before being released to go back to work. While I was in the nursing home, they weighed me, with an over-the-knee cast on one leg, and I was down to 160 lbs. I’m not sure how much that cast weighed, but I’m guessing at least 5 lbs. When I went bac k to work, my weight went back up to 175 lbs. I was very active at the time, roller-skated 3 hours a night at least 3 nights a week, and walked all over Spokane (didn’t own a car). I stayed at that weight until I got pregnant with my son in 1975. With that pregnancy, I went up to 350 lbs, and have been there ever since. I was still active, and didn’t have too many problems until I seriously injured my knee in 1984. I stayed at 350 lbs for almost 30 years, getting down to 220 at one time, but as soon as I quit the diet pills (amphetamines prescribed by a dr), I gained it all back. I had my stomach stapled 8 years ago and lost 70 lbs, but gained all of that back. Now my knees and back are so bad that I have trouble walking from the house to my van, and forget about doing much of anything else.
    My point is that if we do have weight set-points, they may change as our bodies change, whether it’s caused by age, child-bearing, hormonal changes, or whatever.
    My main problem with diets is that they are designed for a small weight loss (much less than what drs say morbidly obese people should lose), and not designed to help that loss be maintained. My other gripe is that those freaking height/weight charts are sooooooooo far out of reality. They say that for me, at my current height of 5′ 8″, I should weigh 140 lbs. At that weight, I would be nothing but skin and bones (at 175, I wore a size 14, my measurements were 38-26-40 and I was considered quite hot by most of the men I knew. I, however, thought I was fat because I would never look like Twiggy).
    It’s just really too bad that people can’t be accepted for who they are, regardless of color, sexual orientation, gender, body size, etc.

  10. vesta44 Says:

    I found this link when doing a search on set-points: http://www.mirror-mirror.org/set.htm
    It makes sense to me, does anyone else have any ideas?

  11. Dave Says:

    That link is pretty interesting, and thank you for sharing your story.

    For me, my weight gain went like this.
    All through high school I was around 150-155 lbs at 5’6″, then around 19 I started lifting weights, went up to 180lbs and then after a motorcycle accident, I dropped back down to 155 over the course of about 2 months. So that would be in favor of having a natural set point.

    But after I got out of my casts and was cleared for the weights again I went up to 220 which is almost 70 lbs above what my set point seems to be. I found that being that heavy at my height was too hard on my knees (I found out through a torn MCL) The lowest I have been since being 220 is 200 even, and I sit comfortable at 205 right now. So either I forced myself to have a new set point or I have been maintaining a weight well above my set point for the past year and a half.
    I personally believe in set points, but I don’t believe they are determined wholly by genetics, if that were the case why are there so many fat asians in america but so few in asia? I believe our set points are malleable but not without a lot of work.

    You started at 175, then with pregnancy you went up to 235 and stayed there, which would be a new set point.

    But after your accident your set point became 175 again.

    And now your set point seems to be at 350.

    So your set point hasn’t just been climbing, it also went down, granted something drastic and horrible happened but it shows that the set point, if there is one, will change in both directions.

  12. Repeat after me. at BABble Says:

    […] Diets don’t work. […]

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