Why diets don’t help you lose weight, according to a nutritionist

While a true final word is hard to come by as far as medical intelligence is concerned, diet and nutrition seem to taunt expertise the most. When federal officials released their canonized dietary guideline for the first time in five years many were correctly frustrated by the puzzling list of foods we were told to avoid.

Lighting a fire beneath the tail of this long-awaited report, was the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition & Food Studies at New York University, Marion Nestle,  commenting the following to the Washington Post: “The minute they start to talk about things to eat less of, they invoke nutrients instead of foods. I dare someone to explain saturated fat to me, or to tell me where most sugar or salt comes from in their diet.”

Key Recommendations: Components of Healthy Eating Patterns

Sometimes, dietary guidelines are phrased intentionally vague because new and potentially conflicting research is likely just around the corner. However, sometimes the reasoning is much more sinister. As previously reported by Ladders, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing successfully identified four smoke and mirror tactics employed by name brand companies in order to capitalize on nutrition trends, i.e underscoring things like “low fat” to belie the impression that a product is healthy, even though there are a myriad of products that are low in fat and high in other things that are not conducive to a balanced nutritional regimen.

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Part of the problem seems to be the symbiotic relationship shared between commerce and weight loss. Public health should never be at the gluttonous whim of flash in the pan fads. You would never see an ad for a new diabetes medication telling you that your last couple of dates didn’t work out because you’re a loser that can’t control your blood sugar levels, yet in the world of weight management, wherein hucksters shamelessly exploit our national obesity crisis for fiscal gain, it’s totally above board to make you feel dumb for not knowing about the latest dumb thing that’s gonna make you hate chocolate and like doing crunches more. Instead of promoting long-term healthy living, it’s more profitable to champion provisional results.

The U.S weight loss market was worth an estimated $70 billion as of 2018, with about 45 million Americans trying their hand at a new diet each year.

Ladders had the pleasure of another correspondence with the decorated dietician and nutritionist of Guiding Stars, Allison Stowell, only this time she was joined by fellow Guiding Stars colleague and dietary expert, Kitty Broihier. The two share a passion for applying the latest data on nutrition science with pioneering measures to improve public health.

“While some trendy diets may result in quick weight loss, they can be isolating, restricting and difficult to follow for the long term. An effective weight loss diet is not a diet at all, but rather a way of living and eating that leads to long term results that can be maintained over time,” the two told Ladders.

Not all diets that have won public appeal are without merit, Stowell and Broihier simply suggest consumers engage in research informed by sustainable results and nutritional needs as opposed to commercial elbowing.  For example, in a recent webinar,  the two outlinned the reasons why votaries of the keto diet ought to properly assess their own objectives against the rubric of the diet before diving in belly first,

“The nearly complete elimination of an entire macronutrient group and the need for strict adherence to the diet (or risk leaving ketosis) make this diet challenging for all but the most motivated. Although effective for weight loss, the health consequences (including increased LDLs and nutrient imbalances, among others) as well as potential difficulty in sustaining the diet must be considered.” 

I inquired if a healthy regimen should adjust according to seasons. I read a study conducted some years back that motioned that our fat cells respond differently when exposed to sunlight. The Researchers from the University of Alberta, Canada that published the report found that fat cells tucked beneath our skin actually shrink when exposed to blue light created by the sun which may help to explain why so many people pack on pounds in the winter. I wondered if it thus follows that there are diets that would be more effective in winter, summer, spring, etc. The Guiding Stars experts had this to say on the subject:

“Getting outside in the sun for a morning walk or exercise session is a reasonable idea no matter if weight control is your goal or not. Eating lighter foods (eg more produce) in the spring and summer and heartier fare in the cooler months is common, as may be cyclical exercise patterns. These seasonal eating patterns are normal and likely evolved in response to food supply, bodily needs, and comfort levels (temperature adjustment, for instance), and may help people balance their weight over the course of a year.”

Before you commit fidelity to any diet, first distinguish between wants and needs. Societal currents will have you believe standards for beauty and standards for health are one in the same. Everyone’s body has unique requirements and learning to translate these needs to daily dietary habits isn’t always easy, but the outlay is always worth it, Stowell and Broihier conclude, 

“While we all may wish there was a quick fix for weight loss, it takes time and effort to properly lose and maintain a healthy weight. The “best” diet to follow is one that’s balanced, with lean proteins and heart-healthy fats, produce and whole grains. Taking it further, a healthy diet is a colorful, flavorful one that individuals want to follow to achieve long term success.”