Diet Myths

JZ head tilt colorBy Juliet Zuercher, RD

The American culture is obsessed with thinness, and therefore, equally obsessed with weight loss. On any given day, millions of women are inordinately focused on how to drop pounds, decrease inches, and most important, how to achieve the goal FAST. The end result is that dieting is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Seemingly every new season brings a plethora of new diets, each claiming to be “the one,” the one diet that will finally work. Of course, it will necessitate purchasing the meals, drinking the special shakes, or even importing urine from another country, for it to deliver the promised weight loss.

Many myths surround the topic of dieting. It is time to debunk these myths which include:

Diets Are Not Dangerous
Yes they are, especially for young people. This is because they cut out so many valuable foods and food groups, which are critical to normal and healthy growth. Too many young girls embark on crazy fad diets just when their bodies require protein, carbohydrates, fat and key minerals such as calcium to develop correctly.

You Will Lose Weight and Look Incredible.
Certainly, this is what diet product manufactures want you to believe. Although you may lose a certain amount of weight at the outset, in no time that weight will return and probably bring a few more pounds with it. This is because the real issues behind food consumption and proper understanding of human metabolism are rarely addressed with a diet.

In terms of looking incredible, the question remains: incredible like whom? Like the woman you see holding the diet product in the magazine ad? The truth is that model in the ad is as false as the claims made by the diet industry. Computer manipulation of photographs today is so common that the woman in the ad doesn’t even look like herself. Plus, can a diet make you have lovely eyes, amazing bone structure, or a captivating smile? No. If anything, diets tend to dim the naturally positive qualities you already possess. It takes healthy nutrition to support attributes such as beautiful skin and hair.

Diets Give You Control
A defined set of rules and structure? Yes. But control? Absolutely not. In fact, the exact opposite usually occurs. Day after day you eat the same lack-luster food, or worse, drink your meal instead of actually consuming real food with a knife and fork. Eventually, you start craving that chocolate ice cream in the freezer, or those cookies you know are waiting for you in the cabinet. Even if you manage to sustain the diet, you inevitably sacrifice all control over the way you “feel.” Whether through severe calorie restriction or elimination of healthy fats, diets often result in sluggishness, irritability and extreme fatigue.

Certain Foods Are Bad
Attaching judgmental labels to food is absurd. Food is neutral; by definition, it is neither good nor bad. Diets place food in good and bad categories: lettuce is good … watermelon is bad. Clearly, in this scenario such labels are predicated on calorie content. Is watermelon truly bad? Of course not. There are no bad foods, only bad diets.

Diets Are Safe and Healthy
The human body is an amazing, well-constructed machine. Hunger occurs as a signal to consume food which ultimately translates into the fuel required to sustain life. Dieting often throws a wrench into the system by altering the body’s natural weight. If weight fluctuates from high to low and back, the body becomes confused. Never knowing whether it will receive the nutrition it requires to function, or if the food source will suddenly be cut off, the metabolism slows down as a protection against starvation. This is the exact opposite of what a dieter wants.

Expect the New Year to bring with it several new diet plans. Please don’t listen to the paid celebrity testimonials, believe the advertising claims, and especially, do not give the diet industry more of your money. Instead, be smart. Make wise food decisions using the themes of balance, variety and moderation. Then use the money you saved to purchase something tangible, something that brings you joy, something that lasts.

Juliet Zuercher, RD is the nutrition coordinator at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

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