Diet Truths: Separting the Forest From the Trees


I am not a landscape photographer so my forest portfolio is non-existent.  But, I do have an image of Swiss Chard that sorta looks like a forest if you suspend what you know about forests having trees.

Which is actually what I am encountering in a different way with articles on diets.  Everyone has their own closely held beliefs about what works in a diet even if current science and research do not support these beliefs.  Because it is such an emotional topic for some, their beliefs are deeply embedded.  What was previously regarded as a total psychological rabbit hole of addictive behaviors and lack of will power is now regarded as also having a profound physiological component.

I imagine when the concept of a spherical earth was introduced centuries ago and disputed long held beliefs that the earth was actually a flat disc,  the flat earth believers were unsettled, defensive and outraged as well.  In fact, there are probably still some folks who may want to join “The Flat Earth Society“.  God speed to you but just don't use their coordinates to navigate the oceans.

So, I guess it's not new to have evolving views on the facts of things and resistance to them.

If these articles are made available, as many have been recently due to “the Biggest Loser” study, the resistance to reading them or the truths contained in them is evident in comments about them.  I am going to work on creating a pdf download with all the articles and podcasts I have valued over the past year to be published later, but for now, here's a link to the recent NPR “ON POINT” podcast interviewing the NYTimes author & an investigator from National Institute of Health, as well as contestant included in the latest research.  Click HERE.

Since my purposes here is only to convince myself how to get through one day after another with my own issues, I'm not going to dwell on it but it makes me think how much more difficult this task would be for me today if I was still believing in some of the “diet” truths I was brought up to believe as in “If you lose weight slowly” your pounds will stay off.

Most of the people who have lost weight on WW at one time in their life, lost it slowly, but as weekly meetings reveal, many still regain those pounds and have had to return to join the program again. In the past these folks might have considered themselves to be total failure due to psychological issues with food.  Current research documents that no matter the degree of psychological or emotional issues embedded in food you might have, you are also fighting a very real physiological component as well.

Newer research shows that whether you lose the fast or slow route, your lost pounds still want to return.

It resonates with my own personal experience as well.  I've lost weight fast and slow and each time the pounds returned until I lost weight in 2009.

It is has been a daily struggle to maintain it for seven plus years and I could easily see the pounds creeping back on just as slowly as they were lost if I were not vigilant. I don't credit the national program with being the reason I was successful this time just as I don't blame them for when I wasn't. Something in me changed this go-round but that's another series of posts.

Or, another long held “belief”:  “If you have more muscle that will improve your metabolism and therefore help you maintain your weight.”

Theoretically, that is true except studies have shown that doing what you have to do to increase your metabolism also increases appetite and most have the ability to resist that prompt for a period of time but then it becomes very, very difficult over time.  You may other fitness goals rather than weight maintenance so it might not matter to you but the result for those of us simply trying to maintain our weight loss? You could just as easily regain your weight on your speeded up metabolism by day after day eating slightly more (as in only 40 calories more) than your already increased calorie intake.

So, increasing muscle mass is not the panacea one wishes for, either.

The current research is very discouraging to those who want to believe any one thing and accept it as “fact” and it shall be the “answer” to a life long problem.

Yet, for me, someone who at 71 has possibly more years in the game than most, it is more helpful to understand that the old “truths” have been proven wrong so I need to rely more on my own habits to control the truths of the science.  I am successful now due to habits that care not one whit whether I am prompted to eat something from actual physical hunger or emotional appetite.

But, many, many others have been successful for far more years than my 7+ years.  I'm going to focus on them as much as possible for clues for the future.

This issue is not going away at my age.  I can see why obesity researchers are devoting time to preventing obesity in childhood and looking for some “aide” to help manage hunger in adult populations, but I also wish they would study folks who have managed to maintain a significant weight-loss amidst all these changing “scientific truths” as perhaps there is something more that could be added to the conversation by listening to these individual stories.

Instead of just wishing scientists would follow through on this, I am going to expand my reach-out to folks who have successfully kept off their weight loss. Stay tuned on details.

One story at a time may add up to another tree in the forest or perhaps a wider view of the forest.  Contact me if you'd like to participate.