Are dieters helpless victims of metabolism?

best for weight loss: whole foods, not fake foods

A new study on dieting and weight loss concludes that we’re all just victims of biology.  The study concludes that will power is pointless; better to put dieters on lifelong prescription drug regimens to control appetite.

Here’s how it went: 50 obese subjects were put on a 2-1/2 month very low calorie diet.  Right away we have a problem: very low calorie diets may cause rapid weight loss, but they’re notorious for not working in the long run.  Rapid weight loss is not all fat, and it’s not healthy.  Predictably, these people lost weight.  Then the diet period ended, and the subjects were told they could go back to their “normal” diet.  Problem #2: resuming the diet that originally caused obesity is just going to cause weight re-gain.

Nevertheless, that’s how the study was designed.  A variety of hormones related to appetite and metabolism were measured both before and after the diet, and for several month after that.  Result: after one year, the hormones that drive appetite were elevated compared to the pre-diet measurements.

There are more problems:

#3: what was the weight loss diet?  Was it nutritionally balanced and full of healthy whole foods?  Or based on fake, low calorie and low fat stuff?  Since it was “very low calorie”, I’m guessing it couldn’t have been whole food-based.

#4: what were those “normal” diets the subjects returned to?  Was everyone on their own?  Not knowing what everyone was eating creates a big data vacuum.  If they continued relying on fake food products, no wonder they were hungry.  The post-weight loss diets should have been plant-based whole food diets, with plenty of fiber and healthy fats, to help curb appetite.

#5: where was the exercise component?  Weight loss diets must have an exercise component, or you might as well give up.  Exercise helps metabolism and helps curb appetite.

But the most insulting part of this study is the conclusion that will power is worthless in the face of hormones that force hapless dieters to overeat.  In fact, the very definition of will power would be exactly the self-discipline required to overcome appetite, change to a healthy diet, restrict junk food and stick to an exercise plan.  And there are people who have lost weight on a healthy, long term diet, and kept it off by using will power.

The idea that we should all be on appetite-suppressing drugs is nothing new.  Amphetamine-based diet drugs have been around for a long time.  The original versions could be addictive.  The infamous fen-fen combination was used with some success in the 1990’s, until it was discovered that one of the drugs caused serious side effects.  But of course, a successful diet drug that actually worked without side effects would make some drug company a whole lot of money, so researchers keep on looking.  Unfortunately, appetite and weight regulation are enormously complex.  This study measured 9 different hormones.  Finding one diet drug that works without any side effects is probably more hopeless than just teaching dieters to harness their will power, eat better food and be more active.

If you’re a dieter, my suggestion is to go the real food/exercise/will power route.  At least we know those methods don’t have any bad side effects.  Not to mention, they don’t cost any money.  Plus there’s one important additional benefit: renewed self esteem.

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