Why Dieting Doesn’t Work

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I think I have seen it all when it comes to dieting, and then a new diet or a theme off an old one emerges. There’s Wheat Belly, Atkins, Southbeach, Paleo, Gluten-Free, that horrifying detox lemon juice cayenne thing- it all makes my head spin. And they all have one thing in common: deprivation. And that is why, in the long run, none of them will ever truly work.

When you cut a particular food, especially one that you love, you are leading yourself down a metaphorically dark alleyway filled with deprivation. And this psychological quagmire is usually what will trip you up in the end. Say you eliminate carbs altogether. You may be fine for a week, two weeks, or even three, but on the inside you will crying out for one little bite of bread, one little cracker, one little cookie, until an all-out carb binge-fest ensues. Why does this occur?

Certain foods are very positively reinforcing for us, that is, they provide much pleasure and joy when savored and eaten. So even if this food is, in our minds, negative, because it is the “enemy” or what makes us fat, it still provides so much pleasure and joy when consumed. So, when this food is eliminated, it is almost as if a highly addictive drug was snatched from an addict. Withdrawals occur and the deprivation sets in. And the only thing that will cure the deprived state is having a bit of the forbidden food. Or a lot, depending on the state of deprivation.

There has to be a better way. There has to be a way to find a peaceful resolution with food, where nothing in the diet is deemed bad, evil, or off limits. That is the only way for truly lasting weight loss and weight maintenance to occur. To find your way, I highly recommend reading French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano.

The book is very simple. French women don’t get fat because they are very good at budgeting their calories. If they know they are going out to a decadent, fat-laden French meal later on in the evening, they will eat very simply and very light the majority of their day. French women also usually share meals with friends or family and very rarely eat alone. That forces them to chew and eat slowly as they converse, which ends up garnering them fewer calories in the end. French women also sip their cocktails rather than downing them, which also saves them a lot in calories, and money to boot.

French women walk everywhere. The author makes it clear that on the whole, French women do not spend hours in the gym. They wouldn’t even dream of it. But walking everywhere is their exercise of choice. Even if you live in congested LA like I do, there are many ways you can employ this technique. Park the farthest away in a parking lot as possible, always take the stairs, and take nightly walks after dinner. French women also tend to buy their groceries daily. Thus they are consuming fresh, whole organic produce and meats, and very rarely consuming any kind of junk foods. So while French women do not believe in cutting out or eliminating foods, their choices of foods tends to keep them slim.

I read this book years ago and learned a lot. As you know I am obsessed with food. I think about it all day, every day. I dream of new things to cook, I wonder about the chemical makeup of this or that, I ponder how and why this food is better for you than that. So eliminating foods and making them taboo would seem like such a sad fate for me. I am sure, if we all listened in, planned out our daily meals, and adopted even a few simple measures that French women apply, we would have a much happier relationship with food, and would enjoy the pleasures of eating and eating well. The answer is not deprivation, the answer is balance. Happy Sunday eating to you!

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