I’m serious – why do people diet? Like, I get it. It’s a “tool for weight loss.” I’m not completely dense, here… but I just don’t understand this.
Allow me to explain.
This morning, I happen to read about something called “The Dukan Diet,” which is being referred to as “The French Atkins.” It’s a high protein, low fat, low carb diet that promises “no hunger, no calorie counting, instant weight loss and lifelong weight maintenance.”
Let’s look at the diet, as according to the article:
His own diet’s high-protein, low-fat approach is organized into four phases: attack, cruise, consolidation and stabilization. The first encourages dieters to eat as much as they want of nonfatty, protein rich foods, including oat bran (a key component) washed down with oceans of water. The second stage introduces vegetables, but no fruit; the third brings with it two slices of bread, a serving of cheese and fruit and two servings of carbohydrates a day, with two weekly “celebration” meals with wine and dessert (the diet is French, after all); and the final stage six days a week of “anything goes” and one day of reversion to strict protein-only stage one — for the rest of your life.
Okay. I’ve written about how this works, right?
A diet, in general terms, is simply the “list” of foods that you allow yourself to eat during the day. It’s the foods that you limit yourself to – if you were on the cabbage diet, your daily diet consists of boiled cabbage for breakfast and lunch with a regular dinner. Diets are generally named by the food that dominates your day – cereal diet, cookie diet, mashed potato diet. This all seems kind of “duh,” but we’re breaking it down to it’s very core, right? Gotta start somewhere.
I’m also interested in this idea that The Dukan diet is “anti-calorie counting,” because – again, as I’ve already written:
Dieting works because it is an extremely mindless form of calorie counting. If I’ve only allowed myself to choose from this one low-calorie food to eat, I can’t possibly gain weight, right? You don’t have to think about the food you’re eating and whether or not it’ll cause you to gain weight – you KNOW this one food won’t cause you to put on any pounds, you know exactly what you’re going to do. It’s auto-pilot for weight loss.
However – because it usually involves something that you can only manage temporarily, you tend to come off of it – excited to beat the pounds – by celebrating with what? More food you have no business indulging in in the first place!
So… let’s go back to what the diet consists of:
The first encourages dieters to eat as much as they want of nonfatty, protein rich foods, including oat bran (a key component) washed down with oceans of water. The second stage introduces vegetables, but no fruit; the third brings with it two slices of bread, a serving of cheese and fruit and two servings of carbohydrates a day, with two weekly “celebration” meals with wine and dessert (the diet is French, after all); and the final stage six days a week of “anything goes” and one day of reversion to strict protein-only stage one — for the rest of your life.
If you wind up resorting back to “anything goes” with just a touch of “restriction,” what’s going to happen? Oh, wait:
Chloe Château, a young researcher at a French Web site, decided to try Dukan after she came home heavier after spending more than a year in Britain. “When I got off the plane, the first thing my mother said was, ‘Oh, you’ve put on weight,’ ” Ms. Château said. “She didn’t even say ‘Hi’ or ‘I missed you.’ ”
Ms. Château said that she took off 14 pounds in less than three weeks, put some of it back on, and plans to try the diet again, even though she has a kidney ailment and migraines.
For the record, super-high protein diets can be rough on the kidneys for people who already have impaired kidney function… which makes it that much more crazy that she’s willing to go through this via this route just to lose weight.
And really, that brings me to my next statement. All of this talk about weight… what is there to say of health? I mean, a woman willing to further exacerbate her health condition just to lose weight in this trendy fashion? Seriously? It’s worth that much?
What is so alluring about weight loss that we’re willing to risk our health in order to obtain it in such a questionable fashion? What is there that lends credibility to this diet when…
Even before its American introduction, the diet is under attack. “This is just another one of those diets invented by a charismatic individual who makes a lot of promises and has loads of testimonials but is not based on any scientific data whatsoever,” said Frank Sacks, professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and chairman of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.
France’s governmental National Agency for Food, Environmental and Work Health Safety has identified it as one of 15 imbalanced and potentially risky diets. The British Dietetic Association, the country’s organization of professional dietitians, branded it one of the five worst diets of 2011. “We call it the ‘Do-can’t’ diet,” said Sian Porter, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association. “Even if you can survive it for the first few days, it’s hard to stick with it. It’s hard on your kidneys. And it’s expensive.”
You can’t simply follow a regimen that doesn’t take into account your own personal needs. You can’t risk your health for a diet that’s only going to slingshot you back into a cycle of yo-yo dieting. You can’t…
I’m just… I’m gonna move on.
I have no idea how a temporary restrictive diet with “stages” can be turned into “lifelong maintenance” when the final stage relies on an “anything goes” philosophy.
And even if “anything goes” does turn into a “mostly fruits and vegetables” mentality with the occasional indulgence… what part of what he’s teaching here would tell you to go to that and, even, stick to that? What does this diet teach you about the foods you could or should be eating during that “anything goes” period? What if you’re an emotional eater who resorts to problem solving in the form of delicately rich french pastries and you “black out” when you’re indulging… that “anything goes” period is going to be a struggle for you.
Why won’t this work? Like I’ve said before:
Because… wait for it… auto-pilot doesn’t work for weight loss! That’s right – you can’t do it. Why? Because waking up one day and deciding that you’re going to go auto-pilot eating nothing but grapefruit for breakfast and lunch can’t change the fact that your auto-pilot used to lead you to McDonalds or Krispy Kreme for breakfast every morning. Auto-pilot, unfortunately, does equate to mindlessness. It’s operating without thinking. “Not thinking” before led us to being unhealthy in the first place. It certainly won’t lead us to “healthy,” and if it does, it certainly wouldn’t do it overnight… or in two-six weeks like other diets.Excerpted from The Anatomy of A Diet: Why They Work, and Why The Success Never Lasts | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
Let me see how I can put this. If you think a “successful diet” consists of simply “losing weight,” you’d be sadly mistaken.
Considering how a “diet” is “in general terms, is simply the “list” of foods that you allow yourself to eat during the day,” a “successful diet” is one that allows you to maintain your weight and nourish your body properly. If a diet consists of you going back to an “anything goes” mentality (oh, with one day of restriction each week), then guess what? You’re going to gain the weight back and – since you thought the Dukan diet, Atkins diet or goodness knows what other diet was “successful” – you’ll inadvertently go right back to that very same diet to start the same sad, silly cycle all over again.
The goal is to develop a balance that allows for indulgence and pleasure – because no element of our lives should be unpleasureable – while allowing for health and weight management. Not yoyo dieting or restrictive slurping of vegetable broth.
The reality is that you lose weight the same way you gain it: the choices you make regarding the food you put in your mouth. There’s no possible way to get around that and no speedy, trendy diet by a French dude is going to change that. He might be charming, but he’ll only say what you want to hear… and may very well not be around when you realize you were sold a pipe dream. Don’t buy into it. Trust me.