I just saw another plan for “weight loss magic” today. It appeared in my inbox, from a friend with the question, “What do you think?” What she really wanted to know was, “Is THIS one THE one that actually is different? Does this one have magical powers that none of the others have had?”
It always impresses me – the undying and irrepressible hope held by so many people that one day it will appear, that magical plan or pill. I hate to be a buzz-kill, but I would not recommend holding your breath (or your stomach in!) waiting for it to be discovered. The research on diet plans that promise quick and permanent weight loss for everyone does not offer much hope. Most of the well-designed studies conclude that diets, at least the way our culture defines them, do not work.
That does not mean that they could not work IF it were possible to follow them exactly all the time. Herein lies the problem, and ironically the hope for would be dieters. “If I can stick to this one, I will get results like the people whose stories are told in the book.” What is not said, but I think is internalized for a lot of serial dieters, is “I am inadequate at this dieting thing, but this one will allow me to feel like less of a failure, because it says it is different. I am so tired of feeling like a failure, like I am out-of-control and unable to make good choices. I will not be hungry on the measly amount of food I can eat, and I will not miss my favorite foods, because there is magic here.”
What a setup for one more blow to self-esteem! Human nature appears to keep hope alive despite the science, and more incredibly, despite repeated personal experience to the contrary. Intelligence seems to have very little to do with this phenomenon. I have seen brilliant people grasp hopefully for the logic in the newest cleverly disguised plan. I have joked that if I set out to sell a new weight loss plan, all I would need is a clever hook – “Just follow my plan (which would be low calorie), and be sure to stand on one leg while eating.” (Remember, this is a joke! Please do not do this!!)
My point is that people want magic – magic with an attempt at logic. If I were to write my bogus diet book, I would also need to explain why the rules are important. For example, if standing on one leg while eating was one of my rules, I might say, “Standing on one leg revs up metabolism and allows you to burn everything more efficiently.” (Again, please know that I am joking!) All of a sudden, heads would be nodding with understanding, and intelligent people would be saying, “That makes sense,” when there is nothing sensible about it.
If I do write a book, it will not be a one-size-fits-all diet plan. Planning is great, but it must be individualized, realistic, and flexible. In order to make such a plan work, however, people need confidence in their innate ability to make choices that align with their needs most of the time. Strategies that empower a person’s self-confidence with food choices are vital. Then the information we gather from experts and the messages we get from our bodies will blend with the plan to make each choice more real.
Does that sound like a lot of work? Don’t worry – it gets more natural with practice. It takes a workable plan and a workable attitude, and the knowledge that it still may not work all the time. That’s OK – it doesn’t have to!