Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Diet Season: The Gimmicks Multiply

I just received an email seeking publicity for a new book touting junk food as a way to help manage your weight. Sure. I want to believe that 100-calorie packs of cookies and Cheetos, mini-cheese burgers and such will melt those pounds away. I'd also like to believe that the drop in my 401k account was actually a mistake, and I'm richer, not poorer.

But it just ain't so. And so, I'm not going to name that new book here, partly because the author is a former executive of Coca Cola and Genera Mills.

The bigger reason is that believing you can lose weight by snacking is just another delusion, a way to keep people spending money on diets and gimmicks that just don't work.

I ought to know. I've been fighting this battle since I was a child, and I've done a fair amount of research over the years about nutrition and fad diets.

Here we are at the beginning of a New Year, and everyone who has made a resolution to lose weight--this year! for sure!--is looking for an easy way.

There isn't one. As the leader at my local Weight Watchers meeting repeats every week: there is no cure for obesity.

Weight Watchers isn't paying me to write this. But the truth is that their comprehensive approach to weight loss is the only one that gives you a real chance to feel comfortable in your body.

For example, in recent years their plan has focused on research indicating that people need to consume a relatively large quantity of food in order to feel satisfied and not give in to temptations to binge (one of my weaknesses). In fact, I've come to realize that I need to spend a good amount of time chewing, just raising that fork or spoon to my mouth, in order not to feel deprived.

The key to eating a lot but losing weight is to eat filling but low-calorie foods--like fruits, vegetables, soups, salads, whole grains, beans. Not 100-calorie snack packs, whose sugar content, in my case, seems to trigger a physiological desire for more sugar that can make it almost impossible for me to stop eating until the whole box of snack packs or a pint of Haagen-Dazs is gone.

Motivated by health problems, I lost 20 pounds in 2008 following the Weight Watchers method, and I believe if I work at it, I can lose more this year.

But the operative word here is "work." It takes planning, cooking, concentration, regular exercise and reinforcement that the weekly Weight Watcher meetings supply. A slim woman at a recent meeting said she had lost 85 pounds 14 years ago and has kept it off, in part by still attending meetings for support. That could be discouraging, if you want to dwell on the fact that she still needs help after all these years.

Or, you could, as I have, take inspiration from her example. It's possible to get thin and stay thin. But let's not kid ourselves. It's not easy, and believing in tooth fairy versions of diets won't get you there.

No comments: